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How to be a better parent, advice from a behavioral scientist

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Posted at 8:21 AM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 09:21:30-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Do you consider yourself a good parent? It's certainly something we could all likely improve on.

Elizabeth Jordan, a behavioral scientist, uses data pragmatism to see the importance of not being what she calls a "permissive parent."

Jordan said there are really four types of parenting, established by a behavioral psychologist decades ago, which she's since simplified.

There's the type we should all strive toward as parents, which is what Jordan has labeled the "Fair Judge." As the fair judge, Jordan states the parent listens to all sides, considers the evidence and circumstances and makes a "ruling" and sticks with it.

There's the "Dictator," which is seemingly self-explanatory, Jordan labels it the "my way or the highway" mentality.

Next, the "Absent Parent" just rolls the dice and sees what happens, with no real master plan for parenting.

Finally, the "Permissive Parent." As a permissive parent, Jordan adds parents think they're doing the right thing and want that "5-star" review from their kids by letting them get away with things. However, Jordan insists, that while parenting with permissiveness is typically done with no ill intent, studies show it just doesn't prepare kids well for the real world.

Behavioral studies show shaping your child early helps lead to how they'll be later in life. Her three tips for parents are: No. 1, understand when to be compromising. No. 2, understand when to be unwavering. And finally, be ready to repeat, repeat, repeat. Parenting never ends. It's part of the job we signed up for.

Jordan enforces that compromise is OK, even encouraged. But, consistency is key. Be clear about what behaviors are OK in your home, and which are not.

She also encourages parents to introduce punishments to their kids before they happen. For example, "I'm taking your phone away for a week if you don't come home on time." Jordan concludes with a reminder that rewarding behavior is just as important. "It's got to be a 50-50 balance," she said.

She says you're preparing your child to go off and be independent, which it's what's best for the child, and for you.

"You're shaping your children whether you realize it or not," says Jordan.

She acknowledged that some people say it's unethical to train your child to be someone you want them to be.

"And the response that any behavioral scientist is... you're doing it anyway," she said.

Jordan added you're either doing it consciously or unconsciously. So, parents need to decide very quickly. She gave the example of when a child throws a fit wanting candy, and you give in and give them candy.

"See how quickly they throw a fit the next day. Collect your own data, see what happens," Jordan says. "See what happens when you don't cave in three times in a row and watch that data show that that child stopped throwing fits."