Tips for Families from The Family Institute

Parents today are inundated with conflicting and often confusing advice about the best strategies for disciplining, communicating with, and understanding their children. The Family Institute at Northwestern University helps bring some clarity to the complicated task of raising kids with their “Tip of the Month” series for families. 

Based on best clinical practices and research, these tips offer brief, actionable strategies that are applicable to everyday family challenges. Take a look at the following highlights from some of the “Tip of the Month” columns.

Stay Out of It

Arguments and fights between siblings can be stressful for everyone in the household, and parents often feel compelled to stop the conflict, make a judgment call, and dole out punishment. This tip of the month explains that parental intervention isn’t always the best course of action. In most cases, parents should let their kids argue and (hopefully) resolve things on their own so they can develop real-world skills associated with experiencing conflict and relating with others.

Excitement vs. Anxiety

Anxiety is a hot topic these days, and kids may describe feeling anxious when they’re getting ready for big events like the opening night of a play or their first middle school dance. Before parents step in to alleviate these feelings, they should keep in mind that anxiety and excitement share many of the same physiological signs. By talking to kids and framing these responses and feelings as markers for excitement instead of anxiety, parents can help children experience better attitudes and possibly even better outcomes.

Constructive Criticism

When children become defensive or angry when they are criticized, parents should consider whether they’re setting a positive example for receiving feedback. This tip reveals the power of modeling a mature response to criticism. Parents should regularly ask kids for their feedback, demonstrate how to calmly accept that advice, and respond positively.

Video Games and Behavior

Many parents have concerns about the ways violent video games may affect their kids. Research does show that these games have some influence over young players, with kids demonstrating insensitive and rude behavior for a short period of time right after they finish playing the game. If parents are concerned that this is negatively affecting other family members, they can ask their children to cool down after playing and before they rejoin family activities. This tip also encourages parents to choose nonviolent games and inform their kids about potential negative effects of certain video games.

Mindful Parenting

Parents who consistently react quickly to heightened situations with their kids should consider whether they’re tapping into their emotional brain or their logical brain. Efforts are typically more effective when parents draw from the logical brain. However, it’s all too easy to let emotions take over when a child is drawing on the wall or having a temper tantrum. This tip explains why parents should take time to gather information, talk through the problem, and seek further action after everyone has calmed down.

These are just a few of the research-based strategies that The Family Institute has shared over the years. Parents can find more advice in the “Tip of the Month” archives, or they can receive fresh tips and sign up to have quality advice delivered directly to their inboxes.