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10 Principles of Psychology You Can Use to Improve Your Relationship With Your Kids

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10 Principles of Psychology You Can Use to Improve Your Relationship With Your Kids

As parents, we’re always thinking about the best ways to raise our children. It can be a challenge to find the right balance between warmth and authoritativeness. One method is to use psychological principles for loving parenting. Below are ten of the top principles of good parenting that we can learn from psychologists.

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Parenting is often a balancing act between positive and negative reinforcement.
mother and son holding

1. Validate Their Feelings

No matter your kid’s age, you always have to validate their feelings. Kids often experience big emotions over even the smallest of issues. As an adult, you know that these issues mean very little in the grand scheme of things. 


However, for your child, the feelings are just as strong as adults experience with actual trauma. When you tell your child that something isn’t a big deal or that they should get over it, you probably don’t realize it, but you’re telling them that their feelings don’t matter.


Instead, try validating their feelings. It’s not the time to teach them that dropping their ice cream cone isn’t on the same level as losing their job. Instead, make sure they’re heard and acknowledge that they’re going through something difficult. They’ll feel seen and respected.

2. Motivation

Motivation works differently for everyone. There are two main types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic. With extrinsic motivation, a person does something because they get an external reward, like money or prizes. When someone acts off intrinsic motivation, they get an inner, intangible reward.


Parents often use extrinsic motivation to get their kids to act a certain way or complete certain tasks. Ultimately, we want them to do things because of intrinsic motivation, but for most kids, especially younger ones, extrinsic rewards are much more effective.


You need to figure out what motivates your child. It doesn’t always have to be a monetary reward. It could be a special activity, finding a favourite quote or mantra that they can repeat, or a favorite dinner. Over time, your child will do the right thing without a reward.

mother walking with her daughter

3. Zone of Proximal Development

One of the biggest mistakes parents can make is expecting their kids to behave or learn new skills beyond them. Psychologist Lev Vygotsky coined the term “zone of proximal development” to help parents and teachers determine where kids are able to grow.


As a parent, you can use this zone to figure out where your child is developmentally. You should help your child to learn new skills that are slightly above their developmental level. Kids like to learn and be challenged, but if you do too much, too soon, they’ll get frustrated and give up. 

4. Differential Reinforcement

Parenting is often a balancing act between positive and negative reinforcement. Basically, we reward our kids when they exhibit good behaviors and punish them when they do things we don’t want them to do.


Each kid is different. Some respond best to almost exclusively positive reinforcement. Others sometimes need negative reinforcement to help them stop unwanted behaviors. The key is figuring out what works for your child.

5. Constructive Learning

One of the best ways to form a bond with your child is to help them learn new things by giving them enriching experiences. According to psychologist Jean Piaget, kids learn by building on their previous knowledge and experiences.


You can use this to help your child learn. Instead of trying to teach them things out of context, create experiences that can help them learn. Online learning can also be a great way for kids to engage with new information in a fun and creative way. 

father and daughter relationship

6. Growth Mindset

Kids have to be taught how to face challenges. While some have outstanding determination, many kids are ready to give up once things get complicated. If your kid falls into this category, you can help them develop a growth mindset so that they can get past obstacles. 


A growth mindset teaches kids that they can develop and grow their abilities in order to succeed in the future, even if they struggle in the moment. Your kid often internalizes both your praise and criticism. If you convey that you believe in them, their inner voice will also encourage them. 

7. Failure Leads to Improvement

As parents, it’s difficult to watch our children fail. When we see them making a mistake, it’s tempting to step in and fix things before they mess up. However, one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to let them fail. 


The benefits are two-fold. First, kids who are allowed to fail are much better at developing problem-solving skills. Second, when you let your kids make their own decisions and mistakes, you’re conveying a sense of trust in them and their capabilities. You’ll help them build confidence.

8. Multiple Intelligences

Society often pushes people to the idea that there’s one type of intelligence: academic intelligence. We can put pressure on our kids to do well in school above all else and be disappointed in them if they don’t do well.


However, psychologist Howard Gardner taught us that there are multiple types of intelligence. Some kids may not do well in school but may have great interpersonal relationships or are great with music. Find the places where your child excels and encourage them in their pursuits.

9. Building Self-Esteem

While you’re there to correct your child gently, too much criticism can lead to low self-esteem. Your primary role is to build your child up. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, your kid does value your opinion. Before saying anything critical, ask yourself if it’s going to help them or hurt them.

10. Spiral Curriculum

The principle of a spiral curriculum suggests that kids learn best when they learn the same concepts, skills, and ideas repeatedly, with the complexity increasing as they develop. 


You can help your child by continually revisiting ideas and taking them to a deeper level. For example, you’ll have very different conversations with your child about friendship when they’re five and when they’re sixteen. It is important to develop and strengthen the ideas and values that you want to teach them throughout their lives. 

child hugging mother

Final Thoughts

With these psychological principles of loving parenting, you can be well on your way to building a closer relationship with your child. Keep revisiting these principles and give yourself some grace. As long as you’re continually assessing your parenting, you’ll be able to do a great job with your kid.


Check out Amphy for more ideas on parenting and great kid-friendly activities to build their curiosity and love of learning. 

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