Car seat, check. Newborn diapers, check. Tons of onesies, check. Parenting skills handbook… wait, what? Were you missing the parenting skills section on your postpartum after-care instructions? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. While it would be nice to bring your newborn home with a “how-to” manual, part of this parenting process is to learn by doing (and sometimes failing). But what if, instead of stumbling along the way, you had a map (like a checklist of essential parenting skills) that guided you in the right direction?
What are the most essential parenting skills?
It should come as no surprise that some parenting techniques produce better outcomes than others. In general, all parents want their children to be happy and healthy, but our own goals and circumstances can also influence where we place the most value when it comes to our parenting skills. In an attempt to figure out which parenting skills were most important, Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, looked at data from 2,000 parents (who took an online test of parenting skills) to determine which parenting practices encouraged by experts most often lead to happy, healthy, and successful children. Based on the results, Epstein and his team discovered 10 competencies that predict good parenting outcomes. In order of importance, here are the 10 parenting skills or Parents’ Ten, according to Epstein and team.

1. Love and affection

Showing love is the number one competency that predicts good parenting outcomes. This includes showing unconditional love, support, and acceptance. It also stresses the importance of spending one-on-one time with your child.

2. Stress management

Not only is it important for you to manage your own stress, it’s also critical to teach your child stress management and relaxation techniques.

3. Relationship skills

Success in this area means you model and maintain healthy relationship skills with other people (spouse, significant other, co-parent, co-workers, family, etc).

4. Autonomy and independence

When parents foster autonomy and independence, it tells their children that they respect and believe in their abilities.

5. Education and learning

Teaching children to be lifelong learners begins at home. This includes valuing education, modeling learning, and providing enrichment opportunities for your child.

6. Life skills

Providing for your child’s needs and planning for the future falls into this category. This includes showing your child how to positively view obstacles and challenges, which helps them develop resilience and perseverance.

7. Behavior management

Parents who use positive discipline rely on positive reinforcement and deliver consequences (not punishment) in a kind and firm manner, helping a child feel connected, capable, and a sense of belonging. This also minimizes or eliminates yelling, and harsh verbal discipline, which one 2014 studyTrusted Source found is damaging to developing adolescents.

8. Health

You model healthy lifestyle choices that include exercise and good nutrition choices for your family.

9. Religion

You support spiritual and/or religious development.

10. Safety

You help to ensure your child is safe. This includes setting boundaries and being aware of their activities and friends. And it’s also tactical things — everything from babproofing your home and enforcing wearing helmets while bike riding to teaching them how to cross the street smartly and what sexual consent means.