Helping a young human being grow up to be a happy, successful, and independent adult has to be the hardest thing you can do. People are astoundingly complex; even kids are complex, growing more so year by year until they leave home. And yet, few parents have had the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge to empower their efforts. I’ve spoken with extremely intelligent professional people who were genuinely stumped by how to deal with their kids.

It’s impossible to parent without talking with your child. And in over 30 years of teaching adults interpersonal communication skills, I’ve been aware that there are dozens of such skills. Bit I’ve always felt that some of these skills have such impact that they need to be learned first, that focusing on them can change the game. In my book, Connect with Your Kid, I chose to focus on the ten with the highest impact.

Indeed, with so many books, websites, videos, and courses about parenting, how can you find the time to search through all of them for answers? This is why I wrote an article to try to simplify the challenge: “The Top 10 Fundamentals of Parenting,” which became a chapter in my book, Preparing Your Teen for Life.

Still, I appreciate that for busy parents, ten fundamentals may be too many, especially since none of them is particularly simple. So I’ve sorted through these and have settled on five that I feel have by far the biggest impact:

  • Improve your listening skills. Knowing when it’s time not to speak, but to simply try to grasp what your child is trying to say. Express empathy. Check what you think you’re hearing. Listening to understand has many powerful benefits.
  • Learn to ask the right questions. Open-ended questions. This helps a child learn to think and helps build self-esteem.
  • Allow your child to face challenges. Share in their successes, and help them learn from their mistakes. This helps them build strengths they’ll need as adults.
  • Help your child build a strong work ethic. Give them roles and tasks to contribute to the family enterprise and build a sense of responsibility. Teach life skills. Help them learn to manage money.
  • Teach by example. One way or another, they’ll be influenced by your example. It’s what kids do. So be the kind of adult you want your child to grow up to be.

There are several skills associated with each of these fundamentals. I deal with most of them in my book, Connect with Your Kid. Following through will be a journey, so partnering with another parent (you can coach each other) will make a huge difference. The brief book, Parents Coaching Parents, gives reassuring tips.

You can grow the bond with your child through better listening. Download the FREE ebook, Listening to Understand.