The first step in becoming a better parent is recognizing that parenting is challenging and requires support and learning every step of the way. All parents need support in some form or another at different stages in our children’s development. (See below for specific tips on parenting teens.) 

Here are some helpful parenting tips:

1. Create an interesting environment.

Bored kids are likely to misbehave. You can keep kids engaged by creating an environment that allows them to explore safely and develop their skills. Consider a trip to the dollar store where you can find coloring materials, craft supplies, bath toys and fidgets. Often you can use a routine bus ride as an opportunity to play verbal games like “I spy.”

2. Create a positive learning environment.

If a child comes to you for help or a chat, they’re ready to learn. Give them positive attention, even if only for a minute or so. Encourage their ideas and opinions. Ask questions and make eye contact. Giving your child your time teaches them that they are loved and valued. If you allow your child to watch a short TV show, ask them afterwards about the characters and the story. This encourages them to be thinking critically and increases your connection with their world.

3. Use assertive discipline.

Set clear rules and boundaries and follow through with fair consequences. Try to only deliver consequences you can realistically follow through on. For example, if it is not possible to walk away from a grocery cart full of food, don’t tell your child, “If you do that again we are leaving the store.” Praise little and big kids to encourage the behavior you like. Every time you see your child doing something you would like to see them do again, let them know!

4. Have realistic expectations. 

Nobody’s perfect — kids, teenagers or adults — so don’t expect your child to do more (or less) than they’re capable of. Keep in mind your child’s age and stage and try to only ask them to do what they are capable of. Many pediatricians can provide you with this information. If you need your kids to learn a new skill (like brushing teeth), teach it to them a few times before you expect them to do it independently. And remember, we all make mistakes sometimes. When your child makes a mistake, look at it as an opportunity to teach them something new.

5. Take care of yourself as a parent.  

It’s all about balance. You’ve got to look after your own needs too. Make sure you’re getting some time with friends and maybe even a little time to yourself! Taking care of you teaches your child that everybody’s needs are important. Utilize support around you like family, churches, local children’s programming and your child’s school to ensure you’re not carrying the load all on your own.

6. Establish and maintain routines.

Establishing routines is very important. When children know what to expect next, they are more compliant and develop more patience. Make a chart at home that outlines the morning routine, bed- time routine, or whatever time of day tends to be the hardest to get through. This is another great activity to get your kids involved in. Let them put stickers on the chart and possibly pick the order that they do some tasks in.

7. Be affectionate with your child.  

Children need affection to know they are loved and the world is safe. be silly with your child, snuggle while you read a book and give them a hug when you greet them at drop-off and pick-up. Giving your child kindness through safe touch teaches them that they are precious and deserve kindness.

8. Keep up with preventative health appointments.

Child well-checks help keep you informed about your child’s growth and development. it is a great time to ask about any concerns you might have as well as maintain your child’s vaccination schedule. Studies show that children who regularly attend their child well-checks are far less likely to come down with common illnesses such as ear infections, reducing stress on a family that may not be able to miss work and or might struggle to afford the necessary medication. Child well-checks are a preventative cost covered by most insurance companies, including Medicaid.

9. Assess for safety in all environments.

Look around your home and determine if there are possible safety risks. Is furniture safely secured? Are dangerous household chemicals out of reach? Being proactive about the safety of every environment your child encounters is a great way to avoid accidents and minimize stress for everyone in the family.

10. Consider alternatives to spanking.

There is no evidence that proves spanking causes children to behave better. In fact, studies show that it does the opposite. What we know is that children need structure and discipline, but these both need to come from parents who are loving, consistent, predictable and affectionate. Teaching a child not to hit his/her friend while using hitting as a form of discipline just doesn’t make sense. Utilize a logical consequence instead. For example, if the child hit his friend with his toy, remove the toy and explain with words that they lost the toy because they hit with it. This teaches the child that hitting is not ok and when they choose to hit, there will be a consequence.

Parenting support

Great parent-child relationships don’t just happen. Parenting requires intentional positive care for children even in the toughest moments. SAFE is here to help you take the first step, with services that focus on building successful and resilient children through strengthening parents and preserving families.

Below you will find information about Strong Start, SAFE’s parenting support program, as well as other informative resources that include videos, webinars, posters, tip sheets and more.

Strong Start works with parents to increase their confidence in parenting and feel more connected to their children and their community. All SAFE services are provided in both English and Spanish and can be tailored to work with your unique family. We also offer supplemental services that help families to address multiple stressors. 

If you or someone you know is interested in Strong Start services, please fill out our online referral form or download a PDF version.

The two evidence-based curriculums offered by Strong Start are Nurturing Parenting and Triple P. While there are components that require payment, the bulk of the valuable information on these sites is free.

* Strong Start is part of Project HOPES, a parent education collaborative in Travis and Williamson Counties.

Promoting Healthy Relationships for Your Teen

As a parent, you can help your teen and pre-teen understand what a healthy relationship looks like and feels like. You play a critical role in teaching your teen the importance of respect, how to make responsible decisions, and how to say “no” to unwanted behaviors from others.

  • Join your teen in watching his or her favorite TV show or listening to the radio. Find out what your teen is learning about relationships from the media and ask questions.
  • Take time to talk to your teen about friends and daily activities.
  • Ask your teen about his or her feelings about dating and relationships, but avoid forcing the issue. Ask, “What’s important to you in a relationship?
  • Share your own experiences, especially the times you made a mistake or learned something.
  • Let your teen know that violence is not acceptable; it’s never okay to hurt or control another person or to tolerate abusive behavior in a relationship. Help your teen recognize the signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
  • Role play solutions to problems that come up in relationships—Assertive communication takes practice.
  • Help your teen deal with break-ups in healthy ways.
  • Be the Ultimate Role Model—Let your teen see you as an example of healthy behavior. If we want them to respect us we have to respect them, ourselves, our partners and other people.
  • Provide opportunities for your teen to have positive relationships. Encourage them to share their feelings and experiences with friends, family and other trusted adults.

SAFE’s Expect Respect Program promotes safe and healthy relationships for youth. We offer counseling (provided by licensed counselors via phone/video) and educational programs for youth throughout Austin and surrounding areas. All services are free and confidential. If you are interested, please contact Agnes Aoki, LCSW Expect Respect Counseling Director at or (512) 356-1621