There are hundreds of books and studies on parenting. Parenting methods have changed dramatically in recent decades, and it’s not always easy to find consistent advice on proper parenting techniques.

There are, however, some parenting principles that are pretty much universally accepted today. Here are three of them:

1. Show Open Affection for Your Child  

In other words, show your child unconditional love. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s an area where parents increasingly seem to struggle.

New York Times writer David Brooks has noted that many parents today show their children a love that is essentially merit based. Love and affection are conditional, based on circumstances and positive outcomes. There are consequences to such an approach, Brooks writes.

“Children who are uncertain of their parents’ love develop a voracious hunger for it. This conditional love is like an acid that dissolves children’s internal criteria to make their own decisions about their own colleges, majors and careers. At key decision-points, they unconsciously imagine how their parents will react. They guide their lives by these imagined reactions and respond with hair-trigger sensitivity to any possibility of coldness or distancing.”

2. Maintain Verbal Interaction with Children

Experts agree that “conversation with adults is one of the main channels through which children learn.”

By communicating verbally with children on a regular basis, they gain valuable social interaction skills, such as how to work well with others, how to read and understand social cues, and how to make friends.  

3. Keep Discipline Consistent

We tend to think of techniques when we think of parental discipline, but many experts say the most important of the 5 Cs of effective discipline is consistency. 


Bernard Arons, a physician and director of the Center for Mental Health Services, in Washington, D.C., explains why consistency is so important.

“A child learns how to approach the world by observing the behavior and values of the people around him. The more consistent the messages he gets, the more stable he feels. Without consistency, kids have a hard time controlling themselves.”

In his book Coming Apart, the scholar Charles Murray touches on these parenting principles and looks at them through the prism of class. He says upper-middle class parents are “well ahead” of parents in working and middle class families when it comes to following these practices (and have been for some time).

The problem? Many of them have gone overboard. Here is what he writes:

Charles Murray explains helicopter parents