A Simple Guide to Successful Parenting

Parenting, at its core, is about making wise choices in order to prepare young men and women to be released into the world as responsible adults.

And that’s why later today, I’ll be traveling to the city of San Salvador, El Salvador. I have been asked to speak on the topic of “Successful Parenting” as a means to help encourage the growth of healthy families, healthy neighborhoods, and healthy communities. And despite being smack dab in the middle of a cross-country move, it was an opportunity that I could not pass up (and considering it was planned before our decision to move, I felt a need to fulfill my commitment).

As a result, over the next 7 days, I will be speaking 5 times in various locations around the city to roughly 500 parents… and I couldn’t be more excited. I love meeting new people. I love parenting. And I love the opportunity to encourage healthy families and influence healthy communities.

Because I have a limited opportunity at each venue, I have tried to condense the wisdom of successful parenting into one short presentation. It is not exhaustive and each point of the outline could easily become a book in itself. But I believe it is enough to enourage parents, challenge parents, and send them down a road to develop successful (and flexible) parenting habits in their lives.

And rather than asking you to come visit me this week in San Salvador, I thought I’d just put my abbreviated outline here on Becoming Minimalist:

A Simple Guide to Succesful Parenting.

1. Successful parents love their spouse. Healthy marriages form the foundation on which children base their lives. They provide the stability necessary for young children to grow, thrive, and experiment. Home becomes a safe place that models and encourages selfless love. Successful parents are faithful to their spouse. They do not take for granted the life-commitment they have made to one another. They work hard each day to love their spouse. And they pride themselves on what they can give to the relationship… not in what they can take from it.

2. Successful parents correct harmful behaviors, attitudes, and worldviews. The old proverb holds true, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” While discipline can take various forms (I would never recommend a literal rod) and should be adapted for each particular child, it must be present for parenting success. Children need to learn everything from the ground-up including appropriate behaviors, how to get along with others, how to get results, and how to achieve their dreams. Discipline should not be avoided or withheld. It should never be motivated by anger, pride, or selfish reasons… because then it causes harm rather than resulting in benefit. Instead, it should be motivated by love and a desperate desire to see your children become the best that they can be.

3. Successful parents encourage healthy behaviors, attitudes, and worldviews. Parenting is a thinking man’s game. It takes energy, strategy, and intentionality. Yet, many parents are unwilling to give it the attention that it deserves. As a result, their children become shaped by the world around them rather than by the parents who love them. Successful parents do not just discourage unhealthy habits, they also intentionally encourage positive habits. They envision the type of person they would like their children to become. They consistently model that behavior for them. They speak lofty expectations into their childrens’ lives. They think the best of their children. They provide opportunities for their children to learn valuable life lessons. And they praise positive habits both privately and publicly.

4. Successful parents encourage spirituality. I’ll probably steer away from the beaten path here for a moment, but there is a deep sense in my heart that wise parents encourage spirituality in the lives of their children. They instill within their kids a deep sense that there is more to this world than meets the eye. Some of the greatest things in this world are not things. Instead, they are invisible, life-giving, and eternal. There is a moral compass that guides life on this planet. Wise parents encourage (and provide opportunities) for their children to find it. Some of the most fruitful conversations I have with my children center on this topic of spirituality. And I always encourage parents to consider them.

5. Successful parents know when to let go. Parenting is 100% parents trying to shape lives and 100% children choosing their own life. While parenting requires time, energy, love, sweat, and tears, it also requires freedom to allow our children to make their own decisions and choose their own paths. It is a difficult balance that varies from child to child… but parents who neglect to let go cause harm. And they never accomplish the very goal of parenting itself: Making wise choices in order to prepare young men and women to be released into the world as responsible adults.

I’ll see you all again later next week. Until then, ¡Adiós!

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    Now that my oldest is in middle school, I’m finding #5 to be harder than I expected. We spend so much time when they are little trying to protect them from everything, that it’s hard to make the mental shift of letting them learn to take care of themselves. It is definitely neat to watch with pride when they rise to the occasion and show you how much they’ve grown though.

    Have a great week! I’m sure your talk will go great. I can’t think of a more important topic to discuss.

    • Helen Davies says

      HI, I am English, visiting daughter and grandchildren in Maui. I so agree with much of this, especially that it is parents responsibility to teach children to respect others, to be helpful members of society, to give as much as they take emotionally,practically and physically, etc…. I see children spoilt with plastic toys yet deprived of parents’ attention, both in terms of sitting down and playing/drawing/cooking etc with them and also in terms of teaching them the correct way to behave. I am not an old fashioned person at all and welcome positive feedback to children but I see so many parents taking this to an extreme and not doing the hard bit, i.e. the discipline, etc, love and discipline go hand in hand and are vital to produce a well rounded, balanced child. Family activities are as important as anything else!

  2. sharle kinnear says

    I can’t think of a more important topic to talk about, and your parenting guidelines are very good! It’s hard to condense the subject into digestible mouthfuls, and too many writers/speakers belabor the subject and lose their audiences. Well put, my friend! And good luck with your trip!

  3. Roshni says

    you have a great blog and I am a regular reader. This is my first time commenting. I almost completely agree with your post except the spirituality part. I myself am religious but I do know parents who are atheists and yet are perfectly successful in their parenting. I guess you may say that they have instilled the sense that there is more to this world than just their own possessions… the greatest satisfaction is to help their fellow men and women. That may border on spirituality (I don’t know!) but they have never needed to instill the belief of God in their kids for their kids to develop as good human beings.

  4. says

    Unlike my normal comments this one is bare bones. I just wanted to express my admiration for what you will be doing in San Salvador and sincerely hope you make a big impact on the people’s lives you come into contact with.

  5. Christopher says

    Great blog, great topic. My wife and I just celebrated our second anniversary yesterday by going off the pill. We don’t know when it will happen, but this is great writing to inspire us to the great responsibility that is parenting a life into and through this beautiful but often confusing and troubling world. Thanks, Josh.

  6. says

    This is a great topic to address. Gentle, deliberate, and meaningful guidance of children is very important. Encouraging them on their dreams, listening to them, and letting them know how you, as their parent, feel about them, are crucial elements in developing their self-confidence and worth. Also, consistently letting them know that you will always be there for them ensures that they realize that they always have their parents to depend on in good times and in bad. This background is one that all children need. It helps them have the confidence and inspiration to go out into the world and live the type of life that would be most fulfilling for them.

  7. says

    I think intentionality is a HUGE thing. I struggle with this 97% of the time. I’m still trying to deal with becoming a parent, not once, but twice on accident. It’s hard to let go of the resentment for having my hopes and dreams stifled, but at the same point tend to their needs for almost constant love and attention. I’m sure my internal struggle with parenting is having major effects on our children, but I’m the one who has to deal with it. Hopefully one of these days I can become a better, more intentional parent, but for now I give what I can and apologize for the rest.

  8. Kristin says

    I just love this! I came across your blog after Becoming Minimalist featured you & I’m so glad you did! Good luck on your speaking tour! Safe travels!

  9. FK says

    So you’ve successfully raised multiple children to adulthood with success? Your bio states you have an 8 year old. How can you attest to being a ‘successful’ parent without even having a teenager?

    • says

      What I didn’t include in the blog post is my introduction which directly spoke to that point. While I have worked with teenagers and their parents for 13 years, I do still feel a bit unqualified to speak on the topic. Nevertheless, the seminars that we have been holding have been at the request of some friends in El Salvador.

  10. What is this? says

    I usually dismiss anything that puts parenting into absolutes, but because I respect this blog I thought I’d give in just this once. What a load of crap! “You, too, can be as great a parent as me if you just follow my…er…these 5 easy steps. Any deviation from them will result in disaster!” I am an atheist, so by your standards I’m already failing miserably. So far I think I’m doing a swell job raising my children, but how successful I am has yet to be determined. I am not so full of myself that I think I can already pat myself on the back when the job is only half done. #1 is insulting, #2 is ambiguous, #3 is questionable (I say that because I don’t believe in molding my kids into what I want them to be since they are completely separate individuals from myself, but I do get where you were trying to go with it), #4 was pathetic, and #5 was just a paragraph to tidy it all up. I know that a lot of people will be in agreement with you on these, but you did a huge disservice to your readers who maybe have a different “worldview” than yourself.

      • What is this? says

        Nope, sorry, can’t do it in a more respectful way. Given how angry this post made me I thought I was being incredibly respectful, but clearly that is relative. Could it have been any more exclusionary? As I am a single parent, an atheist, and I don’t personally believe in spanking in my own situation (for numerous reasons) I am failing as a parent according to this, despite all evidence to the contrary. And what would I recommend instead? I don’t recommend anything to anyone because I know that my situation is unique, just as yours and everyone else’s is, and I am not so arrogant to think that there is just one path to success.

    • says

      It’s just my opinion on parenting. Parenting is a broad, individualistic topic. And my thoughts listed above are not exhaustive. I never said “You are not a good parent unless…” But when asked to condense my thoughts on parenting into one short seminar opportunity, this is what he emerged as the most improtant elements in my personal philosophy.

  11. says

    I think this is an awesome article. All of your points are so true. I was disappointed that you didn’t elaborate more on #2 (spare the rod, spoil the child). You didn’t mention your beliefs on physical punishment. I have raised 3 children to adulthood, have one still in the raising and have 2 grandchildren. I truly believe that consistent discipline is ONE of the most important things that we can give our children. I DO NOT believe in physical discipline and know firsthand that it is absolutely unnecessary. I have raised 3 1/2 children and I have owned and operated a child care for 18 years. Rules and consistent enforcement are important. Consistent, loving, thoroughly thought-out, logical, thought-provoking consequences that TEACH are key! What will the child LEARN from the consequence?
    Preschooler: Billy takes block from Suzy. Suzy is mad and BIGGER and hits Billy. Mom comes and hits Suzy for hitting Billy. Mom just reinforced the bad behavior.
    Preteen/Teen: My children have had to do plenty of research & writing on how their behaviors have affected them and others and they have been grounded until it has been completed.

  12. Jayadeep Purushothaman says

    This doesn’t sound like a minimalist parenting advise – may be you should take a look at “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn for a different approach than the usual “5 steps..” thing, which aligns more with your minimalist lifestyle! Items 2-4 can make a parent control freak to get the children in their way without much regards to how the children feel!

  13. says

    I am saddened and surprised by the amount of negativity in the comments. Open minds and hearts understand the validity of Joshua’s thoughts on parenting and could translate that to their own personal situation (single parent in a relationship should be in a respectful relationship, an atheist knows they can also teach their children that they are worth more than the stuff they own. I don’t believe Joshua was being exclusive, simply stating these ideals can only be helpful and to apply what you can along your own journey. Most of us are following his blog because we appreciate the honest, heartfelt inspiration we receive. Thank you and your family for all you share with us and I truly appreciated this post.

  14. What is this? says

    Do you realize what you said? A single parent SHOULD be in a respectful relationship. An atheist KNOWS they can teach their children they are worth more than their stuff (implying what, may I ask, about theists? That knowing one’s worth is automatic if you believe in a deity?) I just don’t even know where to begin with this. You may be “saddened and surprised by the negative comments” but I am just that with the complete lack of understanding how this list might not be seen by everyone as all-encompassing. Maybe I am delving deeper into this than what Joshua meant, but this hit me in a place so deep that I can’t just shut up. I think you miss the point just as much as Joshua did. Maybe you need to be “saddened and surprised” at all the negativity more often in order to join the rest of us in this world that we all share. WORDS MATTER. And no matter how hard one tries to defend what one has stated before, they STILL MATTER. Please spare me the “open hearts and open minds” crap because in the end they are just excuses. What you are basically stating is that I am at fault for misinterpreting what was stated. Even though what was stated didn’t have an escape clause. I am not an idiot and I do know the power of words. From experience, they hurt time and time again. I may not fit into the perfect package of what you and society (or should I say anglo-saxon Christians) deem acceptable as a parent, but I do my best with the flawed decisions I have made, just like you and everyone else. And ya know what? My kids are none the worse for wear! I see now that I have just come to the wrong place for any sort of relevant discourse. My bad.

  15. In between says

    Hey there,

    I absolutely love this website and have been following since last year.

    I understand both Joshua’s standpoint while having high respect for the comments from What is this.

    From Joshua’s perspective, what I gathered was his opinion on parenting and did not see it as, what he stated, a way to tell people exactly how to parent every child in every household. From his words, I understood that is what he knows from his experience.

    From the comments by What is this?, I totally understand because 1.) I am an atheist (I studied World Religions and minored in Science at college, ended up becoming an atheist but open to others beliefs) 2.) I am a single parent

    Lisa’s (with photo?) comments, while well I am sure she had good intentions, I understand can be offensive because, words do matter and she kind of said don’t judge, but then went right ahead to judge in order to defend another viewpoint.

    Lisa Boerum’s comments about spanking is awesome. Interesting viewpoint and something to think about.

    So yeah, I feel everyone had good intentions in this blog and thank you for being real and sharing all your perspectives. No one is perfect and we all gotta live together.

    What is this: I feel your pain and feeling excluded. I totally understand. We are a minority and I struggle with this every single day. I feel life would be easier and the world would be more accepting if I belonged to some kind of faith and was married.

    Josh: Love your minimalist writings and believe you gave good intentions, but I guess this subject was a little personal and thus, the sharing of viewpoints.

    Again, thanks to all who shared and good luck to all our paths in raising little people on this earth.

  16. says

    There is a difference between Spirituality and Religious. Spirituality can be acheived without religion. Ideally, all religous people would have spirituality but there are some people claim to have religion but lack spirituality (they don’t practice what they preach.)
    It’s important to nurture our child’s spiritual side and how we choose to do that is up to us as parents. Some choose to go to church/synagogue/temple, others choose to donate time to a community event or commune with nature.
    However we choose to do it, we need to teach our children about community and interconnectedness. That there is a huge world out there beyond the boundries of our individual worlds.

  17. Teresa says

    Thank you for this post. I read your blog but never comment. (Until now. :-)) One of the things I most admire about you is the way you always, always respond to comments with charity and kindness. Noticing that sort of surprising, sincere kindness (even while under attack) in certain people, wondering about it and being drawn toward it, was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of my journey toward Christ. Thanks for the reminder. And thanks for sharing your minimalist journey through your blog. :-)

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