These 5 Principles Will Change the Way You Think About Parenting

Dr. Aliza Pressman’s framework will empower you to help your kids build compassion and resilience.

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Parenting isn’t easy –– and spending all of our time trying to be the “perfect parent” only leads to stress and burnout. The truth is, imperfection is part of parenting. In fact, it’s an important part of all of our relationships. We all make mistakes, and learning from those mistakes is what helps us grow and evolve. When we let go of the need to be perfect and instead lean into compassion, we can foster relationships –– with our kids, partners, coworkers, and loved ones — that are joyful and fulfilling. 

Dr. Aliza Pressman, developmental psychologist and author of the New York Times’ bestseller The 5 Principles of Parenting, spent years researching the keys to successful parenting. What she found is that there are five core principles that can help us raise intelligent, kind, and resilient children, which she calls the five Rs: Relationships, Reflection, Regulation, Rules, and Repair. 

“When we focus on our Relationships within our families,” she writes, “When we take time for Regulation and Reflection, when we’re clear about Rules, and when we make a habit of Repair after mistakes, we find that space between micromanagement and chaos.” And the five Rs can apply to our relationships beyond parenting, too. These principles are the foundation of strong relationships, and can help us be more resilient in our everyday lives. 

Here’s how each of Dr. Pressman’s five principles can help you reframe your beliefs around parenting and strengthen your connections:


Strong relationships build resilience, and it’s important to remember that raising our kids starts with our relationship with our kids. And when that relationship is healthy, supportive, and nurturing, it can fuel our kids’ ability to thrive. “The single most powerful external influence on your child’s capacity to bounce back from tough experiences is the presence of a nurturing relationship with at least one loving, supportive, stable adult,” Pressman writes. This can be as simple as making an effort to actively listen when they talk and celebrating their small wins with them, whether they’re studying for a test or trying a new sport. 

Try this Relationship Microstep:

Join your kid for five minutes of child-led play of their choosing.

This can bolster your attachment relationship, boost attention span, boost their social skills and behavior, and get them to listen more throughout the day.


Parenting can make you feel constantly busy, and the last thing on your mind might be taking time for mindfulness and reflection. But when you shift your perspective to instead focus on moments of “micro-meditations,” you can take time to reset, think about your reactions toward others, and give yourself the space you need to show up as your best self. “Even if you can’t carve out twenty minutes to meditate, start making a practice of taking a deep breath every time you walk through a doorway,” Pressman suggests. “Reflection thus provides a kind of psychological distance,” she adds, which is why it can help us maintain perspective, even during difficult days. 

Try this Reflection Microstep:

Take a deep breath each time you move from one task to the next.

If you don’t have time for a longer meditation practice, this is a simple way to integrate more moments of deep, mindful breathing into your day.


Self-regulation is the ability to respond to experiences in a way that is intentional, not emotional. And when you get into the habit of pausing before reacting, you can be more mindful about your responses and create healthier communication. “Even for adults, self-regulation usually remains a work in progress… One that’s tested and strengthened in new ways by being around children,” Pressman says. One Microstep that can help is taking a moment to simply glance around the room before reacting. As you look at the space around you, notice five colors you see. Redirecting your thoughts in the moment allows you to build in space for a pause, and then react with more intention.

Try this Regulation Microstep:

Take one deep breath before responding to a child’s annoying behavior.

Breathing and reminding yourself “this is irritating, but not harmful” can help you respond with intention to help diffuse the situation.


There’s more to rules than just saying “No sweets after dinner” or “Take your shoes off in the house.” Effective rules are all about teaching your kids the importance of boundaries and limits. “Boundaries are the rules one has for oneself, as well as things that happen interpersonally — or between people,” Pressman explains. “Limits are rules that refer to unacceptable behaviors.” Our children require boundaries and limits in order to feel safe, so when we establish rules, we’re teaching our kids how to set boundaries for themselves as they grow. For example, instructing them to wait their turn at the playground can teach them the importance of patience and sharing as they get older.   

Try this Rules Microstep:

Ask your child to do the positive opposite of a negative behavior.

For example, instead of saying “don’t jump on the bed,” you can say “please jump on the floor.”


Disagreement and disappointment are a part of life. And when it comes to healthy relationships with our kids (or anyone), that’s where Repair comes in. Pressman explains Repair as “the space in which we grow” — for example, apologizing when you forgot to buy your child’s favorite snack, giving your child a hug when they’re upset over a family decision, or spending extra time with them when they’re having a hard day. “Relationships can withstand all kinds of ruptures and mistakes,” she says. “Science shows that the healthiest relationships can grow stronger after discord.” It’s important to remember that ruptures in our relationships don’t weaken our connections, but strengthen them — enabling our kids to feel a sense of strength and growth. 

Try this Repair Microstep:

When sharing advice or observations, begin with “I wonder…”

This helps keep you from projecting onto the other person while still sharing what you’ve noticed or thought of.

Published on
February 20, 2024
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