After conducting research on parent/children relationships in 10 cultures and among a variety of economic groups, Brian K. Barber has identified three fundamental principles of human interaction and development.
Brother Barber, a BYU associate professor of sociology, said that regardless of culture or economic status young children function better when "they are connected to significant others, when they have clear regulations to guide their behavior and when their individuality is facilitated and not manipulated."
Connection: All children, said Brother Barber, need a positive, stable, emotional bond with their parents. "Parents help provide that by loving children, spending time with children, listening to children, and by expressing affection to children."
While each parent will achieve these goals in different combinations with different methods, they should remember that good, loving nurturing things help provide a connection that will benefit children, he added.
Regulation: Parents need to establish rules and regulations on their children's behaviors and consistently enforce those rules, said Brother Barber. "It is not enough to just love your children. Children function better when they have clear boundaries."
Psychological autonomy: Children need to feel that they are valued as individuals and that their ideas are respected, said Brother Barber. Parents should encourage children to express feelings, thoughts and ideas and not interrupt them when they are talking, ridicule their ideas or try to get the children to change through imposing guilt. They should also not withhold attention or affection from the child if the child exhibits a behavior the parents do not like.
"Those principles are a summary of the research that has been done for the last 70 years on parent/child relationships," he said.
Brother Barber explained that he has recognized the same principles while studying the scriptures. "I see the same principles evident in God's relationship with His children," he said. "I see Him doing all these things with us, which provides the ultimate validation of the principles."