Evaluate your relationships

Use this checklist to evaluate patterns in your current relationships with the children in your life (or even other adults in your life). If you have implemented a specific discipline or motivation approach, does it encourage relationships in which the following are true?


___ I focus on prevention–not reaction.
___ I attempt to meet my children’needs in healthy, constructive ways.


___ I can motivate cooperative behavior without powering, threatening, humiliating or using conditional approval.
___ I am more interested in encouraging cooperation than obedience, even though the outcome behaviors usually look about the same.
___ I want to empower my children within limits that do not disempower others.
___ I use my authority to set limits, offer choices, and decide what is and is not negotiable.

Success Orientation

___ I ask my children to do things for which they are developmentally and experientially prepared.
___ I give clear directions.
___ I set clear, pro-active and win-win boundaries.
___ I attempt to accommodate my children’s preferences and learning styles, allowing them to study and learn in ways that are most natural for them.
___ I give my children opportunities to self-manage.
___ I stay in the present.


___ I can separate my children’ behavior from their worth.
___ I state boundaries as promises rather than threats.
___ Our home is reward-oriented (that is, focused on positive outcomes for cooperation rather than punishment or negative outcomes for misbehavior).
___ I think of consequences as the positive outcomes for cooperation or positive behavior.
___ I look for the positive (what the child is doing right) and build on that.
___ I try to maintain my sense of humor.

Avoiding Double Standards:

___ I model the kinds of behavior I would like my children to exhibit.
___ I avoid talking to my children in ways I would not talk to adults.
___ In terms of motivation, I recognize that children desire (and deserve) to experience meaningful outcomes as a result of the behaviors they choose, just as adults do.
___ I avoid making a big deal over issues and incidents that involve my children just because they aren’t adults.


___ I offer my children a variety of meaningful positive consequences to motivate or encourage cooperative behavior.
___ I can recognize my child’s positive behavior without reinforcing dependence and people-pleasing.
___ I avoid giving warnings, as well as delayed or meaningless negative consequences. (When my child misbehaves, I am willing to withdraw privileges immediately.)
___ I avoid asking for excuses. (I am willing to withhold privileges and rewards until children come through on their end regardless of their excuses.)
___ I have built in some proactive flexibility (such as trading chores or allowing them to call by their curfew if a problem comes up) so I can accommodate occasional problems that may arise without compromising my boundaries.


___ I can accept my child’s feelings even if I don’t understand or agree with them.
___ I respect the reality of my child’s experience, and am willing to validate that reality.
___ I have a variety of healthy outlets for children to use to get their feelings out (or be listened to) without creating problems for themselves or others.
___ I am able to listen without giving advice, dismissing the problem, or interfering with the feelings.
___ I ask, rather than tell, to help children find solutions to problems without giving them answers or advice about what they should do.


___ I make choices based on my values and my children’s needs regardless of possible reactions or judgments from others.
___ I am able to deal with criticism without becoming defensive, apologetic, or reactive, and without explaining in order to secure approval for what I’m doing.
___ I maintain regular, positive contact with my children’s teachers and other adults in their lives.


___ I avoid using my feelings as a way to control or change others.
___ I take responsibility for solving problems that arise in my home and relationships with my children.
___ I communicate positively and responsibly with my children’s teachers.
___ When I slip up and say or do something hurtful, I take responsibility for my behavior (rather than blaming it on something the child has done).
___ When I make a mistake or fail to keep my word, I avoid making excuses and apologize make things right.
___ I am able and willing to ask for what I want directly.


___ I model a commitment to personal growth.
___ I know how to set boundaries and am willing to do so to take care of myself.
___ When things get to be too much for me, I am willing to reach out for help without making others responsible for my feelings or state of mind.
___ I have developed a strong support network and am willing to use it.
___ I minimize or avoid contact with negative, toxic people and experiences.
___ I can use my mistakes and errors as opportunities for new learning rather than as excuses for beating myself up.
___ I have a variety of outlets and resources outside of my work situation for personal enrichment, relaxation, stress management and fun.
___ I acknowledge what I’m doing right and give myself space to grow and keep getting better!

Excerpted and adapted from The Win-Win Classroom by Dr. Jane Bluestein, © 2008, Corwin Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA.

This page is also available in French.

© 1986, 1999, 2008, Dr. Jane Bluestein

Related resources for parents:

Parents, Teens & Boundaries (guaranteed for children of all ages, and adults, too!)
The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Parenting

See related handouts for parents and caregivers:

Descriptions of each Characteristic
5 Characteristics of a Good Boundary
11 Reasons to Use Boundaries with Your Children
9 Things to Remember When Setting a Boundary
6 Reasons to Not Ask your Children for Excuses 
Motivating cooperative behavior
Motivation vs Manipulation

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2 thoughts on “Checklist: Characteristics of Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

  1. Please provide the link for “6 Reasons to Not Ask your Children for Excuses.” Thanks.

    1. DONE!! Thank you for the reminder. All links on that page are working now. 🙂

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