Positive Parenting – What You Need to Know

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You may not have heard of positive parenting before, but you probably know what it is. It’s a parenting style that builds and maintains a solid relationship between you and your child. It’s a starkly different approach compared to the 1950s “seen and not heard” corporal punishment style. 

In this method, positive parents understand their children’s needs, acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses, and use positive methods to guide them through life. 

Positive parenting takes effort, but it’s worth it!

Positive Parenting and Strong Relationships

Positive parenting, also known as positive discipline or gentle parenting, is a parenting style that focuses on building and maintaining a strong relationship between you and your child. It differs from other parenting styles because it teaches kids to solve their own problems rather than parents solving them for the children. These parents believe that children need to learn how to deal with challenges themselves because they will face challenges throughout life.

This parenting style aims for children to develop into happy adults who can interact positively with others. They want their kids to be self-disciplined and confident, so they can become productive members of society when they grow up.

Because positive parenting focuses on building trust between parents and children, it can be used with any child regardless of age or maturity level—even newborns!

It takes a lot of effort and thought to be a positive parent, but it’s well worth it.

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Positive Parenting Takes Effort

As a parent, there is nothing more important than ensuring your child grows up to be a confident, responsible adult. Positive parenting is one way you can help them do this. It allows you to instill in your child the values that will make them grow into the best version of themselves, such as respect for self and others, kindness and generosity of spirit, and empathy for those who are different from themselves…the list goes on!

The truth is positive parenting isn’t easy. It requires energy and effort on your part as well as theirs. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort necessary for positive parenting—and it does take time—you’ll see results that are well worth it! 

Some benefits are

  • Strong child-parent relationships
  • Children with a healthy level of self-esteem
  • Children who meet challenges with confidence
  • Empowered children that feel they are in control of their lives
  • Children who feel understood
  • Children who cope better with life’s twists and turns

Avoiding Power Struggles

Positive parenting involves avoiding power struggles, showing respect for your child, and responding to misbehavior with empathy. These key tenets help your child to feel understood. 

Power struggles can occur when you demand that your child do something they do not want to do (such as eating a healthy snack). When you engage in power struggles with your child, you are telling them they need to be controlled. Rather than engaging in power struggles, use other parenting techniques like

  • Backing off
  • Offering choices
  • Taking a minute to calm down

Employing Emotional Intelligence 

Positive parenting models emotional intelligence, helping your child feel safe to express their emotions and therefore build positive skills for coping with their emotions. When children misbehave, it’s easy for parents to get angry and scold them for their actions; however, this can make children feel bad about themselves and cause them distress over time. 

Instead of getting mad at your child when they misbehave, take some time from each day (or week) where you focus on what behaviors they’re doing well instead of focusing on their bad behavior alone. To build self-confidence, try rephrasing comments such as, “I am so proud of you” to “You must be so proud of yourself.”

Positive parenting involves consistently applying these strategies to help you avoid conflict and build a loving bond. “So often children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves,”

Rebecca Eanes

Consistency is Key

Positive parenting is all about consistency. The more positive reinforcement you give your children, the more likely they will do what you ask of them in the future. This is especially true if you’re using rewards and praise as part of your strategy for shaping behavior. 

By rewarding good behavior, you’ll encourage children to repeat it; by praising or otherwise encouraging them after an act of kindness or cooperation (for example, by saying something like: “Thanks for helping me load up this heavy box!”), you can help them feel better about themselves and develop more self-confidence.

This approach works best when applied consistently–since this will help both avoid conflict and build a loving bond between parent and child. However, most parents find that applying positive discipline strategies takes some getting used to—so don’t be discouraged if things don’t go smoothly at first! To build emotional intelligence, validate your child by helping to name their emotions, for example, “You feel angry right now. We can get through this together,” and allow them the space to feel their emotion. 

Then, when they are ready, talk with them about their experience and what behaviors are okay or not okay, building positive and healthy connections. Have your child join in on a project or even a chore you are doing to build self-confidence and responsibility! 

It’s All About Love and Support

  • Give your child unconditional love.
  • Talk with your child about your feelings, and listen to the feelings of others.
  • Support and encourage your child’s interests, hobbies, and talents.
  • Be a good listener who is patient and understanding when he or she talks with you about his/her feelings.
  • Be calm and relaxed when interacting with him/her (relaxation techniques include deep breathing exercises).
    • Try modeling for your child, “Mommy/Daddy/Caregiver is having a hard time right now and is feeling very frustrated. I need to take some space and take some deep breaths. Then, we can come back and talk when I am feeling calmer.”
  • Be consistent in what you expect from him/her so that he/she is clear on what is expected from them at home and outside the home (for example, being responsible by doing chores around the house).
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Be Respectful of Your Child

When your child makes a decision, respect it. When they don’t, help them to find other ways to solve their problems. If they want something that is expensive and you can afford to buy it, then buy it for them. If they are having trouble with a friend or a family member, talk about the problem together and how to solve it. A great book recommendation on consent and body positivity to read with your child is, Let’s Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect by Jayneen Sanders. Let them know that you always have their best interests at heart and will be there for them whenever they need you!

Be empathetic When You Address Misbehavior

When you empathize with your child, you acknowledge his feelings and help him understand the impact of his actions. When this happens, he feels understood, allowing him to feel safe expressing himself.

When you’re upset by your child’s behavior or misbehavior, try saying something like, “I can see that this is upsetting for you” or “It seems you are frustrated. Sometimes it’s hard when things don’t go as expected.” Then give him space to process what just happened as well as time to calm down after any heated exchange between the two of you—the more time he has to calm down on his own terms without being pushed into it by others around him (like teachers at school), the better!

Remember, empathy isn’t always easy in the moment, but it’s an important part of being a parent. Being empathetic doesn’t mean coddling or letting your child get away with bad behavior—you still need to set boundaries and teach new behaviors because they’re important too! Just remember how hard they’re probably working on figuring out their place within their family unit right now before deciding what kind of punishment fits each infraction properly.

Employ Prevention Strategies

It is okay to let your child know that their behavior is not appropriate and is not allowed, voicing, “You are allowed to feel upset. You are not allowed to hit.” Children do not have the internal capacity yet to self-regulate, so when it seems like they are “throwing a fit” or having a tantrum, it’s because they do not yet have the proper skills to work through their feelings. At this stage, the caretaker is utilized for co-regulation, i.e., having the caretaker name their child’s emotion, provide a safe space through sensory calming activities, and modeling appropriate ways of “cooling down.” 

By doing such, you provide a strong basis of internal motivation that builds your child’s autonomic response system to understand how to regulate on its own, which can carry over into adulthood and lead to positive relationships with others and self-esteem.

Empower your child by providing them with choices when possible. Choices allow your child to feel like they have a say in whatever experience they may be having. For instance, when brushing their teeth, give them an option such as, “Would you like to brush your teeth with strawberry toothpaste or mint toothpaste?” This allows your child to feel like they have some control over their situation and builds confidence by giving them the opportunity to make decisions and stick by them (when possible).

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Avoid Power Struggles

If you find that you are engaged in a power struggle with your child, this perhaps is an important moment for you to take a deep breath and notice how you are feeling, which will allow you to better listen to your child and respect their needs. Power struggles are a sign that you, as the caretaker, feel out of control and are a powerful opportunity to model how to work through intense emotions in healthy ways for your child.

Use Time-ins Rather Than Timeouts

Time-ins are a great way to teach your child how to control their behavior. Time-ins are an opportunity to provide co-regulation, such as holding your child if they want to be held or providing your child with a quiet space where they can play and come back to a calmer state. Time-ins also include talking to your child about what happened, engaging with a child on their level, modeling appropriate behaviors, and actively listening. They’re also positive and allow your child to reflect on their mistakes and learn from them. 

Over time, you will find your child will struggle less with identifying how they are feeling, taking the opportunity to utilize one of the coping tools you provided all on their own!

Teach Self-control and Responsibility with Natural Consequences

As a parent, you are responsible for providing tools to work through emotions in a healthy way and for consequences for less-than-appropriate behavior. You want to make sure they grow up with the best possible skills and habits. One of the best ways to do this is by teaching them self-control and responsibility with natural consequences.

Natural consequences are consequences that occur without your influence as a parent, such as, if we fail to put on a jacket when it is cold outside, we will be cold; if we refuse to eat dinner, we will be hungry. Natural consequences are essential for teaching children how to be responsible for their actions.

The idea behind using natural consequences is that your child learns from mistakes and builds autonomy, rather than being told not to do something or punished later. That way, they’ll be able to link a sensation in their body to their thoughts and feelings (interoceptive awareness, essential for understanding how to dial down when triggered) and structure accountability, which is integral in building responsible (and content!) teens and adults.

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A Happy Family with a Strong Bond

When you adopt a positive parenting style, you will be challenged as you rebuild parenting patterns that have been held to generations of authoritative parenting structures. The parent doesn’t always know best. Positive parenting is about building and maintaining a strong relationship between you, your child, and yourself. The focus is on avoiding power struggles, showing respect for your child, and responding to misbehavior with empathy—all of which helps the child feel understood.

Be a Positive Parent

We hope you’ve learned some great ways to be a positive parent. It’s not always easy to change your parenting style, but it’s well worth the effort. You’ll be happier as a parent and create a stronger bond with your kids when you apply these techniques consistently.

Looking for positive parenting tips? Try these resources:

Guest post by Keyra Scovill MA, LPCA, NCC

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