A Brief Guide to Positive Parenting

A brief guide to positive parenting - dos and don'ts

WHY POSITIVE PARENTING?

In the end, each parent has to choose their own parenting style for their own reasons, based on what they think is best for their child. The reasons I appreciate positive parenting might not be the same reasons you or someone else do. That being said, here are two of the main reasons why I believe in positive parenting:

  1. Positive parenting emphasizes building up the good in your child, focusing on their development and who they are becoming, rather than on negative disciplinary matters. I believe this is a more nurturing approach to parenting that benefits the child’s holistic development.
  2. Positive parenting is about BOTH the parent and the child. It doesn’t focus exclusively on the child’s behavior and “outcomes”, but on the developing and strengthening the relationship between the parent and the child.

WHAT IS POSITIVE PARENTING?

Positive parenting is a pretty broad umbrella encompassing a wide variety of parenting techniques, methods and theories. There are, however, a few underlying principles that seem to be guiding that majority of positive parenting suggestions. Understanding these principles can both help you make sense of the many positive parenting methods you run into, and develop your own techniques that are compatible with a positive parenting philosophy.

1. Self-Control. In order to parent effectively, the parent needs to be able to maintain self-control. Parents are a role model for their children at all time. Reacting violently, aggressively or angrily reinforces the concept of “might makes right” and implies to your child that aggressive behavior is acceptable in some circumstances.

2. Guidance. Unlike authoritarian parenting styles, which focus on establishing the authority of the parents and teaching the children to obey strictly, positive parenting emphasizes guidance. This doesn’t do away with obedience – the parent is still responsible for the child, and the child still needs to respect the parents’ rightful authority. But positive parenting encourages parents to use their authority to guide their child instead of directing their child. Positive parenting leaves as much room for the child to make choices and express their individuality as possible, within parameters defined by the parents. This enables the parents to lead the household, establish family rules and develop a family culture. At the same time, it enables the children to discover who they are, learn problem solving skills through trial and error, grow in responsibility and independence, and use their unique talents to contribute to their family.

3. Consistency. Positive parenting doesn’t look for immediate results. It’s out for the long haul of building effective habits and addressing underlying principles and values. This requires patience on the part of both the parents and the child. The child needs to be patient with themselves as they make mistakes and work on the same skill or virtue over and over again. The parents likewise need to be patient when their child needs to be reminded the same thing multiple times and in different ways.

4. Logic. Positive parenting is logical, not arbitrary. Positive parenting prefers discipline to punishment. Children face consequences to their actions, but logical consequences. As the child develops, this helps them understand the reasoning behind the consequences they face. Instead of behaving one way or another only because the parent “says so”, they learn to recognize causes and consequences, and responsibly accept the consequences for their own actions. It also provides a natural platform of talking about values and teaching your child how to make wise decisions based on what they stand for.

5. Positive reinforcement. While positive parenting sometimes includes allowing children to face “negative” consequences, it emphasizes positive affirmation much more. Children thrive on knowing that their parents are proud of them and pleased with them. When children are praised and affirmed, they are very likely to repeat their actions and make them a habit. Praising children for the desired action is often more effective in their development than reproving them for an undesired behavior. Reproof will, of course, sometimes be needed, but should be used sparingly, as a child that is reproved too often can begin repeating negative behaviors in order to obtain negative attention from the parent. Affirmation on the other hand, encourages the child to seek the parent’s attention through responsible behavior.

6. Encouragement. Be as encouraging as possible. Your child will face many challenges as they grow, and will make many mistakes along the way. Receiving regular encouragement from you can help them increase their self-confidence and continue putting forth their best effort.

7. Quality Time. Positive parenting hinges on a strong parent-child relationship, in which the child is aware that their parents love them unconditionally, and therefore trusts their parents. Spend regular time with your child. Waste time with your child. Do silly things, fun things and important things together. Make sure they know that they are your priority. In addition to giving your child a strong sense of security and a healthy self-esteem, spending quality time together helps you get to know your child better.

9. Be flexible. Because positive parenting seeks to help the child learn how to use their freedom and be responsible, it involves allowing the child to be very active in their own lives and have a lot of input, when possible in what they do. As mentioned under “guidance”, this doesn’t do away with the parents’ role as heads of the household. The parents set clear parameters regarding what is expected and allowed, but give the children as much freedom as possible to develop within those parameters. Parents need to be flexible when the child makes a choice the parent wouldn’t have made. If you have decided to give your child a choice, it’s important to then respect their choice, even if they don’t choose what you think is “best”. If you believe there is only one legitimate option, and aren’t going to accept a different route, don’t present it to your child as a “choice”, but as something that’s already been decided upon. If you give your child a choice, be flexible and allow them to follow through on the choice they make.

A FEW THINGS TO AVOID:

Positive parenting mainly focuses on constructive methods that strengthen the parent-child bond and help the child as they grow and develop. When using positive parenting, any methods that conflict with this philosophy should be avoided as much as possible. Mixing in more negative parenting techniques limits the effectiveness of positive parenting by sending the child conflicting messages. Here are a few techniques to avoid if you want to use positive parenting:

 1. Bribes. Avoid bribing your child. Bribes send the message that “behaving” isn’t worth doing unless the child gets something out of it. Children easily start to control the parents by withholding desired behaviors unless the parent does what the child wants. Positive parenting methods work on the child’s internal motivation, helping the child understand the importance of different behaviors, principles and values, and motivating the child to develop a sense of integrity, behaving the way they believe is best, whether or not they get something out of it.

2. Aggressive behaviors. Avoid acting aggressively toward your child. Positive parenting largely focuses on helping the child develop mature, appropriate responses and teaches the child that aggression isn’t needed – there’s always another way to resolve their difficulties. If the child sees the parent behaving aggressively, they receive a mixed message, and are more likely to imitate what they see their parents doing than what they hear their parents saying.

3. Shaming. Shaming your child, whether in public or in private, can wound your relationship with your child, possibly making them feel rejected, resentful and worse than others around them. It can make it more difficult for your child to trust you and turn to you for guidance. Positive parenting focuses heavily on trust and open communication between you and your child, and prefers to work by motivating your child about what they can do than by shaming them for what they can’t do.

4. Blaming. Blaming your child can also make them feel resentful. In addition, it sends the message that mistakes are “bad”. Your child will still make mistakes, but is more likely to try to hide them from you. This can greatly strain your relationship and makes it harder for your child to develop values like sincerity. It also reduces the effectiveness of other positive parenting strategies by causing your child to back away from responsibility for fear of doing something wrong and being blamed.

5. Labeling. Avoid labeling your child. All children have a myriad of strengths and weaknesses. Positive parenting attempts to help your child develop all their strengths, discover their full capacity, and overcome “weaknesses” that challenge them. If a child is labeled, they become boxed in and feel as though they are identified by certain strengths or weaknesses. This makes it more difficult for them to overcome their difficulties and makes it harder for them to take new risks and discover new talents. Encourage and guide your child, but avoid locking them down with labels (e.g. “shy”, “stubborn”, “smart”, etc.).

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