The Principles of Positive Parenting
It’s very normal for parents to focus on what their children are doing wrong, but changing approaches and focusing instead on ways to foster your child’s strengths can be more effective. Parenting methods have significant impacts on children’s development, and positive parenting has been proven to reduce social, emotional, behavioral and health problems in children.
Positive parenting means providing guidance and discipline in ways that are attentive to children’s needs, and addressing challenges with sensitivity and respect. Here are some ways you can use positive parenting in your own household:
• During difficult moments, try to understand your child’s point of view.
Think about why your child may be acting out and ask her to explain. She might not be able to articulate her feelings clearly at first, but if you keep asking her, it teaches skills of self-reflection and how to identify feeling. Asking someone how they feel shows that you care about them. Don’t excuse the behavior, but provide examples of different ways to handle a situation instead. If she is too young to express herself, look for signs of what might be frustrating her and redirect her behavior instead.
• Set firm, but kind limits that are communicated and consistent.
Providing guidance about socially unacceptable behaviors is very important for our children to help them navigate the world. Positive parenting does not mean the same thing as being permissive; in fact, making rules, communicating them and assigning a consequence when those rules are broken takes a lot of focus. Letting them know about the boundaries they cannot cross is both fair and respectful, and fairness is hard to dispute.
• Respond to your child’s behaviors and needs with empathy and love, not criticism.
Name-calling, even saying something like, “you bad boy,” gets internalized. Young children believe what you say at face value. Shaming has very negative consequences on self-esteem and self-regulation. Instead, be understanding. The more empathetic you are as you respond to his behavior, the more he will accept your rules and will want to regulate himself. However, if he feels criticized, it sets up a you vs. him scenario where he will not only resist your limits, he’ll be ashamed of his behavior.
• Look for moments of connection and enjoy the time you spend together.
Research tells us that children who do not form secure attachments with the adults in their life often exhibit behavioral problems and relationship troubles later in life. So take every opportunity to engage with your child. It’s not about quantity, it’s quality; even just 20 minutes a day of uninterrupted time together is enough to forge a bond. If you have a strong connection with your child, it will build her self-esteem, bring fun into the household, and gives her a reason to be cooperative: her relationship with you.
• Regulate your emotions before reacting to your child. Always be the adult.
Young children copy everything about the older people in their lives, especially parents. Your child will think they way you handle things is the “correct” way, whether or not it truly is. Model the behavior you want your child to emulate. If they see you yelling and screaming, chances are, they’ll learn to do the same. Take a deep breath instead. There are times when you will have to be firm with your child, but you can always be calm and level-headed.
Teaching discipline to your child is important to help them learn to regulate their own behavior and emotions, but a child’s entire range of experience matters, and relationships with the adults in their life are key. Using positive parenting skills can help strengthen your connection with your child and help shape their future in nurturing and constructive ways.