Whether parenthood was expected or a pleasant surprise, it can be a real challenge. You want to do what is best for your children and to keep them happy, but you also want to avoid enabling negative behaviours.
A lot of people think that good parenting is all about discipline, and that being strict is the only way to raise well-behaved children. Whilst boundaries are important for your child’s emotional health and stability, there are more important things than discipline when it comes to raising happy and healthy children.
Positive parenting is a technique that focuses on empathy, love and respect. It focuses on building your child’s self-esteem and helping them to develop important social skills.
There is a lot of research that suggests that children who have benefited from positive parenting often do better in school, and are less likely to suffer from depression when they reach adolescence.
We have put together a list of 10 things that are more important than discipline when it comes to positive parenting and raising children.
Your Relationship With Your Child
The relationship between a parent and a child is extremely important and has a big impact on their social development. It sets an example for how to interact with others, and how they might conduct themselves in future relationships as they grow older.
If you put effort into building a healthy relationship with your child, one based on mutual respect and empathy, then this is what they will expect going forward. This gives them a good basis to build healthy relationships with others, and not settle for connections that lack respect and compassion.
If you have a troubled relationship with your child which features control and manipulative behaviour, they will come to expect this from others and they will be vulnerable to mistreatment in later life.
Your Relationship With Your Partner
Your children are always watching, listening to how you interact with others and picking up on any unspoken tension. They are more intuitive than some people give them credit for.
It is unrealistic to think that your children will never see you and your partner having a disagreement, and it is important for them to be exposed to honest and genuine relationships. However, if your relationship with your partner is unhealthy then this could cause issues for your child in later life.
If they witness you and your partner speaking to each other disrespectfully, being aggressive, then they will think these behaviours are appropriate. They might begin to display these behaviours themselves, or they could be at risk of letting others treat them this way in the future.
Your Treatment Of Other People
Just as your child will observe interactions within the home, they will also watch how you treat people outside of the family. Servers, bank tellers, cleaners, and bus drivers – treating everyone you come across with respect will teach your child important lessons about how to conduct themselves in society.
Your Preconceptions and Expectations
The way that you see your child can affect how you treat them, which then has an impact on their behaviour. If your child is a toddler and you describe them as being in their ‘terrible twos’, then you are likely to focus on their negative behaviours.
This could cause you to overlook other, more positive things that they do, and lead to you missing out on opportunities to praise them.
Be careful not to label your children. If you describe your children as ‘naughty’ or ‘good’, ‘sporty’ or ‘lazy’, this can cause issues. They could lose their individuality in an attempt to either fit with that label, or to rebel against it.
Labels are reductive and do not encourage freedom of expression and self-determination.
The Atmosphere Of Your Family Home
The family home should be a nurturing and safe environment for your child. It should be a place where they feel comfortable to be themselves, express emotion, learn and grow.
If the family home feels unstable or unsafe, this can cause distress and will lead to emotional issues for your child.
Getting involved in the community sets a good example for your children about how to show kindness to others. Volunteering for charity, donating items, giving neighbours a helping hand, or supporting a local cause, are all good ways to demonstrate how to be a good citizen.
This also shows your children that they are part of something bigger, and encourages them not to be too self-involved.
A Positive School Experience
Having a tough time at school can be very challenging for children, and cause long-term emotional issues. It is not always possible to ensure that your child has a positive school experience, but it is important to do everything you can to support them through their school career.
Try to be involved in their learning from an early age, teaching them some basic numbers, reading and writing. This will help them to feel more confident when they begin school, and set the foundations of you supporting them with their learning.
Once they begin school take an active interest in what they are doing each day. Let them tell you about what they have been doing. Help them practice their reading and homework if you can, always approaching the task with patience and love.
Try to create a safe environment for them to talk openly with you about things that are bothering them. This will make them more likely to talk to you if they experience problems with bullying, so you can help them as early as possible.
Believe it or not, taking good care of yourself is a vital part of taking care of your child. If you are permanently exhausted, overworked, under fed, then you will not have the patience and energy needed to be a good parent to your children.
By taking the time to take care of your own needs, it also sets a good example to your children that self-care is important.
Whilst it is unrealistic and often unhelpful to completely cut out television, computer games and social media from your children’s lives, you should be careful about how long they spend in front of a screen. Experts recommend no more than one hour of screen time per day for children below the age of twelve.
Too much screen time can inhibit a child’s social development and denies them the opportunity to interact with their family and friends.
Meeting Your Child’s Basic Needs
A nutritious diet, a good sleep schedule, and exercise are all important for your child’s physical and mental health. It can also influence their behaviour, improving their focus and improving emotional resilience.
As you can see, discipline is only a small part of parenting. Providing your child with a safe and nurturing environment, setting a good example, and instilling in them a sense of self worth, are all more important than being strict and focusing on punishing bad behaviour.
By building your child’s self-esteem and ensuring they feel secure and loved, you will give them the best opportunity to develop important social skills and emotional resilience that they need to succeed in life.
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