Becoming a parent is exciting, but it can also be a challenge. Whether you are having your first baby, second child, adopting, or fostering, It can be difficult to know the best way to go about it.
Whilst kids don’t come with a manual, there are lots of different books and resources on the various parenting techniques available and why they are good for your child.
But how do you know which one is best? Why is it important to follow a particular technique instead of just winging it?
‘Positive Parenting’ is one of those techniques. We will look at this technique, what it is, and why you should try it with your children.
When we refer to ‘parents’, we mean any ‘care-givers’ for the child- whether they are biological parents, non-biological parents, other family members or friends who are involved in the life of the child.
Basically, anyone whose presence and interactions can have an impact on the child’s wellbeing and development.
What Is Positive Parenting?
So what is ‘Positive Parenting?’
The official definition is ‘the continual relationship of a parent and a child that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally’.
Others describe it as a parenting style that will encourage positive youth development.
Positive parenting begins with the assumption that all children are born good, and that disciplining them in a respectful way can build their self-esteem.
Some people hear the phrase ‘positive parenting’ and think ‘enabling bad behaviour’ but that is not the case!
Positive parenting aims to be proactive in teaching and guidance to reduce the need to have to be reactive to negative behaviour.
Discipline should be instructional so you can mold your child’s behaviour through teaching rather than excessive punishment.
The Gottman institute put together a 5 step guide for emotion coaching as part of positive parenting.
This consists of: awareness of emotions; connecting with your child; listening to your child; naming emotions; finding solutions.
The goal is to be warm yet firm- to establish authority without the use of aggression or violence. There is absolutely no physical punishment involved in positive parenting- no smacks or taps.
There is plenty of research that proves physical punishment is ineffective at changing the behaviour of children long term.
It also has detrimental consequences such as a loss of self-esteem, encouraging secretive behaviour, or even revenge plotting.
The ideal positive parent will nurture and guide their children, supporting their exploration and individual expression and assisting them with decision making, making the child feel empowered.
They will pay attention to their children’s needs, respond to them quickly, and communicate effectively.
They will show unconditional love, consistency, emotional warmth and affection, allowing the child to feel secure.
Accomplishments and positive behaviour will be rewarded and recognized, and there will be consistent consequences for undesirable behaviours.
Clear rules and expectations will be set out, boundaries will be set and maintained and everything will be done with empathy.
A positive parent is a positive role model for their children and will aim to provide positive family experiences. This parenting technique is suitable for children of all ages.
Research into attachment theory shows that even children below the age of one can benefit from this style of parenting, as it encourages a secure attachment style which improves self esteem and social confidence.
Why Should You Do Positive Parenting?
There is a lot of research to support that positive parenting has many benefits for children that carry on into their adolescent and adult lives, such as improved academic performance, emotional health and resilience and social skills. It can also benefit the whole family unit.
The loving, nurturing atmosphere created in the home by the introduction of positive parenting will reduce conflict between family members, bring stress levels down, improve communication, and encourage cohesion within the family.
Positive parenting enhances a child’s ability to understand and regulate their emotions, and improves their emotional resilience.
This is an important skill which will make things easier for them as they grow up, as well as reducing the chance of behavioural issues in the future.
Positive parenting promotes autonomy without enabling undesirable behaviour. This stimulates creativity and encourages individuality and self-determination.
Children who have been parented positively will often be far more confident in their ability to make decisions.
The open and effective communication they have been exposed to sets a good example for them to take forwards into their future friendships and relationships.
This gives these children better conversational skills and superior language development.
Children thrive when they have clear boundaries set out which are consistently maintained. This teaches them vital lessons in responsibility and how to be accountable for their actions.
In the long-term, this reduces the likelihood that they will be involved in antisocial behavior, and they are less likely to make risky or reckless decisions.
There is an element of empowerment and independent thought is encouraged.
Some parents may worry that this will make their children more difficult to handle, but if dont correctly it has the opposite effect. Children show increased compliance and learn self-regulation.
The techniques used in positive parenting promote a sense of belonging within the family unit and a feeling of individual significance which is good for self-esteem.
Children from a positive parenting household tend to adjust better to a school environment, showing more motivation for their academic learning and increased optimism towards school in general.
They also display signs of improved cognitive and social development compared to children from households that do not use positive parenting.
They are often more confidence and willing to try new things
If you adopt positive parenting techniques from the beginning, your children can grow into teenages with better psychosocial development, increased competence and good self-esteem.
They will be less likely to experience depressive symptoms. They will also be more likely to achieve their educational goals which improves their long-term job prospects.
They will also have an improved ability to resist negative peer pressure.
Those teenages will then go on to make more capable, emotionally stable adults than those who were not parented with this technique.
There are so many benefits of positive parenting for you, your child, and the whole family.
Tips For Positive Parenting
So now that you know what positive parenting is and why it is so good, here are useful tips on how to implement this parenting technique in your own home.
General Good Practice
Try to treat your child in a respectful way, as you would want to be treated. Positively reinforce their good behaviour with praise, affection and appreciation.
When your child displays undesirable behaviour, make sure you connect with your child before you correct their behavior.
If your child is worked up or hysterical then give them a time out before you talk to them about what they did.
It can be challenging, but try not to express anger or aggression – teaching and nurturing should come from a place of love.
Establishing a secure emotional connection before a teaching moment will help the child to learn more effectively.
Once you have completed the teaching moment by explaining why their behaviour was wrong, provide a positive alternative behavior for them to do.
Preferably something you can engage in together – perhaps an activity or a chore you can share. This helps to reinforce the behavior they should be displaying.
Provide your child with opportunities for empowerment and decision making. You should be firm about what the options are but allow for an element of choice.
For example, you need to get your child ready for bed- you could ask them if they would rather clean their teeth before or after their bath.
Both things need to be done, but letting them choose what order to do them in gives them a sense of autonomy and independence.
Not only does this reduce the chance of resistance and tantrums, but it also helps them to become more confident in their ability to make decisions about their life.
You can also let your children have a go at things themselves.
You can use a timer system to keep them on task so they don’t get distracted by their toys, and once they have completed the activity they can get a sense of accomplishment.
For example, let them dress themselves, but set them a 20 minute timer. If they haven’t managed to do it themselves in that time then you can help them, but if they have then you can praise them and reinforce that it was a positive experience.
Try to use phrases that reinforce your child’s self-esteem and confidence, like ‘well done’, ‘you did really well’, and ‘you’re getting better at that’.
This also links closely to making them feel like they have a significant role within the family and a sense of belonging.
If your child helps with household chores then make them feel appreciated to show them that the family functions better when everyone chips in.
It is important to set out clear consequences for negative behavior and stick to them. Be consistent, as this makes children feel safe and secure and helps them to learn faster.
If you tell them they can go to the park if they tidy their room, then don’t let them go to the park until their room is tidy.
Set clear and specific expectations for their behaviour.
For example, rather than saying ‘I need you to be good when we go shopping’, you could say ‘at the grocery store, you need to stay close to me, help me put things in the trolley, listen to me carefully and do as I tell you’.
Let them get involved, passing you things from a lower shelf, or choosing between two flavours of something.
If they feel like they are helping and they get rewarded for their help with praise and appreciation or encouragement, this reinforces their positive role in the family.
Make sure you make an effort to validate your child’s feelings. Some discipline might make them sad, like losing a privilege, or feeling like they have disappointed you.
Acknowledge their sadness or frustration, show affection, love and empathy, but without pandering to them or giving in.
This will help them to feel listened to and understood whilst maintaining important boundaries.
How To Avoid Sibling Rivalry
Positive parenting works well with one child or many, but there are some important things to remember to prevent rivalry between siblings.
Don’t use labels for your children to differentiate them, like ‘the sporty one’, or ‘the clever one’. This reduces individuality and encourages comparison, ultimately leading to resentment.
Make sure each child has enough attention. If a child feels that they regularly get enough attention they won’t feel the need to fight their siblings for it.
When your children fall out or squabble with their siblings, try not to get involved or take sides.
Let them resolve it between them, and if they can’t then provide them support to reach a resolution or compromise without taking sides.
Positive Parenting For Adolescents
Teenagers go through a lot of hormonal changes and often face a lot of social and academic pressure.
They can get confused about their place in the family and the wider world. Positive parenting can help with this transitory time.
It can help to give your teenager opportunities to make decisions and be empowered.
Let them live with the natural consequences of those decisions, whilst validating their feelings and showing empathy towards them.
Show that you are always there without being too controlling, and remember to continue displaying unconditional love.
They might react differently to your affection now they are older, but consistency is important as it helps them to feel secure.
Try to make the family home a safe and judgement-free place for them to talk freely about issues, bring friends over to relax and socialise, and still be able to engage in family life in between testing out their independence.