As time goes on, the idea of ‘positive parenting’ is becoming more and more popular. If you are already a parent, or an expecting parent, you have most likely already heard of positive parenting principles. If you have not heard of this approach, it can be confusing and overwhelming to learn about because of the vast amount of information on the subject! That is why a comprehensive guide to positive parenting is just the thing needed to clarify the importance of this parenting method!
First, what is positive parenting?
Positive parenting consists of developing a deep relationship between parent and child based on strong communication and mutual respect.
Now, let’s discuss the three overarching principles that positive parenting in guided upon.
Communicating unmet needs
It can be easy as a parent to become frustrated with your child when they misbehave. After all, we have told them not to do the thing they did a thousand other times, right? Right.
Take a step back though. Think about it.
Your child wants to please you in any way that they can. They want you to be proud of them! But growing up can be difficult. There is a lot to learn and this can cause serious overwhelming feelings that they don’t understand.
It can be difficult for kids to know how to articulate how they are feeling.
How are they supposed to tell you they are struggling when they are not sure how?
Misbehaving is often the way children will communicate their feelings.
For example, let’s say you have a friend over for lunch and you spend a decent amount of time engrossed in deep conversation with her. Your son has said “mommy” for the umpteenth time asking to color but you have already told him coloring would have to happen later.
Then, you hear your child throw a toy across the room.
All of this time, he hasn’t had your attention. Your attention has been directed elsewhere. Try and try as he might, your attention still didn’t redirect to him. What is he left to do?
He simply wants your attention but doesn’t know any other way but to throw a toy to let you know.
What are you to do in this situation as a parent practicing positive parenting?
Ask yourself: what is my child’s behavior telling me?
Really analyze why your child may have acted the way they did. Then, take that information and guide your child to a more appropriate behavior.
In this example, you may ask your little one why they might have thrown the toy.
You may ask, “I see that you may be frustrated, are you needing more of mommy’s attention?”
This way, you teach your child that there is a connection between their feelings and the actions they take.
Validation is key
As stated above, there is nothing else your child wants to do more than to make you proud. Therefore, validating the effort that your child makes in the things that he or she does is crucial.
When our children are young, they are learning to do things on their own. You won’t escape parenthood without hearing your child say “I can’t do it” at least once.
The goal, however, is to eliminate this phrase from their vocabulary as they get older!
How do we do this?
The number one thing you can do for your child is to not compare yourself or them to others. Positive parenting also includes taking this a step further in discouraging your child from comparing themselves to others as well.
Whatever effort your child puts forth, let them know what a great job they did!
On the other hand, when your child doesn’t succeed, validate their feelings. The worst thing that you can do as a parent is to make your child feel as though their feelings don’t matter. Let them know that the feelings they experience are valid and that the effort they made still matters!
Perseverance not punishment
In validating your child’s feelings, you must also allow them to work through these feelings. Growing up is hard. It opens the doors to more emotions than they were ever used to before.
Society puts shame on emotional expression. Phrases like “big boys don’t cry” teach children that they shouldn’t face or handle their emotions.
As we learned above, our children often don’t know how to articulate how they are feeling. Whether it is the lack of knowledge in dealing with these emotions or simply not having the vocabulary to communicate the feeling they are experiencing.
As parents, we need to know that the same feelings that we experience are also experienced by our children.
First, we must validate these feelings. Then we need to help our children identify the emotion they may be feeling and how best to deal with it.
By doing this, we are teaching our children perseverance and how to appropriately deal with their emotions.
Simply punishing our children for their misbehavior does not achieve this same result.
So, how do we discipline our children when they do wrong?
Dr. Jane Nelson, the founder of positive parenting, outlines the most important criteria when implementing disciplinary actions with your children.
The criteria for positive discipline include:
- Keeping positive discipline firm but kind at the same time
- Helping the child feel a sense of belonging and significance
- Ensuring that the discipline is effective long-term
- Teaching valuable social and life skills
- Helping children identify how capable they are to use their power in constructive ways
What are the benefits to positive discipline?
Overall, the goal of positive parenting is to mold our children into happy and self-actualized human beings. A steppingstone in that direction includes positive discipline. It is a staple in positive parenting. You can find the following benefits true when implementing positive discipline:
- Positive discipline focuses on the underlying problem rather than looking at the child as a bad person for their actions
- It emphasizes tending to the child’s needs and reduces similar misbehavior in the future
- Positive discipline empowers children and teaches them to use effective communication skills
- By using effective communication skills, the child learns how to express their emotions appropriately
Positive discipline methods
After learning so much already, I am sure you are wondering what exactly you can do to set yourself and your children up for success when using positive parenting. You understand that you must meet your child’s needs and foster effective communication with them. But how? The following are great guidelines to start your journey!
It is important for us to set limits for our children. Different parenting styles will teach you to react, or not to react, in a certain way if your child pushes these limits.
In positive parenting however, parents will definitely take action if the limits are pushed. Only, the difference is that they always approach it with compassion and empathy.
The goal is to never make your child feel bad for their actions but to teach them that their behavior has a consequence. Therefore, repeating the behavior will result with the same or similar consequence.
For example, your son above that threw his toy for attention. It would be wise as a parent practicing positive parenting to talk through the emotions he may have been feeling. You may want to help him identify why he felt those emotions. Then, give him an example of how he could have acted rather than throwing his toy. Let him know that if his toys are thrown in the future, he may have them taken away.
Don’t make him feel bad for wanting attention but let him know there are other ways of expressing that need.
Actions speak louder than words
How many times have you, as a parent, said something along the lines of…
“If you do that one more time, I am taking it away!”
If you are a parent of a toddler or young child, you most likely speak these words endlessly throughout the day.
Do you ever take it away though?
Many times, we simply make these statements but never follow through with them. This teaches our children that we aren’t to be taken seriously. Remember the set limits guideline above?
Well, when these limits are crossed, we need to make sure we act on them. We have to stay stern with what we say.
If we don’t, our children won’t ever learn that there are consequences to their actions!
Foster a YES environment
If you have ever parented a toddler, you will most likely laugh at the notion of saying no to them. When we really think of it, this goes for teens too!
Because people don’t like to be controlled and told what they can and cannot do.
Instead, reframe your statements.
|Instead of this:||Try this:|
|No hitting!||Hitting can hurt someone. If you are upset, please use your words not your hands.|
|No jumping on the furniture!||The furniture is for sitting but you can play on the floor or outside!|
By reframing your statements, you are giving your child a ‘why’ instead of simply shutting them down.
Along the lines of providing a yes environment, give your child options. Offering choices gives your child more independence allowing them to feel more in control of the end decision. In turn, this decreases issues with power struggles between parent and child.
For example, you could say “It is very important for us to eat a vegetable with our dinner. Would you like carrots or green beans?”
It is crucial that no matter what options you give your child, they are options that you feel comfortable with.
As you can see, every component of positive parenting is aimed at creating healthy and appropriate communication skills with your child. It explores allowing your child to express their emotions and become happy and self-actualized adults!
Of course, as a parent, you will most likely make mistakes along the way. It takes time and patience to implement an entirely different way of parenting. Don’t be hard on yourself.
Instead, let your child know that mom or dad made a mistake. Apologize to them. Show them that even adults are allowed to make mistakes and that communication is still important to use even then!
Know that the changes you are making as a parent can be extremely beneficial to your child and the relationship that you have with them.
Ultimately, we want to raise great kids and this is a step forward in doing so!
Editors note: This post comes with amazing timing as many of us struggle with change. Remember that becoming a peaceful parent is a journey and will take time. Feel free to give yourself some grace and find joy in the journey.
Cameryn Vonbargen is a full-time student and stay-at-home mother who runs her blog Multitasking Motherhood. She has her degree in psychology and will soon have a second degree in nursing. She has a passion for writing about mental health, pregnancy, parenting, and marriage to help other moms with experiences similar to her own.
She hopes to add a real take on issues that aren’t talked about openly or deeply enough concerning the roles women assume in the journey to motherhood and marriage.