In our parents’ generation, people didn’t think about things like parenting styles — they were parents, they got shit done, and that was that. But now that everyone is an armchair psychologist and parenting expert, we’ve been hearing a lot about different parenting styles: everything from helicopter parenting to permissive parenting to authoritative parenting, and everything in between. If you grew up with parents who were all about scaring you into behaving properly or using guilt to influence your actions, then you probably won’t want to raise your children the same way. And that’s where the positive parenting style comes in. Here’s what you need to know about positive parenting and whether it’s a good option for you.
What is positive parenting?
Everyone wants to be a good parent, but what does it mean to have a positive parenting style? In short, positive parenting focuses on happiness, resilience, and positive development for children. Based on research and evidence-based strategies, positive parenting provides strategies for a range of developmental periods, challenges, and situations. The idea behind positive parenting is to establish a relationship between parents and children that involves caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally.
Given how many components there are of positive parenting, Dr. Heather S. Lonczak put together this handy list of the components of positive parenting in an article for Positive Psychology:
- It involves guiding
- It involves leading
- It involves teaching
- It is caring
- It is empowering
- It is nurturing
- It is sensitive to the child’s needs
- It is consistent
- It is always non-violent
- It provides regular open communication
- It provides affection
- It provides emotional security
- It provides emotional warmth
- It provides unconditional love
- It recognizes the positive
- It respects the child’s developmental stage
- It rewards accomplishments
- It sets boundaries
- It shows empathy for the child’s feelings
- It supports the child’s best interests
What are examples of positive parenting?
So, all the aspects of positive parenting sound pretty good, but what does it actually look like in practice? Here’s an example, courtesy of Ariadne Brill at Positive Parenting Connection:
Let’s say your six-year-old son Bobby keeps asking you when breakfast is going to be ready. He knows that it’s his job to put the napkins on the table — that’s nothing new — but for some reason, doesn’t want to do it today. Instead of demanding that he put the napkins on the table or yelling at him, you take a deep breath and give Bobby two choices: He can either put the napkins on the table while you’re finishing washing the fruit for breakfast, or he could wash the fruit and you’ll do the napkins. Bobby looks at you, shakes his head, and announces that he would not be helping with breakfast at all. You smile and let him know that everyone has a job to do at breakfast, and he can either do the napkins or wash the fruit. Final offer. Eventually, he sighs and agrees to wash the fruit. Bobby isn’t thrilled about this, but he’s also not upset. Instead of arguing with him, you’ve turned this into a positive interaction.
According to Brill, this works because Bobby felt involved and capable, and the thought of doing a little work before breakfast wasn’t so overwhelming for him. Also, he had the opportunity and autonomy to make a choice or come up with his own solution. Not only that, but being trusted with a “parent” task like washing the fruit also made it more interesting for him.
But how do you know if you’re already incorporating positive parenting techniques into your daily life? Check out these helpful examples below.
- Giving your baby lots of attention
- Reading to your baby
- Singing to your baby
- Talking to your baby and interacting together on a daily basis
- Making time to play with your baby and provide praise for their accomplishments/milestones
- Fitting in regular cuddle sessions as a way to show them how much they are loved
- Instead of punishing unwanted behaviors, you explain/demonstrate to your child what they should be doing instead and why they should be doing it
- Staying calm in the face on temper tantrums and helping your child to work through those emotions
- Providing clear rules and expectations for your child to follow
- Rewarding good behavior and when they successful follow the previously established rules and expectations
- Teaching your child acceptable ways to communicate when they are upset
- Supporting your child’s desire for independence by allowing them to pick out their own clothes or dress themselves
- Giving your child responsibilities around the house, such as setting the table or making their bed
- Encouraging your child to join school groups and take part in community activities
- Becoming involved at your child’s school and getting to know their teachers
- Listening to any problems your child is having, either at school or with a friend and working with them to help find a solution
- Respecting your child’s thoughts and opinions
- Praising their accomplishments (like getting a good grade or getting a part in the school play)
- Communicating openly and honestly about sensitive subjects, including drugs, drinking, and sex, while providing a safe space for your child to ask questions
- Establishing a sense of trust by respecting your child’s right to privacy
Other ways to practice positive parenting include:
- Supporting exploration and involvement in decision-making
- Paying attention and responding to a child’s needs
- Using effective communication
- Attending to a child’s emotional expression and control
- Rewarding and encouraging positive behaviors
- Providing clear rules and expectations
- Applying consistent consequences for behaviors
- Providing adequate supervision and monitoring
- Acting as a positive role model
- Making positive family experiences a priority
What are the benefits of positive parenting?
Positive parenting can be a well, positive experience for both you as a parent, as well as your child. You both have the opportunity to learn from each other and communicate in a productive way. According to Lonczak, specific benefits of positive parenting include:
- Better school adjustment among children
- Increased motivation among infants
- Higher internalization among toddlers
- Better psychosocial functioning among adolescents
- Reduced depressive symptoms among adolescents
- Increased self-esteem among adolescents
- Increased optimism among children
- Increased social self-efficacy among adolescents
- Multiple positive outcomes among children, such as secure parental attachments, and better cognitive and social development
- Improved attachment security among toddlers
- Improved school adjustment among children
- Increased cognitive and social outcomes among preschoolers
- Reduced behavior problems among children
- Lower dysfunctional parenting styles
- Higher sense of parenting competence
- Decreased family conflict and stress
- Increased emotion regulation associated with various positive outcomes among children and adolescents
- Increased compliance and self-regulation among children
- Increased resilience among children and adolescents
- Increased social skills among adolescents
- Improved ability to resist negative peer influences among adolescents
As tempting as it may be to just yell at your kid after a long day or threaten them with some sort of punishment if they’re acting out, taking a little extra time to implement a positive parenting strategy can make all the difference for both of you.
What are some positive parenting solutions and tips?
Disciplining a child can be difficult, and trying to put a positive spin on it can feel downright impossible, especially when emotions are running high. But the biggest takeaway from this particular parenting method is the importance of communication. If your child is doing something they shouldn’t be doing — don’t resort to punishment. Instead, explain to your child what it is that you would like them to stop doing and tell them what you would like them to do instead. And if they succeed in doing what you ask, praise them for doing so! These little ones are still just trying to figure this big, beautiful world out, so the more you can encourage them in the learning process, the better off you’ll both be.
How can you practice positive parenting through divorce?
As tough as going through a divorce can be on the couple themselves, it can be just as stressful (if not moreso) on the children. Positive parenting can be a great tool in helping both you and your child navigate through this difficult time. This starts by opening up a dialogue and providing your child with a safe space to talk about their feelings about what’s going on and to ask any questions they may have.
Maintaining a positive (or at the very least, cordial) relationship with your former spouse is also extremely beneficial for your child, so try to avoid any name calling or putting one another down. Don’t forget that you two are the role models here, and children are like sponges — capable of absorbing and mimicking any behaviors, good and bad, that they see around them. These kiddos look to you for guidance as to how they should behave, so if at all possible, try to present a united front.