what every parent should know about positive parenting
Being a parent is possibly the hardest and most critical role we’ll ever have in our lives. EVER. No pressure or anything. But, I mean we’ve been given a tiny human to raise into an adult. And without a universally agreed-upon instruction manual. WTF?
In fact, we’ve been given 255,456,712,234 manuals. And they all conflict with each other. Like… what?
It is so challenging
all the time at times.
Our kids are going through so many developmental, physical and emotional changes throughout childhood. They test our limits and misbehave on the reg.
Maybe you feel like you spend most of your days yelling at your kids and doling out punishments. You’re stressed out, your kids are unhappy, and it’s causing you and your spouse to argue. (I know it’s not just me, guys!)
The whole house feels on edge, just waiting for the next temper tantrum to occur.
So you google something to the effect of, “how to get my kid to behave”, “how to get my kid to listen“, or “how to stop yelling at my children”.
The results include a number of articles on something called Positive Parenting. Maybe that’s how you landed here on this lovely post I’m writing for you.
You need a solution. And I got ya.
It’s called “Positive Parenting”.
How do I know? Because I felt the same way as you, and I tried this whole Positive Parenting thing out.
Don’t get me wrong – I was VERY skeptical. But I gave positive parenting a shot because, quite frankly, I had nothing to lose. And within just a few short weeks I began to see positive changes that I was beginning to think I’d never see!
It was nuts.
But before we dive into all the “How To’s” of Positive Parenting, it’s really important to understand it’s foundation. Because if you don’t have a grasp on that, the techniques that you try won’t be successful.
This post will teach you everything you need to know about this life-changing parenting philosophy.
What is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting is more of a philosophy than a style. The idea is that we want to prepare our children for adulthood. So, rather than focusing on compliance in the short-term (think of “Do as I say”, “Because I said so”, and “Or else!”), we’re looking at the bigger picture – how to best prepare our kids to be happy, well-adjusted contributing adult members of society.
How do we do that?
We teach and guide them in a positive way. We work on teaching our kids in a way that shows them respect and keeps their (and our) dignity in tact.
This allows kids to feel safe, both emotionally and physically. And that’s the best state to be in when you need to learn.
Think about your job. If your boss is constantly barking orders at you, threatening the security of your job, and criticizing your work, how would you feel? Anxious and nervous. You wouldn’t be able to do your best work, you certainly wouldn’t be in the state of mind to really learn new skills, and you’d probably start resenting your boss.
Kids are no different when it comes to their parents and home environments.
I think we can all agree that we want the best for our kids. We want them to have healthy social and life skills that will propel them forward when they’re out in the world.
Positive parenting is believing that our kids want to do what is right and good. It is creating a loving and supportive environment where we can teach our kids not only the what, but the why. This enables our children to develop self-control and self-discipline which will serve them well as adults.
Positive Parenting vs. Permissive Parenting
It’s a common misconception that positive parenting is the same as permissive parenting.
Permissive parenting, according to Very Well Mind, is a “type of parenting style characterized by low demands with high responsiveness. Permissive parents tend to be very loving, yet provide few guidelines and rules. These parents do not expect mature behavior from their children and often seem more like a friend than a parental figure.”
This is not a healthy style of parenting because kids who are raised this way aren’t taught how to self-regulate and control themselves.
Positive parenting, on the other hand, involves setting and enforcing boundaries and providing discipline when needed. We’ll get into positive discipline a little later in this article (it’s a game-changer – you’ll love it!).
The History of Positive Parenting
You may be thinking that the idea of positive parenting sounds great in theory, but is it just some fluffy, feel-good idea that a new age-y parent made up? I know when I first started learning about positive parenting I wondered if this was a newer parenting style with little to no research and history behind it.
So, I started to look into how this whole philosophy got started.
Basically, there were these two Austiran psychiatrists in the 20th century named Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs.
Way back in the day (the 1920s), people believed that children were to be seen and not heard (and some people still believe that today). But then Alfred Adler came along and said something along the lines of “Hold up! Kids are humans, too. Don’t you think they deserve the same dignity and respect that we adults deserve? I mean it’s kind of a basic human right.”
Rudolf Dreikers thought that was a genius point and jumped on board. Together, they advocated that kids should be respected, but also that they should not be spoiled and coddled. The basis for their argument was that if kids are not respected, and/or they are spoiled, then, well, we parents are going to have a lot of unhappy, misbehaved kids on our hands.
Fast forward to today and it’s obvious that we are much more open to this idea, and as more and more parents come to truly understand what positive parenting is, the more it is practiced.
Benefits of Positive Parenting
A study from 2009 that focused on negative parenting (harsh and inconsistent discipline) vs. positive parenting found that boys who were raised with positive parenting not only were insulated from negative behaviors, but, as adults, also had more positive relationships with their partners and kids.
If that hasn’t convinced you that Positive Parenting is a good philosophy to adopt, consider that another study found that positive parenting was related to “fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.”
In addition, they had closer friendships, better school performance, and higher self-esteem than the boys who were raised with negative parenting.
On top of that, if you have happier, more confident kids, it’s safe to assume that the amount of stress you feel as a parent decreases, you have better relationships with your kids, and your home life consists of less conflict.
It’s a win-win!
Principles of Positive Parenting
There are 5 guiding principles of positive parenting. Keeping these principles in mind will help you navigate parenthood in a more peaceful way.
Principle 1: Connection.
If you think of our needs in the form of a pyramid, at the foundation we would have basic needs, like food, shelter and clothing.
On top of that foundation would be significance and belonging.
We want to feel that we are a part of something bigger and that we are connected to others. In a child’s life, this plays out as being a member of and having an important role in their family, as well as feeling emotionally connected to those in their life.
They also like to feel like they have some power and control over their lives and that they are able to make meaningful contributions to their family.
Principle 2: Respect.
As mentioned previously, children deserve respect. Not only that, it’s actually one of their emotional needs.
Also, kids learn how to treat others through the way they are treated at home. The best way to teach your kids how to treat others with respect is to treat them with respect.
Positive parenting is not easy. It takes practice, time, and patience. And it’s not a magic bullet – kids are still kids and there are going to be times when they misbehave and melt down. They could be overtired or don’t know how to handle an especially big emotion.
Principle 3: Empathy.
Understanding what our children need helps our children feel like we hear them and fosters a closer relationship.
When we approach a child’s misbehavior from a place of wanting to understand where they are coming from (what are they trying to communicate?), it keeps us calmer and also can keep our child from escalating.
Principle 4: Proactive.
A big differentiator between positive parenting and other parenting methods is being proactive instead of reactive. It’s being more thoughtful about your kids’ behaviors and how to handle those behaviors rather than dealing with it in the heat of the moment.
It’s also taking notice of when a problem starts to occur and addressing it before it escalates into an even bigger problem.
Principle 5: Positive Discipline.
I remember first hearing this term, “positive discipline”, while at an indoor playground. In casual conversation, another mom mentioned that she taught positive discipline workshops for parents.
“Well that’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one,” I chuckled to myself.
Turns out the joke was on me! My discipline methods definitely weren’t working, and this whole “positive discipline” thing is working out rather nicely for my family now!
Positive discipline is all about clearly setting boundaries (what’s ok and what isn’t) and consistently following through with consequences (no yelling, hitting, or harsh punishment).
Sounds pretty simple, right? Except that it’s not always so easy to implement. It takes time and patience, but it’s well worth it. We’ll get into Positive Discipline in just a bit.
How to Use Positive Parenting
If you’re ready to begin using positive parenting, here are some things you can do to get started:
Be consistent about boundaries and limits. Also be consistent with the consequences that follow certain behaviors.
Take time to learn more about child development.
It’s amazing how our brains develop so it’s really interesting to learn about this in and of itself. But in addition to that, it helps us keep our cool when we learn what our kids are and aren’t capable of developmentally at different ages.
For example, if your 2 year old absolutely refuses to share a toy with her older sister, instead of getting frustrated with her, you’ll understand that sharing isn’t a developmentally appropriate expectation of her. Knowing this, you’ll be able to figure out a different solution when your kids are fighting over a toy.
Create a loving, supportive environment.
Work to create a home environment that helps your kids feel safe and secure. For me, that meant my husband and I stopped arguing in front of our kids and became more cognizant of how we talk to each other.
We also worked on minimizing the yelling and scolding that we do with our kids.
Remember that the ultimate goal is to raise your child into a contributing member of society.
I totally get that sometimes we need our kids to stop whining NOW before we completely lose it. But when you wake up each morning, remind yourself that you’re raising tiny humans who will one day be out in the world. Think about the kind of people you want them to be and let that guide you.
Try to be more proactive and recognize behavior patterns.
There are going to be times when we’re reactive. We’re human and behavior can be unpredictable! But the more you observe your kids, how they act and why they act that way, the more proactive you can be. And that means more peace for you and your family.
Help your child to feel important and empowered.
I love the way Amy McReady from Positive Parenting Solutions lays this out. Imagine your kids have two buckets that need to be filled – one for significance and one for belonging.
If we’re not filling those buckets for them in a positive way (like spending focused time with them and letting them make decisions), they are going to try to fill those buckets themselves (and not in a good way). This could look like temper tantrums, talking back, refusing to do what you ask, or acting helpless.
This is the most important piece of the Positive Parenting puzzle.
Many times when we try to discipline our kids we yell and give punishments. A lot of us were raised this way and we don’t know any other way to parent.
The problem is that these methods aren’t all that effective. On the occasions when they seem effective, it stops the undesired behavior in the short-term, but doesn’t teach our child what we want them to learn in the long-term.
On top of that, our kids feel guilt or shame – and so do we for losing our sh*t. It’s not fun for anyone. Sometimes, our kids act out because of the guilt and shame that they feel. They purposely repeat the bad behavior or yell back at us.
A power struggle ensues.
The alternative to this is Positive Discipline.
What is Positive Discipline?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, there are three definitions of discipline:
1. to punish or penalize for the sake of enforcing obedience and perfecting moral character
2. to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control
3. to bring (a group) under control or to impose order upon
Positive discipline is all about that second definition – to train or develop by instruction and exercise especially in self-control.
Instead of using punishment as the driving motivator for kids to behave appropriately, positive discipline uses praise, encouragement, and problem-solving to teach kids how to control and regulate themselves.
The Main Pieces of Positive Discipline
Positive Discipline is made up of these core elements:
1. A healthy parent-child relationship
When you have a healthy relationship with your child, they are much more likely to actually listen to you. If your child feels like you don’t pay attention to them or never truly listen to them, why would they want to listen to you? It’s all about mutual respect.
2. Take the time to teach.
I think a lot of us parents feel like broken records – “Don’t do that!” or “You just earned yourself another time-out”. It’s exhausting. It makes our kids feel crappy too, and it doesn’t teach them what they should do instead of the undesired behavior.
Rather than simply telling them that they can’t do something, take the time to explain why and what they should do instead.
3. Be consistent.
Apply discipline consistently. If you only discipline your daugther for hitting her sister every 5th time, she’s not going to stop because the consequence only happens once in a while. She’ll think it’s worth the risk.
If you discipline her (say give her a time-in) every time, she’ll begin to understand that there is a consequence for that action.
4. Make consequences logical, fair, and immediate.
Your child can more easily understand that certain behaviors are linked with unwanted consequences when the consequence is given immediately. Also, make the consequence logical.
If you tell your daughter it’s lights out and to put her phone away, and then you walk in later and she’s on her phone, tell her you need to take her phone now and she can have it back tomorrow night.
Telling her that she can’t go to her friend’s house after school for the rest of the week won’t make much sense to her. You’ll probably hear something like “How is that fair?!”. Whereas in the first example, she probably won’t be happy about it, but it’s hard to argue that consequence.
Why Does Positive Discipline Work?
Dr. Jane Nelsen, founder of the Positive Discipline program, explains the main criteria of positive discipline. Below is a summary of why positive discipline works.
1. It’s both kind and firm.
Being kind shows respect to your child. Being firm shows respect to the situation. It’s important to be both. If you’re kind without being firm, you’re probably being too permissive. If you’re being firm without being kind, you’re probably being too controlling.
2. Your child feels a sense of belonging and significance.
As mentioned earlier in this article, a primary need of humans is to feel that they belong and are significant. If kids don’t feel that sense of belonging and significance, they will seek it out in other ways such as misbehaving and trying to exert power.
Positive discipline is all about teaching our kids how to live in this big world. It’s listening to them, giving them respect, guiding them, and setting limits. All of this contributes to their sense of belonging and significance.
3. Positive Discipline works long-term.
Punitive discipline might work in the short-term, but positive discipline works long-term. Positive discipline will help keep the misbehavior from happening again, while keeping our kids’ dignity in tact. It gets us closer to raising the kind of adults we want to hang out with in the future!
4. Positive Discipline teaches valuable social and life skills.
Positive Discipline teaches our kids how to self-soothe, how to listen, how to communicate, and how to problem solve, among many other skills.
5. It teaches children that they are capable.
Positive Discipline shows children that they are capable and builds their confidence.
Positive Discipline Strategies
Here are a few positive discipline strategies that you can begin using now, along with examples of each.
1. A great way of disciplining positively is bringing your child into the problem solving process.
Let’s say your 1st grader has homework, but doesn’t want to do it.
The first thing you’d want to do is empathize with your child. “I know you have homework that your teacher wants you to do, and I know you don’t feel like doing it.” This helps your child feel understood and heard. It keeps them from going on the defense.
Next, you’d want them to help you solve this problem. You might say something like, “What can we do to get this homework done so that you can proudly show your teacher that you did it on time?”.
2. Another strategy that works really well with my strong-willed kindergartner is giving him a choice.
Kids like to feel empowered and know that they have some control over their lives (I mean, don’t we all?).
For instance, my kindergartner hates bath time. It used to be the biggest power struggle. Until I started giving him a choice between a bath or a shower.
The very first time I employed this strategy, he was about to go into battle mode. When I gave him this choice, he literally paused in his tracks, thought for a second, and replied “shower by Mommy”.
And that was it. No screaming, no hitting. It. Was. Amazing.
3. Redirection is a great strategy for toddlers.
They’re too young to truly understand an explanation of why they shouldn’t do something, so shift their focus.
For example, if your toddler keeps going after a light socket, say something simple like “Touching that light socket can hurt you” and then bring them to another area of the room with a toy.
This can even work for older kids. Let’s say your 11 year old is watching TV for the umpteenth hour. Instead of saying “Turn that TV off! You’re brain is going to turn to mush!”, try “Hey Kiddo – it’s time to go spend some time outside or give that puzzle another go”.
Focusing on what kids can do instead of can’t will help minimize the amount of power struggles you face.
Changing Your Mindset for Positive Parenting
Our upbringings have molded our beliefs and habits. Often times, we carry out the same behaviors and actions that our parents did without even realizing it. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it isn’t.
Quite a few of us were raised in homes where yelling, spanking, and punishments were the norm for disciplining. It’s so ingrained in our subconscious that’s it tough to make the transition from this to positive parenting.
Once you’ve made the choice to begin positive parenting, the next step is to change your mindset.
You have to change from a fear-based mindset to a love-based mindset. This is not saying that if you have a fear-based mindset, you don’t love your children or provide affection and care. A fear-based mindset is feeling like you have to control your child and the only way that they are capable of stopping bad behavior is through punishment and negative consequences.
In other words, fear is the main tool being used to correct bad behavior.
Fear-based mindsets are also behind permissive parenting. You don’t set or enforce limits because you are afraid that your child isn’t going to like them or isn’t going to like you.
A love-based mindset, on the other hand, is understanding that your role is to guide your child through life and teach them what is and isn’t appropriate so that they grow into happy adults. It is being a role model to your kids and respectfully enforcing limits.
If you let this guide you, it will be much easier to figure out what to do when your child misbehaves.
It’s Not Easy, But You Can Do This!
We adults are allowed to have bad days sometimes, right? So are our kids.
The key is to try to stay calm and help guide our kids through all the messy feelings. You got this!
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Positive Parenting Facts Every Parent Should Know