Parenting is rewarding and challenging in equal measure. And while most people go into parenthood expecting both the reward and challenges on some level, some soon find that they aren’t as equipped to deal with those challenges as they initially thought. Tantrums, defiance, picky-eating, risk-taking, aggressive behavior, and meltdowns are just a few challenges of parenthood. How you consistently deal with these things will have a significant effect on your child. Thankfully, ‘positive parenting’ provides practical ways to deal with your child’s behavioral challenges.
The framework for positive parenting has been around since the 1920s. It began to gain popularity in the 1990s thanks to Martin Seligman, the American psychologist who brought the field of positive psychology into the limelight. Emily Edlynn, an Illinois-based psychologist, believes positive parenting to be the most adopted form of parenting. “Based on the number of headlines and articles that I see within the parenting niche, I think positive parenting is arguably the most popular parenting philosophy of the moment,” says Edlynn.
What Is Positive Parenting, and Why Is It Important?
Positive parenting became a practical concept when experts applied positive psychology to parenting. It shifted some of the focus on bad behavior to providing feedback on good behavior instead. Experts have different definitions for positive parenting, but ultimately they all seem to point to it being an approach that is soft and firm at the same time. While not ignoring problems, making sure that there is positive reinforcement of positive behaviors.
Psychology Today also describes positive parenting as “warm, nurturing, and responsive parenting, the kind of parenting that reinforces good behavior and avoids using inconsistent or harsh discipline.” Here we discuss why discipline is important and should not be overlooked.
Edlynn herself describes it as “an empathy-based approach with firm compassion, focusing on responding to a child’s emotions underlying challenging behaviors, within the framework of how our interactions now are part of forming a lifelong relationship with our child.”
As a result, positive parenting is linked to many positive developments in children and is used in classrooms worldwide. Healthier self-esteem, higher school grades, greater social competence, stronger family bonds, better mental health, and less aggressive behavior are all possible positive parenting outcomes.
What Are the Characteristics of Positive Parenting?
Characteristics are like identifiers that can help you understand when positive parenting is at play. These elements are crucial to developing good parenting skills, contributing to effective communication and response in every parenting situation. Below are the characteristics of positive parenting:
- It considers the child’s feelings and is empathetic.
- It is affectionate unconditionally.
- It takes the child’s age and development into account.
- It separates the child from the behavior.
- It is sensitive to the child’s needs at every turn.
- It looks to recognize and reinforce positive behaviors.
- It does not resort to anger as a problem-solving tool.
- It sets boundaries and is consistent.
- Communication is constant and open.
- It guides and teaches instead of demanding compliance.
- It is nurturing, empowering, and caring.
- It rewards accomplishments and supports the child’s best interests.
- It listens attentively and provides emotional warmth and security.
Positive Parenting Techniques
With the following parenting techniques, you can teach and guide your child without breaking their spirit.
- Natural consequences. Sometimes you need only to let natural consequences follow. This is a very effective way of showing your child that actions have consequences. For example, if your child is destroying their toy during a tantrum and would not listen to reason, you may let the child go through with it. In the end, the child would discover they have no toy to play with anymore.
- Time-out. Time-out is an effective parenting technique for any aged child. It just takes different forms. Beyond toddlers being allowed to calm down, with older children, it deescalates both parties’ feelings. It enables conversations to begin calmly and positively, not from a place of defense.
- Use language that communicates what needs doing instead of what doesn’t. Processing information takes time, especially for toddlers. It helps to frame your instructions so that they provide information on what you want the child to do instead of what you don’t want them to do. For example, instead of saying “don’t kick off your shoes,” say “our shoes stay on our feet.” Or “don’t wear that top,” to “we dress for school in a way that reflects how we want to be perceived.”
- Listening is such a fundamental skill, but very important when it comes to parenting your child. Attentive listening involves taking a break from whatever you’re doing and giving your child your undivided attention. When you’re actively listening, you don’t feel the need to reply. The extra 2 minutes out of the door as you show empathy may mean that this behavior happens less often in the future. This is a springboard for effective response and problem-solving. We give some more tips in this article here.
- Utilize distraction. Distraction is a great way to avoid tantrums. This is especially effective for toddlers. If you find your toddler doing something you don’t like, instead of just stopping them and risking a massive tantrum, give them an alternative if possible. However, it is not just toddlers that it can be useful. For older children, changing the focus to cooking together will allow you to come back to the issue later. We have more advice on talking to your child here.
- Emotion coaching and empathy. Viewing yourself as a coach and guide to your child’s emotions can help them grow. Communicating to your child that you understand and empathize with their feelings will allow them to express, and in time deal on their own with them. This is especially important if you find that your child is very negative.
This can be done through listening, talking, assuring, and providing strategies for dealing with emotionally challenging situations. Children lack the life experiences that have taught adults some lessons on how emotions work at a young age. So they rely on parents or caregivers to sort through their anxiety, fear, sadness, or frustration.
Benefits of Positive Parenting
Positive parenting takes a lot of practice to get right, but the benefits are worth it. Below are some of the benefits of positive parenting:
- Better parent-child relationship. Because positive parenting techniques encourage parents to communicate effectively, respond accordingly, teach and guide respectfully, parents build stronger relationships with their kids. Their kids develop better emotional bonds, understand how to deal with conflicts, and learn how to manage their emotions and express themselves. These qualities are what strengthens the bond between parent and child.
- Higher self-esteem and happiness. Instead of demanding compliance, positive parenting encourages parents to teach and guide with mutual respect. This empathetic approach teaches children about consequences, accountability, and responsibility without breaking their spirit with hurtful words and actions. This then allows them to flourish with love and affection into adults with a healthy sense of self.
- Less negative behavior. Positive parenting encourages parents to recognize and positively reinforce a child’s good behavior. This acts as an incentive that drives children toward acceptable behaviors. The more the child does this, the fewer negative behaviors there will be.
Final Thoughts on Positive Parenting
Parenting is a marathon and not a sprint. So expecting parents to be always positive through it all is unrealistic. In fact, it might probably be setting parents up to fail. At some point, a parent might slip and begin to feel inadequate. Karin Coifman, a psychologist at Kent State University who studies the importance of emotions, argues that mistakes are part of the process. “We make mistakes. We get upset. Sometimes we take things out on people that we shouldn’t take things out on,” explains Coifman. “And this is normal and human, and they are normal for parents too.” Part of what makes a good parent is focusing on yourself, too, to realize your mistakes and seek to correct them. The golden rule in all situations is to treat people as you wish to be treated. In the same way, you do not respond well to negative responses, and neither does a child. If possible when parents are separated it is beneficial for any child to have this sort of consistency.