The term “positive parenting” is everywhere and has become increasingly popular over the years. But what does it really mean? We know from the calls we get that many parents feel confused and disempowered by the contradictory information out there. This can increase stress and anxiety – which makes parenting even harder than it has to be!
Parent Help is a strong advocate for any approach that makes for a happier family and our telephone support workers are trained in how positive parenting can be used to enhance both parent and child well-being. As such, we seek to assist parents who want to adopt some of the positive parenting tools and practices in their everyday lives.
However, we do not expect parents to be perfect and we understand that the stress of raising children means at times it’s hard to be a “positive” parent!
Parent Help suggests focusing on small changes to these three main areas if you are looking to include more positive parenting techniques into your daily family interactions:
1: Set clear boundaries and stick to them
One of the biggest misconceptions of positive parenting is that it means being permissive; never saying “no” and letting the children make all the decisions! The truth is, being a positive parent is not about giving in and making children happy all the time.
There are many, many times a day when positive parents have to set clear boundaries and deal with the fall-out. For example, saying no to the toddler who wants the chocolate bar in the supermarket or the teenager who wants you to buy them alcohol.
The main focus with positive parenting is doing things that are in the best interests of the child (and sometimes this means not giving the child what he/she wants)! Being firm, loving and consistent with age-appropriate boundaries is the key. Support and empathise with the child if they are upset by the rules, but don’t feel bad for sticking to them!
2: Choose Positive Discipline rather than Reactive Discipline
Research has shown that punitive and controlling parenting is a risk factor for problems in psychological, emotional and cognitive development in children. Because of this, the alternative approach of positive parenting has become increasingly popular. It offers guidance on how to discipline in a way that is still in the best interests of the child, such as non-violent (no physical discipline) and non-demeaning (no yelling, name-calling). This type of discipline aims to teach self-regulation, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.
We understand that it can be hard to avoid becoming angry and yelling in the heat of the moment when tensions are high. Because of this, discipline sometimes needs to be delayed until the parent and child are both calm. We suggest that parents disengage from the conflict before it becomes heated and show their kids that sometimes the best thing to do is to walk away, suggest talking about it later, or to take a few moments for yourself.
When discipline comes from a kind, thoughtful and well-reasoned approach, it can be seen as “teaching” rather than punishing. Examples of positive discipline are using Time In with young children (https://www.parenthelp.org.nz/time-in-guide-your-childs-behaviour/) or with older children in place of punishment try natural consequences, delayed access to privileges, or negotiating an agreement with them over how to avoid undesired behaviours.
3: Build a co-operative, positive relationship
Enhancing the parent-child relationship is at the heart of positive parenting. The aim is for parents is to be attuned to the needs of their children as they grow from babies to young adults. In order to do this, it’s important to maintain open communication and allow children to be involved in decision making.
Make time each day to have fun and connect, ask open-ended questions (questions that don’t have yes/no answers), take an interest in their hobbies, listen to how they feel and let them know that their opinions are valued! It is important for children to feel that they are valuable and capable so that they gain a sense of agency.
The plus side of this strong foundation is that a co-operative and positive relationship makes the boundaries and discipline mentioned above more likely to work! Which in turn means a happier home for all.
If you have found this information useful and would like to talk with one of our trained telephone support workers, give our free Parent Helpline a call on 0800 568 856.
We are here to talk about any of your parenting concerns. We receive calls about all age groups – from babies to adolescents – and no issue is too big or small.