Being a parent is rewarding, but it comes with many challenges. From the time a person finds out that they will have a child, the first instinct and thoughts that form in their mind are doing things to ensure that their child gets all the care needed for a healthy and well-rounded development. so how powerful is positive parenting?
Everyone wants to be a positive parent. No person ever sets out to be a negative parent or be a negative influence on their child. Most strive to be great parents, but many will find themselves confused and frustrated by the seemingly endless challenges of parenthood. Many parents can attest that every developmental stage a child goes through from birth through adolescence comes with its challenges. But what does positive parenting mean? What does it look like? Is it something that comes as second nature for parents?
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Before delving into what positive parenting, let’s touch a bit on what it means to be a parent.
Even though many studies have focused on a mothers’ role as a parent, a child’s well-being and development are influenced by all individuals involved in their upbringing. Such individuals can be caregivers such as biological, adoptive parents, foster parents, single parents, step-parents, older siblings, or other relatives/non-relative that play a significant and meaningful role in a child’s life.
A parent is a person who brings up and cares for another. The parent shares a consistent relationship with a child and an interest in his/her well-being. Seay and his colleagues came up with the following definition of positive parenting:
“Positive parenting is the continual relationship of a parent(s) and a child or children that includes caring, teaching, leading, communication, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally.” It is focused on developing a strong, deeply committed relationship between parent and child.”
Positive parenting does not mean you are easy, and not offering discipline or consequences. It is instead the opposite. Positive parenting holds children to realistic standards by using clear expectations and empowering children to become resilient, respectful, and capable children.
What does positive parenting involve?
- It involves guiding
- It involves leading
- It involves teaching
- It is empowering, nurturing, and unconditional
- It is consistent and positive
- It sets boundaries and limits
- It provides affections, emotional warmth, and emotional security
- It involves awareness and patience
- It supports and respects a child’s developmental stages
- It acknowledges and shows empathy for the child’s feelings
The Parenting Style that is linked to positive parenting
What is a parenting style and why does it matter you ask? Great question!
Parenting style is a “constellation of parents’ attitudes and behaviors toward children and an emotional climate in which the parents’ behaviors are expressed” (Bi et al., 2018). Your parenting style will impact your child’s development into adulthood, and as such, your parenting style must be one that will foster growth and positive development. How you interact and discipline your child will influence them for the rest of their lives.
There are four types of parenting styles – Authoritative, Authoritarian, Permissive, and Uninvolved/Neglectful. Based on research, positive parenting that is warm and nurturing yet firm with discipline and boundaries is linked to the Authoritative Parenting Style. Learn more about parenting styles here.
Authoritative parenting style is where parents encourage their children to be responsible, and they put a conscious effort into building and maintaining a positive parent-child relationship. There are rules and consequences, but it is explained to the child, and the child’s feelings are always considered. Parents are open and accepting of discussions and reasoning with their children. They are affectionate and supportive, and independence is encouraged.
Authoritative parents are involved, set rules, and have consequences. They consider their child’s opinions, validate their feelings, but make it clear who the parent is, who the child is, and that adults are in charge. Authoritative parents spend time and energy raising their children and focusing on preventing problem behaviors from happening. Their disciplinary actions are done in a way to reinforce positive behavior.
The Positive impact that Authoritative Parenting Style has on your child’s development
- Your child learns about self-awareness
- Your child is raised knowing and understanding what morals, values, and goals are
- They develop independence
- They are happy – have a positive frame of mind
- Interact with peers well.
- Excellent social skills
- Better mental health (less anxiety, depression, or poor impulse control)
- Engages in little challenging behaviors
- Prone to achieve academic success
- Feels secure
- Develops Good decision making and problem-solving skills
How positive parenting promotes psychosocial growth
Researchers from the Gottman Institute found that the key to good parenting is understanding the emotional reason behind challenging behaviors in children and teenagers. We all experience emotions, and everything we do and learn is shaped in some way by the way we feel. Parents spend a significant amount of time teaching children the tools needed to thrive in this world, but taking time to help them learn, understand, and cope with their emotions is equally important. This is known as Emotion Coaching, and there are five essential steps that are designed to build a child’s confidence and promote healthy intellectual and psychological growth.
- Be aware of emotions
Tune into your child’s feelings and yours as well. Do not be afraid to embrace what you are feeling (happiness, sadness, anger); this will help your child know that it is okay to feel and embrace their own emotions. Understand that emotions are a natural and valuable part of life and teach your child this as well. Observe and listen to how your child expressed their different feelings. Pay attention not only to verbal cues but to non-verbal cues as well (body language and facial expressions).
- Connect with your child
While teaching your child about the different, use this opportunity to connect with them emotionally as well. Pay close attention to their emotions and acknowledge how they are feeling. Their feelings are just as important as any adult. Try not to avoid or dismiss them because that will teach them that their emotions are not important and shouldn’t be considered. Encourage your child to talk about how they feel; provide guidance before strong emotions escalate into challenging behaviors or even meltdowns.
- Listen to your child
It is important to let your child voice their feelings. This is important because it is teaching them the value of self-worth. Respect what your child is feeling and listen to them carefully. Show your child that what they are feeling is important by taking their emotions seriously. Avoid judging and criticizing, as this will make it difficult for them to connect with you emotionally.
- Name that emotion
Help your child identify and learn the emotion they feel instead of telling him/her what they should be feeling. Explaining to your child what they are feeling in the moment will help them learn about different emotions and soothe them. Talk about how you feel in the moment with your child, as this will help build their vocabulary for different feelings.
- Find solutions
As parents, you may be quick to fix what your child is experiencing, but this cannot be the case every time because your child will not learn how to problem solve as they get older. Here’s what you should do instead:
- Redirect the challenging behaviors and not what your child is feeling
- If your child is engaging in challenging behaviors, help them identify their emotions linked to the behavior, and explain why the behavior is not appropriate. For example, what is the reason behind a meltdown? Could it be that your child is hungry, scared, embarrassed, tired, or worried? After identifying the connection to the behavior, provide examples of more appropriate behaviors. For example, help your child to use their words to say how they feel.
- Encourage expressions, but set clear boundaries of what is expected in your child’s behavior.
- Work together with your child to come up with possible solutions.
- Be patient; don’t expect too much too soon. Remember that your child is learning as they grow.
- Praise your child every time you see them engaging in appropriate behaviors. This will help to reinforce positive behaviors.
- Do chores and tasks together. Make it fun!
Positive Discipline strategies to help with challenging behaviors
The term ‘discipline’ often has a negative, punitive connotation whenever it is mention. However, by definition, discipline is defined as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.” This definition is instructive, indicating that parents are not disciplinarians but rather teachers to their children. Positive discipline leans on the Authoritative Parenting Style because discipline when administered, should be firm but yet loving at the same time. It is never violent, aggressive, critical, and certainly not punitive.
Examples of positive discipline strategies:
- Understand the behavior: find out the reason behind your child’s actions. Once you know the underlying cause for the challenging behavior, you can begin to teach your child emotions associated with unpleasant feelings and how to cope appropriately.
- Set clear structure and boundaries: have clear and consistent rules for your child to follow. Inconsistencies leave room for confusion, which sometimes leads to challenging behaviors. Let your child know what is expected from them. Ensure they have a structured routine and be sure to explain the rules in terms that they will understand.
- Keep calm: Being a parent is challenging, and no set rule book will work for everyone. Every child is different, and every parent is different. On top of that, other factors (culture, family, temperament) will impact how you raise and discipline your child. What’s key is remaining calm when challenges arise. If you lose your ‘cool’ while disciplining, your child will learn that this is the appropriate way to deal with life challenges.
- Give consequences: Calmly and firmly give consequences and explain why you have to provide these consequences.
- Mistakes give room for growth: Your child will make mistakes. You, as a parent, will mistake. Do not beat yourself about it or feel ashamed. No one is perfect. Help your child see that mistakes do not mean failure, but it gives them an opportunity for growth. Teach them how to problem solve and make well-informed decisions. This is how they will grow from their mistakes.
- Avoid labeling: Labeling children by saying things like “she’s a social one” or “he’s the great student” places pressure on children because they may start to believe that they do not possess the positive qualities their sibling or friends may have. For example, your child may develop a view such as “well, if Jason is a great student, then I must be the bad one.”
- Communicate openly: Communicate, communicate, and communicate. Talk openly with your child about their feelings, about expectations, about life, about challenges they may face as they get old, about peer pressure in their teens. These are essential things that they need to be made aware of to thrive as they grow.
- Give them your attention: The most powerful tool for effective discipline is attention. Giving attention when your child does well reinforces good behaviors and discourages negative ones. Don’t just give them attention when they are doing something inappropriate.
Benefits of Positive Parenting
Positive Parenting seems to cover all developmental stages from infancy into late adolescence. Here are some benefits:
- Strong parent-child relationship
- Strong communication between parent and child
- Appropriate skills to adapt and adjust to change
- High self-esteem and self- confidence
- General happiness and motivation
- Less challenging behaviors to occur
- Able to cope with strong emotions (anger, frustration, worry, hurt)
- Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression during adolescence
- Reduced symptoms of stress, especially in school
- Increased emotion regulation and social skills
- Strong ability to resist negative peer influences among teenagers
Take home message
Positive parenting is an effective style that can be suitable for most parents and children. I say most because it is important to look at how culture plays a role in raising a child. Parenting styles and how a child ‘should’ be raised will differ from country to country.
Nevertheless, it essential for parents to understand that they are never alone. Whatever the challenge, there is a community of parents who are faced with the same issues. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out to parent support groups.
Positive parenting helps to empower children to reach their full potential as resilient and fulfilled individuals. The child is raised in a warm, caring, loving, disciplined, and nurturing environment. With positive parenting, you are teachers, leaders, and positive role models for your child.
- Bi, X.; Yang, Y.; Li, H.; Wang, M.; Zhang, W.; Deater-Deckard, K. Parenting styles and parent–adolescent relationships: The mediating roles of behavioral autonomy and parental authority. Front. Psychol. 2018, 9, 2187
- Discipline. (2020). Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/discipline
- Seay, A., Freysteinson, W. M., & McFarlane, J. (2014). Positive parenting. Nursing Forum, 49(3), 200–208
- The Gottam Institute. (2012). An introduction to emotion coaching. https://www.gottman.com/blog/an-introduction-to-emotion-coaching/