What Is Positive Parenting And How Does It Work?
Updated November 28, 2019
Reviewer Karen Devlin, LPC
Positive parenting is a parenting style characterized by empathy and having a strong parent-child connection. Growing up, you probably experienced at least one parenting style (or more). Each style is formed based on different opinions about parenthood, discipline, and childhood development. As you may have guessed, some parenting styles tend to have better outcomes for children than others.
According to Deborah Godfrey, a certified parent educator, "Positive Parenting is for parents that want to discipline their kids without breaking their spirit … Positive Parenting focuses on teaching children not just what but also why. Positive parenting means training children toward self-control." Other parenting styles can fall short in these areas, leaving both parents and children feeling frustrated and unheard.
Many parents and professionals are starting to see how a positive, mindful approach to parenting has benefits over stricter or more permissive parenting styles. Strict or physical discipline undermines the lesson you're trying to teach and can backfire, leaving children with things like behavioral problems. Permissive parenting, on the other hand, often leads to children who like to push their limits.
So, How Does Positive Parenting Work?
Positive parenting (also known as peaceful parenting) is not as easy as deciding you're going to be more positive without any follow through. Being a positive parent takes commitment and effort, but once you get the hang of it, it does get easier. As a positive parent, you're committing to three things, says Aha! Parenting:
1. Regulating Your Emotions
After a stressful day, do you find yourself feeling drained, irritable, and short tempered? Sometimes when parents are having a bad day, they unintentionally create a more negative environment at home. You may find yourself yelling or being frustrated by your child's crying or whining. On days like this, sometimes things seem to escalate from bad to worse quickly.
Positive parenting is a little different. As a positive parent, it's important to acknowledge your negative thoughts and feelings, but you should try not to let them affect your overall mood and interactions with your kids. When situations come up, try to think of things from your children's point of view and figure out what it is they need. Taking a few deep breaths before reacting to things can help keep the atmosphere at home calmer and happier.
2. Maintaining And Strengthening The Parent-Child Connection
Being a parent is an everyday, long-term commitment but it shouldn't feel like a job or a chore. Think of each day as an exciting new challenge, where you get to see your child grow, learn, and interact with the world. Your job as a parent is to keep your kids safe, nurture them, and encourage them to be the best that they can be. Are you up for the challenge?
When you come to parenting from a more positive perspective, a lot can change. When your child does something wrong or acts up, think about why it's happening. Instead of yelling and making the situation worse, get on your child's level and talk to them. Rather than getting angry and repeating what your child shouldn't have done, take the time to explain why what they did was wrong and what they could have done instead.
3. Loving The Child Unconditionally
For children to grow into confident and secure adults, parents need to show their kids the way and eventually encourage them to venture off into the world to learn on their own. From childhood to adulthood, the parent-child relationship is an important one which is why parents should make sure their kids know that they are loved unconditionally.
Some parents put so much pressure on their kids to do good in school, follow the rules, or live up to certain expectations. Over time, kids can start to think that their parents' love and acceptance is dependent on those things. As a positive parent, it's important to let your children know that you will always be there for them. Through good and bad, success and failure, your kids should know that they are loved.
Examples of Positive Parenting in Action
The commitments you make as a positive parent involve being empathetic and taking on the role of providing guidance instead of punishment. Positive parents need to improve their self-awareness to control their emotions. This is because they know that how they treat their children now directly impacts how their children see and feel about themselves as they get older.
To give you an idea of how the principles of positive parenting can be applied to your daily life, here are some examples of positive parenting in action:
- Getting down on your kid's level when you talk to them, holding their hands, and waiting for eye contact, so you know they're listening
- Thinking about their needs when they act up: are they hungry, tired, or bored?
- Pausing before reacting negatively (instead of saying, "Stop whining right now!" say, "Please use a calm voice to talk to me.")
- Using positive language("You're helpful," "You make me proud," "It's okay to make mistakes")
- Listening to your kids with empathy and paraphrasing what they say, so they feel heard
- Going outside and doing something together as a family when your kids start to misbehave
Taking on a new parenting style is hard, especially if you've just learned about it. In addition to reading up on the subject, parents who are struggling to change their relationship with their kids can seek help from a counselor who works with families and is knowledgeable about positive parenting.
Online counseling services like Regain are an affordable, convenient alternative to in-person counseling. With online counseling, you get ongoing support for as long as it's needed. For busy working parents, it's nice to know that you can connect with an experienced professional from the comfort of your home or on the go.
Positive Parenting Studies and Statistics
Positive parenting is a strategy that parents can try for themselves at home, but that's not the only place that it's used. Positive parenting has been studied extensively, and it even forms the basis of several interventions for parents who report that they're struggling to raise children with behavioral problems. These programs are designed to help teach parents how they can reduce behavior problems at home.
According to Sanders, M.R. (1999) the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program, "is a multilevel system of family intervention, which provides five levels of intervention of increasing strength … The program aims to determine the minimally sufficient intervention a parent requires to deflect a child away from a trajectory towards more serious problems. The self-regulation of parental skill is a central construct in the program." So, do these programs work?
One review and meta-analysis conducted by Thomas, R. and Zimmer-Gembeck, M.J. (2007) revealed that the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program is associated with improvements in observed child behaviors. A study by Bor, M., Sanders, M.R., and Markie-Dadds, C. (2002) on 87 preschoolers found that the program resulted in significant improvements in children with disruptive behavior and attention/hyperactivity issues.
Still need more convincing to believe that positive parenting works? Another study by Oregon State University , that compiled data on three generations of families, found that positive parenting benefitted adolescents who were at risk for juvenile delinquency and positively affected their future parenting styles. All this research is great, but what about parents who don't have access to these programs?
Positive parenting has proven itself to be a great family intervention that benefits children's mental health and behavior. One of the main limitations of positive parenting programs, according to Sanders, M.R. (2008), is that "they don't do a very good job of getting the message out to parents in the community. Taking a public health approach to positive parenting would help spread the word and potentially help more people."
If you're about to become a parent for the first time or you're having issues with your children's behavior, you might be interested in learning more about what different parenting styles are out there. Some parents aren't even aware of their parenting style. Like most things, there are benefits and drawbacks to all parenting styles, and it's up to you to choose which one is right for your family.
Positive parenting is one style that's been gaining popularity because it focuses on creating secure, confident children who are well-behaved and in-touch with their emotions. Parents who follow this style aim to create a relationship of mutual respect with their children. Instead of punishing children when they act up, positive parents look for the reasons behind the behavior. They explain why the behavior was wrong and what proper behavior would be in that situation to give kids a positive example.
If you decide that you need to make changes to your parenting style, remember to be patient with yourself. Changing your habits and learning to think more before reacting can take some time but it's worth it. Keep in mind that resources like books, the internet, and online or in-person counseling, can help you succeed on your journey to becoming a more positive, peaceful parent.