Contents Introduction - What is positive parenting? Benefit 1 - Stronger Parent-child Relationships Benefit 2 - More Effective Communication Benefit 3 - Less Negative Behaviour Benefit 4 - Greater Self-esteem and Happiness Benefit 5 - Sets A Positive Example For Children Conclusion
Introduction - What is positive parenting?
When it comes to parenting, almost everyone has one thing in common, a desire to 'get it right' and a fear of 'getting it wrong'. After all, you're shaping a human being and preparing them for the future. That's a huge responsibility.
As you probably know from the millions of parenting books available, almost everyone has an opinion on how parents should raise their children, and there isn't one right way.
In addition, the term 'parenting' doesn't really just apply to parents. If the term 'parent' or 'caregiver' is defined as 'an individual whose presence impacts the health and wellbeing of children', I know many grandparents, aunts, uncles, step-parents and even older brothers and sisters who play this important and meaningful role in a child's life.
Having worked with children and their families for almost 20 years, I have seen the results of practically every kind of parenting style you can imagine. But one strategy that stood out for me as the most effective at creating resilient, kind, thoughtful, self-aware and compassionate children, was Positive Parenting.
My support of this strategy was further cemented when I studied for my masters degree in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology and began to understand the practice in relation to psychological theory.
Positive Parenting is based on a few key principles, the main one being a focus on your child's strengths rather than trying to correct their weaknesses. This is achieved by recognising, rewarding and reinforcing positive behaviours and impulses, and by creating a warm, supportive and empathic environment that makes it easier for your child to cooperate and behave constructively.
Why do I support this strategy? Because when children—including those who begin life with significant disadvantages— experience positive and supportive parenting, they are far more likely to thrive.
Below, I will outline some of the benefits that come from following the key principles of positive parenting.
Benefit 1 - Stronger Parent-child Relationships
By trying to see the best in them and making time to understand what they're experiencing, you show your child that you value their side of the story and believe in them.
Spending time creating positive interactions, such as having conversations, playing and making sense of the world together, are the classic cornerstones of positive parenting.
When your child trusts that you value them and believe in their ability to be good, they are more likely to come to you when they feel unsettled and need love, support and help to achieve positive outcomes.
Benefit 2 - More Effective Communication
A core aspect of positive parenting is learning to recognise and moderate your own emotions and behaviours. All parents feel frustrated, frazzled and overwhelmed at times, but you will find that you are unable to parent positively if you are experiencing anger or stress.
In order to communicate effectively, you need to be able to approach conversations from a place of calm openness. Which may mean stepping away to take a few deep breaths, or asking for help once in a while.
When you are in an open state of mind and ready to talk calmly, you are more likely to be receptive to picking up on your child's physical and emotional cues, and help them improve their self-awareness by exploring and explaining what happened and what alternative they could choose next time.
In addition, positive communication supports their social and problem solving skills, enabling them to improve their relationships and create lasting positive connections.
One thing is certain, if you make yourself available to your child and make it clear you will stop what you are doing to talk to them when they really need you, they are more likely to come to you for guidance when they feel upset or confused.
Benefit 3 - Less Negative Behaviour
Positive parenting is not about permissive behaviours, or ignoring poor behaviour (although that can be a strategy for some low-level behaviours), instead it's about setting clear, firm and above all consistent boundaries.
Recognising and rewarding desirable behaviours increases children's self-belief and ability to make healthy, positive social choices, and providing boundaries and consequences teaches children about accountability and responsibility.
This outcome is achieved by helping your child understand what's going on inside their head when they display unwanted behaviours. Helping them make sense of their thoughts, emotions and actions will enable them to more easily understand the world around them and make better choices.
Children will always test their boundaries and exhibit patience-testing behaviour at times, but the trick is to teach discipline in a way that builds a child's self-esteem and maintains the parent-child relationship.
Benefit 4 - Greater Self-esteem and Happiness
Positive psychology theory tells us that positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, self-esteem, pro-social behaviours, and a belief that you have control over your life, are the cornerstones of happiness.
This type of supportive and optimistic parenting guides children to build their self-regulation and resilience, which increases their self-esteem and self-confidence and fosters belief in themselves and the future.
The focus on building a child's autonomy and responsibility nurtures their creativity, problem solving and communication skills, and equips them with the knowledge and tools necessary to approach life as a fully capable and happy individual.
Benefit 5 - Sets A Positive Example For Children
Much of the work in positive parenting is done through gentle coaching and questioning; but modelling desired behaviours, tools and strategies is also key.
By sharing and explaining how you feel (or might feel, if being empathetic) you can help your child to gain a deeper understanding of their emotions and how they link to their thoughts and actions.
In addition, by seeing you practising coping strategies your child is more likely to engage and try them out themselves. Stepping away to take some deep breaths when you feel angry, or going outside for some fresh air when frustrated, or writing down how you feel and talking about why, are all tools you can share with and model for your child.
Positive parents raise their children in a way that empowers them to reach their full potential as resilient and fulfilled individuals. They are warm, affectionate, loving, nurturing, empathetic and supportive, with consistent and clear expectations.
By taking the responsibility of teacher, leader and positive role-model, they encourage and reinforce positive behaviours and regularly engage in open and honest dialogues with their children, making family experiences and communication a priority.
As Heather Lonczak writes, "Positive discipline is performed in a loving way without anger, threats, yelling, or punishment. It involves clear rules, expectations, and consequences for behaviour; and consistent follow-through. It is in alignment with parents’ long-term parenting goals."
When done correctly, positive parenting is a highly effective, evidence-based style of raising children that works for almost all types of parent and child and at all developmental stages, allowing parents to approach positive parenting with confidence and optimism.
By consistently applying these parenting strategies, parents can create a deep, meaningful, respectful and above all positive connection with their child that will last a lifetime and empower them with the resilience, awareness and self-esteem to forge a bright future.
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