Dr. V.S. Gayathri
The Magic of Positive Parenting!
“One day, your child will make a mistake or a bad choice and run to you instead of away form you and in that moment you will know the immense value of peaceful, positive, respectful parenting.” — L.R. Knost
We have been hearing a lot about positive parenting, but are you sure you know what exactly it is and how different it is from any other type? Let us explore it a bit more and see if you are doing it right.
The roots of positive parenting rise from the work of Austrian psychologist, Alfred who believed that children have a real need to feel connected to those around them. When they are in a responsive and interactive environment, they thrive and are less likely to play up.
One definition suggested by researchers, Seay, and colleagues in 2014, states that:
“Positive parenting is the continual relationship of a parent(s) and a child or children that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally.”
Positive parenting deals with:
Works with children’s strengths instead of picking at their weaknesses
Understands children’s developmental needs and respond appropriately
Recognises, rewards, and reinforces positive behaviours
Recognises the child as an individual with rights
Builds trust, communication, and respect in the parent-child relationship
What does the research say?
The Positive Parenting Research Team (PPRT) from the University of Southern Mississippi (Nicholson, 2019) is involved in various studies aimed at examining the impact of positive parenting and they seek to promote positive parenting behaviors within families.
Researchers at the Gottman Institute also investigated the impact of positive parenting by developing a 5-step ‘emotion coaching’ program designed to build children’s confidence and to promote healthy intellectual and psychosocial growth.
Gottman’s five steps for parents include:
awareness of emotions;
connecting with your child;
listening to your child;
naming emotions; and
finding solutions (Gottman, 2019).
Gottman has reported that children of “emotional coaches” benefit from a more positive developmental trajectory relative to kids without emotional coaches. Moreover, an evaluation of emotional coaching by Bath Spa University found several positive outcomes for families trained in emotional coaching, such as parental reports of a 79% improvement in children’s positive behaviors and well-being (Bath Spa University, 2016).
Overall, research has indicated that positive parenting is related to various aspects of healthy child development. Such outcomes are neither fleeting nor temporary; and will continue well beyond childhood.
Studies have found that when parents resort to constant yelling or nagging, they typically end up feeling frustrated, angry, and then guilty afterward. The kids, in turn, may feel frustrated and angry, too, and continue to misbehave.
On the other hand, positive parenting can promote children’s confidence and provide them with the tools needed to make good choices. It also nurtures their self-esteem, creativity, belief in the future, and ability to get along with others.
Another way of thinking about the role of positive parenting is in terms of resilience. We will talk a bit more about it later.
Effective parenting involves effective discipline, and there are three F’s that make it easy to remember, and they are firm, fair, and friendly.
Positive parents should:
- Make expectations clear.
- Be consistent and reliable.
- Show affection and appreciation.
- Seek to understand their children.
- Encourage curiosity, independence, and personal development.
What are the different aspects of positive parenting?
Spend more one-on-one time: Spending regular quality time with your kids and modeling good behavior is by far the best thing you can do to help them develop self-confidence and healthy relationships. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes of individual time a day to see improvements.
Understand the reason behind behaviours: If parents can address the cause directly, even if the child doesn’t get exactly what they want, they would still feel that their needs are acknowledged. Having emotional support from the family is often more important than having the actual request met.
Say No to rewards: Studies have found that kids who are rewarded often are likely to lose interest in the activity they’re being rewarded for. Using encouragement is a better way to bring out the best in your kids. But avoid phrases that point to their character or personality, such as “You’re the best player on the team!” or “You’re so smart!”
Set ‘when-then’ rules: Setting clear expectations is a core aspect of positive parenting. I recommend using the “when-then” method to encourage better behavior during the most challenging times of your child’s day.
Be respectful: Be kind to your child to model how to be kind and respectful to others. Children learn by mimicking others, and you are their primary role model. Many parents mistakenly equate being positive and kind to be permissive. But, that is not true.
You still need to set boundaries, but you must enforce them in a kind and firm way. For example, you can firmly and kindly tell a child that he/she cannot have what he/she wants. There is no need to yell, use a mean tone or talk in a stern voice.
There can be many other small and big things that can be a part of positive parenting that you might want to incorporate into your parenting style based on your situation.
What is toxic positivity in parenting and why is it harmful?
Toxic positivity is dismissing negative feelings and emotions. It is when parents encourage their kids to maintain a positive mindset, even amidst difficult situations rather than teaching them to handle the situation in the right way.
Things to say to our children can encourage toxic positivity. For example:
· "Don’t worry, just stay positive!”
· "Everything happens for a reason"
· "Look on the brighter side"
· "Cheer up! It's not the end of the world"
· "It will all get better soon"
It can impact your child adversely. For example:
- They have stopped communicating about their problems.
- They dismiss all negative feelings.
- They're constantly feeling guilty about being sad or angry
- They're always trying to hide their true emotions.
- They keep repeating "it could be worse"
- They tend to portray a perfect life (no one's life is perfect)
Hence, it is important to teach our kids to deal with their emotions both negative and positive, and make them resilient. Rather than focusing on seeing your child always happy and telling them that everything will be fine, we need to emphasize providing solutions. Give them the chance to open up, to speak their truth, to talk about how they are really feeling.