Spoiler: The truth about positive parenting is that it’s not about hippy, dippy parents raising spoiled “special snowflakes.”
Positive parenting has gotten a bad rap. Maybe because it conjures an image of parents walking around with a permanent smile pasted on their face, shielding their kids from the realities of the world, refusing to say “no” to their children, and indulging their every whim out of fear of upsetting them.
But here’s the truth – that’s NOT what positive parenting is about.
On the spectrum of parenting philosophies, positive parenting (aka authoritative) is smack-dab in the middle between “do as I say or else” authoritarian parenting and “do whatever you want” permissive parenting. Positive parenting is kind AND firm. It’s not about being positive and happy all the time, but rather acknowledging the challenges your children face and responding in ways that are respectful and helpful.
So what exactly IS positive parenting? And how DOES it work?
There’s a wide range of positive parenting styles and techniques out there, but from my experience as a parent coach studying and using positive parenting, I’ve created a “recipe” that I found works. The “best of the best” of positive parenting all in one.
Here are my 10 truths about positive parenting. Positive parenting is about…
#1 – Preparing our children for the real world.
The good, the bad, and the ugly – we do this by teaching our children the social, emotional, and life skills they need to be successful adults. Parenting challenges transform into opportunities to teach our children.
#2 – Experiencing natural consequences
These are an important part of learning and growing. Punishment designed out of anger to make a kid “pay” for their mistake isn’t helpful and is not what positive parenting is about.
#3 – Having our eye on the long-term results.
What do we ultimately want for our children? Do we want to foster immediate compliance or long-term independence?
#4 – Recognizing that our relationship and connection with our children is the most important tool we have as a parent (especially true when they become teens).
Punishment pushes kids away; it does not draw them to us. When our kids are connected to us in a healthy way, we are better able to teach and influence them in positive ways.
#5 – Putting the focus on identifying what is causing the misbehavior, not on punishing the misbehavior itself.
Seeing the misbehavior as simply a symptom of a lagging skill enables us to help our children achieve healthy behavior change for the long-term.
#6 – Recognizing that fear-based, punitive parenting – yelling, threats, etc. – can result in children who become people pleasers, constantly conforming to gain the approval of others.
Positive parenting focuses on helping children develop their own self-esteem, internal motivation, and confidence.
#7 – Having realistic expectations for our children.
We need to recognize that just like mom and dad lose their cool sometimes, sometimes our kids do, too. When they do explode, instead of shaming them and punishing them for being human, we can focus on empowering our children by acknowledging and validating their big emotions, helping them recognize and name their emotions and practice emotional regulation skills.
#8 – Having realistic expectations for ourselves, too.
There is no such thing as a “perfect” parent. Our mistakes give us a golden opportunity to model for our children what to do when they inevitably make a mistake. We can model how to make repairs, take accountability, forgive ourselves, and identify what we can do differently next time.
#9 – Acknowledging that we can’t control our children (especially when they become taller than us), but we can work on controlling how we respond.
Using the positive parenting model, we can set boundaries, model self-regulation skills, choose not to engage, and more.
#10 – Making sure our children know our love is unconditional by not withholding our love when they make a mistake.
Mistakes don’t define who they are, and they are worthy of love no matter what choices they make.
Positive parenting tools and strategies are often more effective in achieving long-term cooperation and teaching life skills, and this approach FEELS better too. Parents feel better about the tools they’re using (no more tossing and turning all night with the guilt of harsh parenting) and children feel more capable and connected to their parents.
We’ve all heard the saying,
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
If what you’re doing isn’t working, consider giving positive parenting a try!