Parents are tasked with teaching, protecting, and nurturing children while also providing life skills that help them develop into productive adults. As children grow, there are a variety of approaches to parenting that may be considered either beneficial or detrimental, depending on whom you ask. As parents become more educated about what works and what doesn’t, many are embracing positive parenting as a philosophy for raising resilient, capable, happy children.
Critics of the positive parenting model assert that it is nothing more than a lazy approach to child-rearing, but in fact, positive parenting is not passive or indulgent. Skeptics of this philosophy sometimes say that positive parenting rewards children for doing the bare minimum and does not give them a real-world view of cause and effect. However, this simply isn’t true.
Positive parenting is not about coddling children or eliminating consequences. Instead, positive parenting is based on a simple truth: children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Here, we’ll explain more what positive parenting is and how you can implement it in your family.
The Story Behind Positive Parenting
Positive parenting was developed in the early 20th century by psychologist Alfred Adler. In contrast to the prevailing attitude at the time, Adler believed that each child should be treated as an individual and given the dignity and respect that was often only reserved for adults. Although the idea was criticized 100 years ago, it is now widely accepted.
Adler realized that there was a clear difference between giving children respect and failing to set boundaries and enforce consequences. Respect was encouraged with his approach, but Adler also cautioned against overprotectiveness and discouraged parenting styles that led to bad habits such as lack of empathy and feelings of entitlement. His positive parenting isn’t passive or overly permissive; he agreed that parents need to set consequences.
However, Adler also believed that parents needed to have realistic expectations for their children’s behavior and to clearly communicate these expectations to them. This way, children always know what to expect. In sum, Adler’s positive parenting approach centers on being both compassionate and firm at the same time.
Benefits of Positive Parenting
There is mounting evidence that positive parenting has a variety of benefits for children of all ages ranging from infancy to near adulthood. The approach can also help parents too.
Positive parenting can help parents raise children who:
- Feel emotionally connected to their family and secure in their family’s love, and are thus more confident.
- Are independent and do not need to be helped with every little thing.
- Have empathy for others, because they know that other people care about them.
- Know that their actions have consequences.
Benefits of positive parenting for adults include:
- A stronger bond between parent and child-focused less on discipline and punishment, and more on love.
- Less yelling
- A calmer household
- Fewer conflicts with your children
All Behavior Has a Source
All positive parenting centers on understanding the root cause of children’s behavior. In this philosophy, all behavior—both good and bad—has a source. It’s important for parents to understand the underlying issues that may be causing a child to behave in a certain way, and to recognize their child’s basic emotional needs. Every child (and every adult) has the need to belong and the need to feel significant. In other words, children need to feel secure in their place within their family. They need to know that their parents love them no matter what. They also need to feel that they have some power and control over their world. They need to feel like they make a difference to their family and are significant.
Tantrums and other meltdowns are often more complicated than just the situation at hand, especially in younger children. The reasons for these mini breakdowns may seem illogical to an adult but to a young child, they can seem like very valid responses to a situation. Remember that children don’t always know how to communicate exactly what they are feeling. If you start by viewing misbehavior as an indication that something is not quite right in your child’s emotional world—rather than chalking it up to willfulness—you can figure out what’s wrong and move forward positively.
Positive parenting challenges parents and caregivers to take a step back and understand where their child is coming from, address the behavior at the moment, and find a way to positively move on from it. The child may still be upset, but it is the parent’s reaction that sets the tone going forward. Positive parenting seeks to turn would-be debacles into teachable moments that can help both parent and child connect.
Discipline is also an integral part of positive parenting. Setting clear boundaries and applying consequences consistently helps children understand established rules and what will happen if they break them. If you set a consequence for certain behavior and you do not follow through, this can confuse the child, or make them feel like the rules aren’t applied fairly.
Test Positive Parenting for Yourself
The goal of positive parenting is to raise children who feel safe, secure, and loved, and to reduce conflicts between parents and children over behavior. It’s not a silver bullet that magically results in well-behaved children who never act out. Positive parenting can also be difficult—it’s all too easy to become frustrated and yell when your child is doing something you told them not to do thousands of times already. It takes a concentrated, consistent effort from parents and caregivers to practice positive parenting.
As parents, we sometimes have to unlearn negative habits. Don’t be too hard on yourself and pat yourself on the back for taking the initiative to learn about positive parenting.
Learn more about what your parenting style is here.