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What is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting is a lifestyle and method of parenting which relies on communication and love rather than strict punishment. It’s claimed that positive parenting results in calmer parents with happier children

Parents and children looking very happyBeing a parent can be hard work. Yes, it’s rewarding but it’s also a challenge at times! Children need discipline but how do you go about it? One method, which relies on communication rather than strict punishment, is positive parenting. This guide will help you become a more positive and calmer parent, with happier and better behaved children.

What are the different styles of parenting?

It’s generally accepted that there are three different styles of parenting – strict or authoritarian, lenient or permissive, and firm or authoritative. Here’s a brief description of each:

  • Strict – The traditional, old-fashioned way to raise children. There are sets of rules and severe punishments if these are broken. Physical abuse is often used as a disciplinary tool
  • Lenient – Popular since the 1960s, lenient parents set few limits for their children and, instead, encourage them to ‘be free’. This style can cause a lack of respect for the parents
  • Firm – This style of parenting is a ‘middle way’ between strict and lenient. There are rules but punishments are less severe and children are listened to, not just punished

Despite what you may believe, positive parenting is not lenient, but firm. Rules and boundaries are set, which have to be obeyed. However, they are also loved, nurtured and encouraged to be happy and emotionally strong.

Why should I use positive parenting?

There are many advantages to positive parenting, for you and for your child. Children learn how to behave by copying their parents, so being a positive parent means living in a way that you’d like your child to follow. Here are just a few of the benefits positive parenting can bring:

  • Calmer household – If emotions run high in your home then your children will pick up on it. Likewise, if you are calm and happy then your kids are more likely to feel the same. Positive parenting means learning to deal with negative emotions and so, being able to relax
  • Conflict resolution – Families argue from time to time, and children see it happen. But they also witness how situations are resolved. Being a positive parent means solving disputes in a calm way. This shows children that people who love each other can maintain stable relationships, even if they do fall out occasionally
  • Responsibility – Positive parenting does not protect children from the consequences of their actions. It teaches them that whatever they do affects the future of themselves and others. This means that bad behaviour is punished but it also means (something that is often neglected by parents) good behaviour brings positive events. That doesn’t mean rewarding children whenever they behave well, rather, it means that love is a constant in your home and not a reward

At what age should I start positive parenting?

It’s never too early (or too late!) to start being a positive parent. Babies, you might think, are too young to notice how we behave – but you’d be wrong. It can be stressful sometimes, when your child won’t stop crying or spits out whatever you try to feed them, but they are expressing themselves in the only way they know how. The way in which you respond sends clear messages which may affect them for the rest of their lives. Under no circumstances shout at or hit your baby.

Children learn the most when they are toddlers but this can be a testing time for parents! Tantrums are all too common during the ‘terrible twos’. It’s a period in which children discover how to behave and so they seem to be testing their limits. No matter how hard things get, stay calm and remember that this phase won’t last long!

School-age children are finding themselves as they begin to become more independent. Communication is key at this age so talk often and ask about their day at school. They’ll also be better able to understand why certain behaviour is unacceptable and to face up to the consequences of their actions.

The teenage years are perhaps the most difficult for parents. Children start to form their own opinions, which may be the opposite of yours. Despite this, they still need your support. Respect their privacy but don’t stop talking to them. Ask about their day and, most importantly, listen to them without judgement.

Children of different ages have different needs but one thing they all want (even teenagers, believe it or not!) is attention.

How can I build positive relationships with my child?

Positive relationships between parent and child are a major part of positive parenting. Children should respect mum and dad, but they shouldn’t be scared of them. So, how can we build positive relationships with our children? Here are a few tips which should help:

  • Admit when you are wrong – Many parents believe that they are always right. Here’s a piece of news for you – no-one is always right. If you are prepared to admit when you are wrong (and to change your mind), then your children will have more respect for you
  • Communication – How we communicate with others affects our relationship with them. Instead of getting angry, try to state your case in a calm way. For example, if your child always leaves the kitchen in a mess, rather than rounding on them, explain why this upsets you and ask them to be more tidy in future
  • Compromise – When two people disagree then conflict often results – but it needn’t always be the case. Try to compromise wherever possible, so long as this doesn’t go against any rules you’ve already set
  • Learn from experience – Nobody knows exactly how to be a parent. We learn how to do the job as we go along. Whenever you notice a positive change in your child’s behaviour then think how and why it happened. There may well be lessons you can learn from good, and even bad, experiences
  • Listen – When others speak to us we may be guilty of not hearing what they are really saying. With children, make sure that you understand what they are trying to get across. This will really help you to see things from their point of view. Even if we don’t agree with someone, it’s important to see where they are coming from
  • Remember the positives – It’s easy to find fault in those we live with. We always notice the bad things but often forget the good. Make sure that you compliment your children more often than you criticise. Home should be a happy place but, if we’re forever being ‘got at’, it can become an unpleasant place to be
  • Show interest – If your child is interested in something (football or dancing for example) then talk to them about it, even if you don’t really like the subject yourself. For example, if your child gets excited because their team won the FA Cup then don’t respond with ‘That’s nice’. Instead, show that you are interested and ask them about it. Try something like ‘Wow! What was the result and who scored the goals?’

What is emotional intelligence?

We all want our children to be academically intelligent, but emotional intelligence could be even more important. What exactly is emotional intelligence? Well, it’s the ability to recognise emotions in ourselves and in others. When we understand emotions then we can use this ability to control our actions, rather than letting our emotions rule us. We can also understand the behaviour of those around us better too, which makes us more empathetic.

Many of us try to block unpleasant emotions, but we have them for a reason. If we can learn to recognise them then they cease to have such control over us. When your child is upset then talk to them and discuss why they feel so bad. It’s OK to be sad occasionally and if your child understands this then they will be more resilient in the future.

And it’s not just negative emotions – the same goes for positive ones. When your child feels happy then talk to them and help them to understand why. Being able to recognise how different situations make us feel will help us deal with the things we’ll face in future life.

How can I stop negative thinking?

The way we think can have a huge impact on our lives. It’s a fact that optimists are much happier than pessimists. Positive thinking is part and parcel of positive parenting so encourage your child, as well as yourself, to think positively.

Here are some useful tips to help you avoid negative thinking:

  • Love who you are – Beware of that voice in your head which says things like, ‘You’re not clever enough’ or ‘You’re not funny’. Would you hang around with a friend if they kept saying such horrible things? Of course not! So don’t accept them from yourself
  • Focus on the positives – See if you can replace that negative voice in your head with a positive one. Think of good things about yourself and your life and give these the attention you’ve been paying to negative thoughts
  • Don’t replay bad events in your mind – When something goes wrong - a mistake at work, an argument with your child, an embarrassing faux pas – don’t go over it again and again. Instead, learn from the experience and try to avoid it in future, then cast it to the back of your mind
  • See problems in perspective – Sometimes, bad events can seem like disasters. When you are faced with a problem try to look at it from a distance – you’ll find that many of the mountains we have to climb turn out, in hindsight, to be little more than molehills
  • Be nice – Act positive and you’ll feel positive. Smile often and help people where you can, even if it’s just letting someone into your lane when driving. Being nice to others makes us feel nice about ourselves

If you think positively then your behaviour will follow suit and your children will learn by example that it’s normal to be happy.

How do positive parents discipline their children?

Father smiling down on his baby as he feeds it

No child is perfect and they all need some discipline from time to time. Rules are necessary so that children know what is acceptable and what is not. The rules will differ depending on the parents but, whatever yours are, make sure you stick to them.

How parents choose to discipline their children if they break the rules also differs. For positive parents the focus is on communication. Here are some tips on discipline you may find useful:

  • Make sure that your child understands the rules. Keep them simple
  • When your child misbehaves, explain to them why it is unacceptable
  • Don’t get personal. Your child should know that you love them no matter what – it’s their bad behaviour you don’t like
  • Avoid arguments. When emotions are heated it’s better to walk away and come back when both sides have calmed down
  • Make sure that your child knows they can talk to you about anything and everything
  • Listen to what your child says. If you understand what they think then you are closer to understanding their behaviour
  • As a last resort, seek advice. You could talk to your GP or visit the Family Lives website. It offers confidential and professional support and advice for parents
  • Keep calm. This is the most important piece of advice. When we are angry or upset we can say or do things we’ll later regret. Never make any decisions or take any action when you are angry or upset

So, what is positive parenting? It’s a style of parenting, but it’s also a way of life. It means building positive relationships with your family, thinking positively and understanding your emotions. Positive parenting makes for happier children and happier parents too. Now, isn’t that a positive thing?

For more parenting advice, have a browse through Education Quizzes’ Knowledge Bank. It has dozens of articles which aim to answer parents’ questions on topics as varied as the 11+ exam and protecting your child from bullying. It’s well worth a visit.

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