Positive parenting also known as empathetic, authoritative, gentle, or peaceful parenting is a parenting style that avoids imposing punishments and uses positive forms of discipline. A glimpse into the household of a positive parent and it would be easy to wonder, is positive parenting permissive?
Positive parents either do not, or try their best not to:
- use time outs or grounding,
- chastise, or
As soon as you remove the above-mentioned practices from your parenting repertoire, parenting becomes so much harder. You’re left without a lot of standard tactics in your arsenal. You have very few defaults. As such, positive parenting requires that you are constantly on top of things. A person who chooses positive parenting strategies must constantly evaluate their approach, their forms of discipline, and their vigilance towards negative behaviours. Sometimes it feels easier just to revert back to the tactics previous generations. Here are some of the many tactics available when practising positive parenting.
Positive parenting strategies include:
- Parenting pre-emptively: This means anticipating your child’s needs by making sure they’re set up for success in challenging, new, or overstimulating environments. Also, knowing when to end an activity, feeding them before they’re too hungry, and making sure they get enough sleep are all necessary basics for positive parenting.
- Setting expectations: Setting a child up for success is key, but what comes next is setting expectations. Explaining the plan for the day, having a set routine, and outlining behavioural expectations are essential pieces to positive parenting. Even in situations your child has been in countless times, it can be very beneficial to describe what is expected. For instance, even if your toddler has been to a library numerous times, it is highly beneficial to pre-empt each visit by explaining we need to whisper while we are inside.
- Parenting empathetically: Providing your child with the understanding and the words to navigate their upset is crucial. By validating their anger, sadness, or frustration, children are more likely to listen to discipline that follows. “Fostering empathy the ability to identify with another person’s feelings can serve as an
antidote to aggression and is crucial to good parenting.” – M. Gordon
- Offering alternatives to poor choices of behaviour: Instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” “Calm down,” or “Stop crying,” positive parents choose phrases that suggest behaviour to resolve the issue. For instance, “If you want to hit, hit this pillow,” and “I need you to use an indoor voice,” actually give a child information about what they could be doing instead of the undesirable behaviour.
- Hugging it out: There is a growing body of evidence against the use of timeouts. They don’t increase self-regulation. And, they disrupt the parent/child bond by pushing the child away until they can behave. When a child is incredibly upset, angry, hurt, or frustrated, a wonderful way to help them feel safe, calm, and understood is by hugging them. Not only is it the opposite of a timeout, it also is a reaffirming way to listen to discipline.
- Apologising and talking about their own big emotions: Just as there is no perfect person, there is no perfect parent. While all of us strive to do out best, we feel big feelings too. We feel pushed to our limits, exasperated, tired, stressed out and annoyed. And, there are times we react because of these feelings. The key in these moments is to forgive ourselves. Then, talk to your child about your bad choice. It models an invaluable lesson: “I make mistakes too. So, I apologise and will try better next time.”
- Celebrating accomplishments: A positive parent understands the importance of celebrating a child’s good behaviour or developmental accomplishment by using warm, genuine words of praise.
So is positive parenting permissive parenting? Does it actually work?
While positive parenting avoids the use of punishment, it is a paradigm that does not condone bad behaviour. In contrast, permissive parenting excuses poor behaviour and avoids discipline. Authoritarian parenting, or parenting that uses punishment as its main source of shaping behaviour, of course, seeks to extinguish bad behaviour too. In contrast, however, positive parenting chooses alternative forms of discipline to teach a child. Research has shown that positive parenting strategies increase a child’s moral reasoning. Talking it out, showing empathy, and reasoning makes a child motivated to do better. In comparison, children who are punished regularly act to avoid having their parents upset. “[R]esearch studies on discipline consistently show that strict, or authoritarian, child-raising actually produces kids with lower self-esteem who behave worse than other kids — and therefore get punished more! Strict parenting actually creates behavior problems in children.” – Dr. Laura Markham
In my own home, what I have witnessed is two kids who are starting to internalise our standards. It is a constant, all-encompassing process. Some of the most validating aspects of using positive parenting strategies include their concern for others (including me) and their loving natures. More and more, when they’re made a bad choice, my kids run to me with their arms spread wide ready to hug and talk it out. We use timeouts, however, I go with them. Our family is definitely imperfect. This methodology not only is substantiated by research, it also makes for a happier family.