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What Is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting goes by many names: authoritative or gentle parenting, peaceful parenting, attachment parenting, positive discipline, mindful and conscious parenting, and others. However, the nomenclature matters less than the goals we're all trying to accomplish:

  • Raising kids with joy and fulfillment (theirs and ours)
  • Finding positive ways to teach life lessons
  • Ending power struggles
  • Influencing kids' behavior for the better

Most of all, we want connection that will last a lifetime. We want to be the types of parents whose kids run to them, rather than away from them, as they face the struggles that childhood, adolescence (and let's face it, adulthood) bring. We want to guide their development so that they can succeed in life, knowing that we've given them a positive foundation for the future.

What does positive parenting mean?

To be clear, it doesn't mean you're a pushover and that you never discipline your kids. To the contrary, it takes a lot of strength to end power struggles through connection rather than through force. In many cases, we need to rewire our brains to leave old patterns and build new ways of thinking; new ways of working with our children.

That's the essence of positive parenting techniques: we work with our children to solve problems rather than against them. When we perceive misbehavior in our kids, rather than turning to punishment as a way of "training" them, we get to the root of the problem. We find out what's driving their actions and we respond with empathy and solutions that work for all involved.

More often than not, a lack of connection is the culprit of behavior issues.

Am I saying we just focus on loving them back into better behavior? Sort of. But it's not about kids obeying us unquestioningly; it's about fostering the kind of relationship that makes our entire existence as parents, and theirs as children, more positive. More enjoyable. We welcome and encourage their questions. That's what a mutually respectful and collaborative relationship is all about.

In many of my articles, I offer parenting tips that outline exactly how to do that. You'll find my email address at the bottom of this page if you'd like me to send you additional resources, as well. There's a positive parenting program for everyone.

What does positive parenting look like in action?

For one, we stop yelling, cease all forms of physical punishment, and any other consequences that divide us from, rather than unite us with, our children. We take control of our anger and our own "big feelings"---learning how to manage them while staying calm. We don't deny kids our attention through time-outs or other punishment when we're teaching them. After all, discipline means teaching, not hurting. It's not just a bunch of tips for reference; it's a lifestyle change for the better.

Positive discipline can be firm, but as parents, our behavior needs to be that which we want our kids to model. Our own behavior is their best teacher. Parenting positively is about finding the balance of gentle and firm to guide them. It's not about power. It's about heart-to-heart connection. In fact, there's a common phrase within this approach: connect before you correct. It's a really powerful way to change the "tone" at home for the better.

The strongest overarching message that our kids need to hear is that our approval of them as a person isn't dependent upon their behavior. Our love is unconditional, even in the face of misbehavior.

What's the importance of raising our kids this way? Does it matter long-term?

First of all, it makes our jobs as parents easier. If we have fewer power struggles, everyone's happier. Mutual agreement comes more easily. We invest the time in learning solutions to our day-to-day struggles, have less to get upset about, and everyone starts to just feel, well, more happy.

And feeling better helps our kids have happier childhoods, which are linked to all sorts of benefits: "...People who have fond memories of childhood, specifically their relationships with their parents, tend to have better health, less depression and fewer chronic illnesses as older adults, according to research published by the American Psychological Association..." (source).

Each of those benefits has a ripple effect across society. For instance, better health leads to lower health care costs for the country. When society is healthier psychologically, physically, and financially, we all end up with a happier existence.

Is positive parenting based on evidence? Where's the science? Where's the proof it works?

Parents want to do what's best for their children, so we don't take random parenting tips at face value. We want to see WHY we should raise our kids one way versus another. Fortunately, there's plenty of evidence that shows authoritative methods are best not only for our children's development, but also for our long-term relationships with our family.

A few scholarly studies that address various aspects of the science behind this positive and authoritative style are here:

An excerpt from Parenting Science:

"...Kids raised by authoritative parents are more likely to become independent, self-reliant, socially accepted, academically successful, and well-behaved. They are less likely to report depression and anxiety, and less likely to engage in antisocial behavior like delinquency and drug use. Research suggests that having at least one authoritative parent can make a big difference (Fletcher et al 1999).

An excerpt from Parenting Style and Its Correlates:

"...Children and adolescents whose parents are authoritative rate themselves and are rated by objective measures as more socially and instrumentally competent than those whose parents are nonauthoritative..."

An excerpt from Authoritative Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: An Ecological Journey:

"...Adolescents raised in authoritative homes are better adjusted and more competent; they are confident about their abilities, competent in areas of achievement, and less likely than their peers to get into trouble..."

From the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development:

"...Information and education on optimal...styles and early establishment of effective practices are both important to a child’s social adjustment and success. In many situations, adoption of a flexible and warm authoritative...style is most beneficial for a child’s social, intellectual, moral and emotional growth..."

Where can I learn more?

Tips on how to parent this way are available from many books and other resources. I recommend books from this list. Again, this isn't about changing our kids; it's about following parenting guidance that changes our relationship with them, and we---as adults---own that. Our ability to teach successfully stems from our ability to grow our own thinking.

Follow my Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest pages for parenting tips and training for every stage in your child's development, from infancy through toddler years and childhood. I can speak with you on the phone or meet with you online.

If you'd like me to send you my new articles when I publish them, you can subscribe on the blog page.

Whether you're a mom, a dad, or another care giver, consider me your parenting guide; you're still in charge of where to take your relationship with your child. I can help keep you on the right path. Not only will I share my research and guidance based on years of study, but I'll also share my own relatable experience as a mom. Further, I can recommend third-party online tools and training to suit your needs.

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