Positive parenting and positive discipline focuses on teaching good behavior using kind and firm parenting techniques. Here are some effective positive parenting tips to help you create a peaceful, happy home.
What Is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting is a parenting principle that assumes children are born good and with the desire to do the right thing. It emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and using positive ways to discipline. The positive parenting approaches focus on teaching proper future behavior instead of punishing past misbehavior.
In the 1920s, Viennese psychiatrists, Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs introduced to the United States the positive parenting strategies1. Parenting experts and programs across the world have since refined and championed various positive parenting solutions.
Many modern parents embrace these gentle parenting principles because they do not want to parent the way they were raised.
Positive parenting means parents can raise happy children in ways that reflect their family values and beliefs. Positive parents are sensitive to their children’s needs, developmental stage and temperament. Among the four Baumrind parenting styles, positive parenting is an authoritative parenting style.
Benefits of Positive Parenting
Fewer Behavior problems
Decades of studies have shown that using positive discipline yields positive outcomes in terms of the child’s behavior and emotional growth.
In contrast, harsh, punitive parenting in early childhood tends to result in more behavior problems. Parents who are cold, uninvolved and unresponsive raise kids with worse self-regulation, which further exacerbates the child’s behavior issues2.
Close Parent-Child relationship
A positive parent does not need to punish their child to correct problematic behavior. There is no more yelling, power struggle or hostility. As a result, the parent-child dynamics change and their relationship improves.
Furthermore, mutual respect and open communication strengthen the parent-child relationship.
Better Self-Esteem and mental well-being
Children raised with positive parenting have higher self-esteem. They believe they can do things as well as most other kids.
These children are also more resilient. They bounce back readily from adversities.
Kids who are resilient with self-confidence have less family conflict and better connections with their loving parents. They tend to have better mental health3.
Greater school performance
Positively parented children enjoy more academic success4,5. A better parent-child relationship resulted from this parenting style is also highly associated with school performance.
Better Social Competence
Children of positive parents have better social problem solving skills and social self-efficacy6. They are more well-adjusted and have a positive sense of self.
More Parenting Self-esteem and Less Stress
Children are not the only ones who benefit from positive parenting. Researchers have found that parents who practice positive parenting also gain self-esteem and confidence in their parenting. They have less parenting-related stress as the children have self-discipline and are well-behaved.
Positive Parenting Tips
1. Focus On The Reasons Behind The Behaviors
There is always a reason why children misbehave, even though the reason may seem silly to the parents.
It is reasonable for the child, and that’s why they behave that way.
If parents can address the cause directly, even if the child doesn’t get exactly what they want, they would still feel that their needs are acknowledged. Having emotional support from the family is often more important than having the actual request met.
An acknowledged child can move on without the need to misbehave. They may still be grumpy, but they do not need to act out to get heard.
Ask them questions and get to the core of the problem. Using active listening and knowing the reason behind the challenging behaviors can also help parents avoid them in the first place.
For example, a child hit her brother. The reason could be that she was frustrated when her little brother took her toy. So teaching the younger child to ask for permission first before taking someone else’s toys will prevent the issue from arising. Doing that is also teaching them good manners.
If your child seems to never listen to you, there are two plausible reasons.
One reason could be your expectation is not reasonable. Reexamine what you ask your child to do or not to do. Is that a command or a request? Does it have a good reason?
It’s easier for a child to accept a good explanation, especially one that is relevant to their well-being, than to blindly follow an order.
2. Be Kind And Firm
Be kind to your child to model how to be kind and respectful to others.
Children learn by mimicking others, and you are their primary role model.
When a parent yells, humiliates, or calls a child names, the child learns to do the same when they’re upset.
The converse is also true. When a parent is kind and respectful despite being upset, the child learns to deal with difficulties with composure and respect.
Being kind also helps a child to calm down, be receptive to reasoning and more likely to cooperate.
Being kind is not the same as giving in.
Many parents mistakenly equate being positive and kind to being permissive.
This is simply not true.
You should still set boundaries, but at the same time, you enforce them in a kind and firm way. For example, you can firmly and kindly tell a child that she cannot have what she wants. There is no need to yell, use a mean tone or talk in a stern voice. A stern voice conveys anger while a firm voice communicates authority.
You don’t need to be mean to mean business. A firm and calm NO is as good as, if not better than, a loud and mean NO.
You can be firm in setting limits and enforcing consequences so that your child knows what to expect and what to base their future decisions on.
Practicing decision making this way helps children grow their cognitive thinking, an invaluable skill for their future success.
3. Gentle Discipline
According to Jane Nelsen in Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, punitive punishment produces Four Rs that do not help a child learn – Resentment, Rebellion, Revenge and Retreat.
Often, unnatural negative consequences cannot stop bad behavior, nor does it teach good ones.
When parents yell or punish, they create a vicious cycle of coercion. Coercive cycle has been found to link to behavioral issues and conduct problems such as oppositional defiant disorder in children.
A positive, non-punitive response is much more effective in settling an overstimulated child and engaging them to learn a new behavior.
Time-out has been widely criticized in recent years. That’s because most parents do not use it correctly7.
Time-out for kids is not meant to be a punishment but unfortunately, most parents use it that way. They isolate and restrict the child’s movement and add a secondary punishment by chastising or lecturing the child.
In the original design of time-out, the child is simply removed from the over-stimulating environment that creates or aggravates misbehavior, and then put into a non-reinforcing place to calm down and feel safe.
So some parenting experts invented “time-in” to replace time out. Time-in is actually a similar idea as the proper use of time-out, which has been proven to work with decades of research by psychologists.
Using time outs is not the only way to stop unwanted behavior. Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, also by Nelsen, is full of good advice, solutions and recommendations on effective discipline.
But it is hard to remember all 1001 solutions or always have the book handy when you need it. So it’s important to be creative and flexible when disciplining.
Remember, a positive parenting approach focuses on teaching the appropriate behavior rather than punishing the unwanted ones.
4. Be Clear and Be Consistent
Decide and explain the consequences of violating limits clearly before being enforced. In addition, parents need to be consistent and follow through on them.
If a parent is not consistent, there will be confusion.
The child may keep testing or challenging the limits to see what else can happen.
To follow through means do not say something unless you mean it.
Do not make empty threats to cancel the ball game if your kid misbehaves unless you are willing to carry it out when that happens.
5. Age-appropriate Behavior and Brain Development
Sometimes, what we think is inappropriate behavior is actually age-appropriate behavior.
For instance, tantrums in toddlers are very normal. These young kids have big emotions but cannot express them in words. They also don’t have the ability to regulate themselves because that part of the brain is not yet developed. Our child needs our help in learning to regulate.
Stages of brain development plays a part in choosing a positive parenting strategy. Toddlers and preschoolers (even a three year old) may not understand consequences. So for them, redirection instead of reasoning or giving consequences should be used.
6. Start Early
Positive parenting begins with the parent becoming a positive model for the child and gaining child development knowledge. So it can start even when your child is only a newborn baby.
Young children learn by watching their adults and how they react in different situations. Attending to your child’s cues and responding positively can make a significant difference in your child’s life.
Happy kids are not born, but nurtured.
7. Time-Out Yourself to Chill Out
Yes, you heard that right.
You need to take a time-out yourself when needed.
Inevitably, sometimes parents are just exhausted and angered by children’s unruly behavior.
But this is the true do-as-I-say-AND-as-I-do moment. If you can calm yourself down and speak in a respectful and firm way, your child learns to handle anger and disappointment with grace.
If something doesn’t go your child’s way, you want them to have the ability to self-control and remain respectful. If you cannot do it yourself, don’t expect your child to do this.
When you feel that you’re about to lose it, tell your child that you need a moment by yourself because you are upset. Give a time frame on when you’ll return and then go into another room to cool off.
Walking away not only stops the power struggles, but it also allows you the time to calm down. Remind yourself your disciplining goal, which should be to teach, not to win in a conflict.
While there, take a few deep, mindful breaths to clear your mind.
You now have more time and breathing room to think of ways to deal with the issue at hand.
When you return, you will be refreshed and ready to tackle your parenting challenges again.
Another good way to improve your self-regulation is to practice meditation. Regular meditation helps reduce stress in trying situations like this and promotes mindful parenting8.
8. Make It A Learning Opportunitypres
When children are old enough to reason (older than three), every misbehaving episode can be turned into an invaluable lesson in problem solving.
What is the lesson of breaking a toy? It means the child cannot play with it any more. That’s a natural consequence.
If the child didn’t like the toy, he should have given it to a friend or donate it so that other kids could enjoy it. If they broke a toy out of frustration, help them find other outlets to release the anger such as punching a pillow. Teach them how to think of alternative ways to resolve an issue instead of acting out.
Teach them vocabularies to explain their feelings (“I am angry because…”) rather than misbehaving. Help children develop their communication skills. Promoting language development will cut down on temper tantrums and misbehavior significantly.
9. Be Patient And Don’t Despair
Positive parenting and positive discipline won’t produce the behavioral changes parents want overnight.
Practicing Positive Parenting is not about getting fast results. It is about teaching behavior that parents want their children to emulate over time.
Be patient and don’t yield to peer pressure from other parents who prefer fear-based parenting.
At the beginning, you may have to do a lot of explaining every day. It may take longer to see real changes than traditional punishment because children need repetitions to learn. It can be weeks or even months before your child starts to get it.
But when that happens, it will be very rewarding and the benefits will last a lifetime.
Final Thoughts on Positive Parenting
Positive parenting is significantly different from the traditional harsh parenting. It requires a different mindset and parenting behaviors.
But with patience, persistence and (plenty of) practice, you can turn disciplinary moments into valuable lessons for kids.
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