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8 Essential Positive Parenting Tips and Discipline Guide

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 based on the assumption that children are born with good intention and the desire to do the right thing. It emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and using positive instructions to discipline. The parenting practices focus on teaching 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 strategies​1​. 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 discipline allows them to parent in ways that reflect their family values and beliefs. Positive parents are sensitive to their children’s needs, developmental stage and temperament.

mother father daughter hug family meetings

Benefits of Positive Parenting

Fewer Behavior problems

Decades of studies have shown that using positive discipline yields better outcomes in terms of the child’s behavior and emotional growth.

Harsh, punitive parenting in early childhood tends to result in more behavior problems in children. Parents who are cold, uninvolved and unresponsive raise kids with worse self-regulation, which further exacerbates the child’s behavior issues​2​.

Close Parent-Child relationship

With positive discipline, parents no longer need to punish to correct problematic behavior. There is no more yelling, power struggle or hostility. The parent-child dynamics change and your relationship with your child improves.

Mutual respect and open communication in positive parenting also strengthen the parent-child relationship.

mother daughter watch ipad together practicing positive parenting

Better Self-Esteem and mental well-being

Positive parenting raises kids with higher self-esteem. They believe they can do things as well as most other people, and they have confidence in themselves. These children are also more resilient. They bounce back readily from adversities.

Kids who are resilient with self-confidence have fewer conflicts and more connections with their parents. They tend to have better mental health​3​.

Higher school performance

Positively parented children tend to have more academic success​4,5​. Better parent-child relationship resulted from this parenting style is also highly associated with better school performance.

mother daughter study in front of laptop using positive parenting solutions

Better Social Competence

Children of positive parents have better social problem solving skills and social self-efficacy​6​. They are more well-adjusted. They tend to have a positive sense of self and youth development.

More Parenting Self-esteem and Less Stress

Children are not the only ones who have higher self-esteem because of positive parenting. Researchers have found that the parents also gain self-esteem and self-confidence in their parenting. These parents also have less parenting-related stress as the children are well-behaved.

Father ties shoes for son and smiles - positive parenting tips in the world

For more help on calming tantrums, check out this step-by-step guide

Calm the Tantrums ebook

8 Essential Positive Parenting Tips

1. Focus On The Reasons Behind The Behaviors

There is always a reason 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 what they want, they would at least 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. Knowing the reason behind the problematic 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 because 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. You’re also teaching them good manners.

girl fights with baby brother over stack toy. in positive discipline, no one plays the blame game

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.

Another reason for disobedience is a lack of a close parent-child relationship, which forms the foundation for a child’s growth, development and future success.

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 can firmly and kindly tell a child that she cannot have what she wants. There is no need for yelling, using a mean tone or talking 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, punishment cannot stop bad behavior, nor does it also teach good ones.

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 correctly​7​.

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.

Time-out 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 how to discipline positively.

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. 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 parenting​8​.

7. 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.

8. 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.

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.

Self-motivated learner
Have trouble motivating your child? Check out:

3 Keys To Motivating Kids

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.


References

  1. 1.
    McVittie J, Best AM. The impact of Alderian-based parenting classes on self-reported parental behavior. The Journal of Individual Psychology. 2009;65(3):264-285.
  2. 2.
    Connell A, Bullock BM, Dishion TJ, Shaw D, Wilson M, Gardner F. Family Intervention Effects on Co-occurring Early Childhood Behavioral and Emotional Problems: A Latent Transition Analysis Approach. J Abnorm Child Psychol. Published online May 13, 2008:1211-1225. doi:10.1007/s10802-008-9244-6
  3. 3.
    Smokowski PR, Bacallao ML, Cotter KL, Evans CBR. The Effects of Positive and Negative Parenting Practices on Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes in a Multicultural Sample of Rural Youth. Child Psychiatry Hum Dev. Published online June 1, 2014:333-345. doi:10.1007/s10578-014-0474-2
  4. 4.
    Eisenberg N, Zhou Q, Spinrad TL, Valiente C, Fabes RA, Liew J. Relations Among Positive Parenting, Children’s Effortful Control, and Externalizing Problems: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study. Child Development. Published online September 2005:1055-1071. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00897.x
  5. 5.
    Neppl TK, Conger RD, Scaramella LV, Ontai LL. Intergenerational continuity in parenting behavior: Mediating pathways and child effects. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2009:1241-1256. doi:10.1037/a0014850
  6. 6.
    Leidy MS, Guerra NG, Toro RI. Positive parenting, family cohesion, and child social competence among immigrant Latino families. Journal of Family Psychology. Published online 2010:252-260. doi:10.1037/a0019407
  7. 7.
    Riley AR, Wagner DV, Tudor ME, Zuckerman KE, Freeman KA. A Survey of Parents’ Perceptions and Use of Time-out Compared to Empirical Evidence. Academic Pediatrics. Published online March 2017:168-175. doi:10.1016/j.acap.2016.08.004
  8. 8.
    Gouveia MJ, Carona C, Canavarro MC, Moreira H. Self-Compassion and Dispositional Mindfulness Are Associated with Parenting Styles and Parenting Stress: the Mediating Role of Mindful Parenting. Mindfulness. Published online March 2, 2016:700-712. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0507-y

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