The moment I decided to be a positive parent was years before I ever had kids. It was that theoretical notion of what perfect parenting was and I was too strong willed to let anyone tell me that I would raise my kids differently.
For years I had gone to school to be a teacher, trained in classroom management and adolescent development. I knew all about the parenting styles from permissive to non-existent to authoritarian… and finally, my favorite, authoritative.
I could tell you within a week of one of these teenage children being in my class what kind of parents they had and it set the bar high for raising my own children.
It didn’t mean the kids with the authoritative parents were perfect. In fact, some of them failed my class. Some of them didn’t go to big fancy universities. But all of them were well-rounded. They lived in homes where the parents engaged in meaningful conversation, talked out logical consequences, and would strive to say yes when possible.
… and then came Jenn.
I remember the moment they placed her in my arms and taking in such a deep breath I nearly inhaled the room around me. And then two years later when Emma came into this world and my husband passed her up to me, I remember finally exhaling after what truly felt like 750 days of holding my breath.
Positive parenting was so difficult. I made so many mistakes. But I got another chance to be better, and better, and better. And over time it came more naturally. And The need for it intensified.
For many years I have poured as much of myself into all 3 of my kids as I can (which in all honesty, I haven’t poured much into myself, but I am getting better). And I have done my very best to provide a home full of peaceful parenting practices and room for them to be shaped into high-functioning adults who can think for themselves, feel deeply, and respond appropriately.
How Positive Parenting is effective at raising well-rounded kids
Some days I feel really burnt out. Screaming toddlers, clingy babies, and a very indignant 5-year-old make me start questioning in my mind “Is there an easier way? Why did I choose positive parenting? Is there a full moon outside because these kids are crazy?!”
But I have to remind myself that being a respectful parent that empowers, uplifts, and guides is what will grow respectful, uplifting, empowered, and well-guided adults.
And by no means am I perfect.
In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Great parents fail but learn from their mistakes. They strive to do better, to be better, to make a positive change for the sake of their kids.
Being respectful to our children helps them feel secure
Now, I am one of the most sensitive and emotional people on earth. So this is hard for me.
But learning to not escalate a situation by injecting peace and calm gives kids a baseline for their own emotions, throttling their rage, tears, and outbursts of overwhelming feelings.
Positive parenting develops healthy emotional development
When approaching strong negative emotions, a positive parent will gently guide a child to a more appropriate way to handle how they feel.
But what’s even more important is that we’re not working to make our kids fear us. They know that even if they disappoint us, we won’t fly off the handle, but help guide them towards natural consequences and seek out a logical solution… even as young toddlers.
Gently guiding our kids to grow their life skills and problem solve empowers them to believe they can do more
Raising kids to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish is imperative. Not only does it build their self-confidence, but it helps them understand their own abilities.
Letting them be a part of the family and working along side us helps develop life skills like learning to fold clothes, clean dishes, and cook food. They feel like they are an important and needed part of the process, making it a smooth transition between being the helper and the doer as they get older.
Positive parenting builds a child’s self-esteem
Maybe this is just reiterating what I have said in so many of the other points, but it needs to be said plainly.
Positive Parenting is based on mutual respect.
This means our kids feel like they are valued and valuable… and every single soul is valuable. When we strive to raise our kids without yelling, coercing, and punishing (vs positively disciplining), they also respond more positively.
Being a mindful parent helps kids know their self-worth
Your time is valuable. And you’re spending it with them. They feel like they belong and have a meaningful place in the family. They know that the quality time spent is worth something and so are they.
This is why we personally strive to give experience gifts and to play games instead of watching Tv when possible.
Having a listening ear helps them develop empathy
When we stop and listen to the frustrations of our kids when they feel a sense of injustice or if there has been a fight, it develops their confidence in us. That even though we are the authority (AKA authoritative parent) and we get the final say, we have taken the time to hear them out.
We can learn from them. We can get insight into how they feel, who they are, and what they stand for.
I don’t ever want my kids to feel strongly about making change in the world only to feel like they simply won’t be heard or that because they’re not in charge, they can’t try to make improvements.
And that starts now. At home.
So I listen. And I ask questions.
- “What happened”
- “How does this make you feel?”
- “What end result do/did you want?”
- “What thoughts do you feel deeply and want to express?”
All that and a little bit of eye contact in both benign and tense situations helps diffuse big emotions and build mutual respect between parent and child.
Encouraging our kids builds appreciation both ways
Along the same lines of communication, encouragement is essential for our children. If we’re not cheering them on, who is?
It also develops a heart of love and appreciation towards our kids the more we seek out to validate and encourage our kids (this also goes for marriages).
Keeping children accountable with natural consequences improves their logic and reasoning skills
Did you know positive discipline and natural consequences have the power to prevent power struggles? When there is a logical answer, then there’s no debate and therefore no power struggle.
When Jenn started school we told her that we expected her to eat her whole lunch every day. the natural reward was that she would get to participate in pizza day each Friday. If she didn’t, she would miss out. There was nothing for her to argue if she didn’t hold up her end of the deal.
Similarly, we implement natural consequences for misbehaving. Sometimes it’s difficult to reason it out even as adults, but once the habit starts it gets easier. A child didn’t do their chores? As an adult if we don’t work, we don’t get paid. So it leads to the discussion about we have to work before we can play. Other logical consequences include having to keep hands in pockets for hitting (don’t get to use your hands if you can’t use them for good), taking a moment of silence for using words inappropriately, or when a child lies, the consequence for dishonesty is not getting to make as many decisions or they may not get to experience as many “yes” answers to their questions because trust has been eroded.
The crux of the matter is that positive parenting creates a gentle environment for children to grow up in
And when we take the time to nurture both the big and small moments, we’re investing in their longterm development and growth into adulthood.
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Need help reframing how you see or respond to situations with your kids? Remember that positive parenting is not permissive parenting and YES there is such thing as positive discipline!
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 4 children living in Boston, MA and believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!