Positive parenting is a technique that begins and ends with your efforts to think long-term instead of short. This method of parenting is achieved by understanding that children’s misbehaviours aren’t their fault, but rather a consequence caused by their inability to express themselves or understand the norms of behaviour. Through careful and well thought-out training and language use, any parent can transform their child into the best version of themselves. Here’s how:
Identify the motivation for the behaviour
Positive parenting teaches that there is always something that is motivating your child’s misbehaviour. Children might seem like they are prone to irrational outburst or tantrums about something trivial, but there is often something deeper to be explored at the root of the behaviour. As an example, a child who is not receiving enough positive interaction from their parents or peers will often resort to negative behaviours in order to gain interaction. Shifting your mindset to identify the true cause of the behaviour is the first step to becoming a more positive and proactive parent.
Let’s consider an everyday situation; if your child becomes restless and irritable while you go shopping, try giving them your full undivided attention leading up to the shops. E.g. “We need to go to the shops in 30 minutes. What do you want to do in the meantime? Do you want to play a game?” Giving them the positive interaction they need and laying out clear expectations will help your child to better behave while at the shops, and hopefully that good behaviour will continue next time.
Try to control your responses
In order to control your responses, it is integral that you can reframe your thinking, viewing your child as not someone who is intentionally misbehaving, but someone who doesn’t have the right tools to behave properly yet. First, decide what you are willing to do for your child, and what responsibilities they are old enough to handle themselves. Then, you can tell them what you need them to do, promising to do something in return for them. As an example, “I’m happy to make dessert for you, if you put your dinner plate and cutlery in the dishwasher. If you don’t do the dishes then it’ll be up to you.”
In doing this, you’ve revealed what you are willing to do and what your child needs to do to get what they want. This type of language encourages them to act. You won’t have to nag them; if they don’t do what you ask, you won’t do your part either and it becomes a great learning experience for them.
Sometimes rewards can actually do more harm than good, making your child feel entitled to a reward for doing small, trivial things. A reward can quickly become expected, e.g. if you buy a chocolate for your child as a reward for being well behaved at the shops, they will expect it next time, maybe even two! The same goes for bribing a child with chocolate if they finish everything on their dinner plate – they will hold out from finishing their plate in the future, hoping to score themselves another chocolate. As tempting as a reward can be, the long-term negatives far out way the short-term positives.
It’s important to uphold and be as consistent as possible with your child’s routines. This communicates that the rules aren’t made to be broken and sets the standard of your expectations. Breakdown exactly what’s expected of your child’s morning and evening routines (making bed, brushing teeth, etc.), and schedules (bed time, screen time, etc.). Make sure you keep to them throughout the entire week (including weekends and holidays). When your rules and consequences are consistent, your kids will be far less likely to push the limits.
Don’t punish them
This is key to positive parenting – you don’t want to punish your children for misbehaving, you want to discipline them. There is a big difference between the two; you should be teaching them (like a disciple), not penalising them. Without using pain, shame and blame, you can empower your child to become a more capable and well behaved version of themselves.
Teaching conversations look like this:
- Make sure that your child is back in emotional and physical control.
- Ask your child what happened (don’t interrupt them when they are talking and don’t pass judgement).
- Help your child look for patterns from the past. Has this happened before?
- Talk to your child about different ways to respond (e.g. “I could close my eyes and take some deep breaths”). They might need help with this one, but be sure to praise any suggestions that they come up with!
- Ask your child how they can remember to do this next time (e.g. “If I notice my voice getting louder, I will remember to close my eyes and take some deep breaths”).
- Reassure your child that they are in control of their own behaviour. Thank your child for problem solving with you (e.g. “Thank you so much for problem solving with me, you are doing such a great job of learning from your experiences!”).
If you want to learn more about positive parenting, and receive accurate and actionable advice from a professional, book a session with one of our psychologists today!