Positive Parenting: What is it?
One of parents’ big concerns when raising their children is finding the most effective ways to ensure their children are happy and successful members of society. The guidance provided to children from their parents forms the foundation for their interactions with their family, friends, peers, and other adults. Studies have shown that effective parent-child guidance interactions require three components: positive, supportive relationships between parents and children, established strategies for teaching and encouraging good behavior, and strategies for decreasing or eliminating undesired behaviors. Positive Guidance refers to a set of techniques that use those three components.
Positive Guidance encourages parents to use clear and positive language, establish realistic expectations, set consistent rules and limits, give simple choices, and act as role models.
Here are some examples and applications of Positive Guidance Techniques that can be used when interacting with children:
Clear, Positive Language
When talking with children it is important to tell them what to do rather than what not to do. For example, a child is running from the kitchen to the living room, they should be directed to “Walk in the house.” If instead a child is told “Don’t Run” that leaves plenty of other activities a child can do that might be equally inappropriate. The child could hop, skip, jump, or push their way through the home and still be following the guidance of “Don’t Run.” However, by saying, “We walk in the house” a child is given a clear example of how to move when inside. In the future, when the child doesn’t need the verbal reminder to walk, parents should use positive reinforcement language by saying, “I like how you safely walked from the kitchen.” This positive attention for a job well done will help encourage the desired behavior.
Understanding what a child is capable of and what they can handle at their age is very important. It is natural for toddlers to become emotional when something doesn’t go their way, they are just learning how to process their emotions. Parents and adults should talk about emotions openly and use “I” statements to help children identify what they are experiencing and use clear directive language if need. For example, “I can see you are angry, but you need to use your words and not your hands.” Additionally, any changes to a child’s routine can have major implications on behavior. A missed nap time, or late meal can impact a child’s ability to process an otherwise regular task. It is important for parents to manage their expectations appropriately, and look at their child’s behavior in the context of the environment they are in.
Consistent Rules and Limits
While it might not seem like it, children like and need clear rules and limits. What is important for parents to keep in mind is that those rules and limits need to be consistent. For example, if video games are not to be played at the dinner table, then that needs to be clear, and enforced. Even if it is a struggle, parents need to hold steady. Otherwise children will continue to look for exceptions or ways to get what they want. That can lead to tantrums. If a parent gives in to a tantrum and lets their child play video games at the dinner table, then it teaches the child that by continued protests they will eventually get what they want.
Give Simple Choices
It is a natural part of development for a child to gain a sense of independence and want some control in what they do. This can be challenging when what a child wants to do doesn’t match with a parent’s desires. One area that can be a common struggle for parents and children is getting ready in the morning. A child might not want to brush their teeth, or might want to wear shorts and sandals when it is cold and raining outside. To try and alleviate some of the struggle, parents can offer children a set of appropriate choices. In getting the child dressed a parent could say, “Your shorts and sandals are great on a hot sunny day, but it is cold and rainy today and need to wear pants to stay dry and warm. Would you like to wear your blue jeans or khaki pants today?” While this can be upsetting to the child that they cannot wear what they initially wanted, they are given clear explanation why their choice might not be the best today and gain back some control of the situation by choosing a pair of pants instead.
Act as a Role Model
Children are like sponges, they absorb knowledge from all of their everyday experience that then shape their own behavior. Parents and adults need to model the types of behaviors they expect from their children.
By understanding and using Positive Guidance techniques, parents are equipped with a tool set that can greatly help the development of their children. Studies show that the use of positive guidance techniques can lead to having toddlers who have better self-regulation skills, are less aggressive, have fewer behavior problems, are able to adapt to change, and have better moral reasoning skills.
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