There is parenting and there is ‘positive’ parenting. The one thing that is for sure is that we don’t come equipped with an instructions manual on how to become great or even good parents. We love our children, but we have to work at being a positive parent, and are constantly challenged to do so. Essentially, we lead by example and children will always follow our leads. But, a positive parent…what is positive parenting?
Positive parenting is demonstrating unconditional love to my child, respecting the intelligence, abilities, feelings, decisions and unique needs of my child. It is positively reinforcing to my child when good behavior is observed, and disciplining by teaching what is appropriate behavior. It is spending quality time with my child by playing, learning and communicating.
The definition encompasses a lot of aspects of the parenting process, which by the way, seems never-ending. To see where you stand, the following habits will help inform and inspire you to be your most positive parent.
1. Start accepting my child for who he or she is, not what he or she accomplishes.
Expectations beyond your child’s abilities causes stress and low self-esteem. Accept your child for who they are always, but praise your child for specific behaviors and accomplished tasks. Praise process, as doesn’t speak to the child about who they are-accomplishments only.
2. Start hugging my child and telling her or him “I love you” every day without conditions.
When you say “I love you,” really mean it.
3. Start expressing positive reinforcement to my child about his or her behavior, endeavors and decisions.
Choose behaviors you want to reinforce like helping family members and others, completing chores, achieving goals, and other matters. It will build your child’s self-confidence.
4. Start letting my child take care of herself or himself in age-appropriate areas.
For a young child, this could mean picking out her or his own clothes, getting snacks, or preparing a meal for herself or himself. For an older child, it might mean managing an allowance or making decisions about activities.
5. Start realizing that my child’s behavior is an expression of how she or he feels.
Determine why your child is acting out. Is it inadequate sleep, hunger, stress, fear, or something that is going on in the family or outside the home?
6. Start disciplining my child by teaching him or her what is appropriate behavior and always acknowledging good behavior.
Research indicates that inflicting physical pain, yelling, and verbal abuse are not effective at changing a child’s behavior. When you acknowledge good behavior, your child will see this as a reward and will want to exhibit more good behavior.
7. Start communicating more with my child about how she or he feels about friends, problems, sex, alcohol, and drugs. Don’t rely too much on questions about school.
Comments and questions like these may encourage your child to engage in conversation: “You seem sad today.” “How is your friend Sally doing?” “Did Mary pick on you again?” “What would you like to do this weekend?” Conversations about sex, alcohol, and drugs need to be at the appropriate age, time, and place.
8. Start spending more time with my child. Specify time per day or week and types of activities this will involve.
This might be helping with homework; reading a book; playing a game; shopping; going to a movie, park, museum, zoo, or pool; baking cookies, or cooking a meal together. Ideally the time spent will involve a lot of personal interaction with the child.
9. Start having sit-down meals with my child and family.
If it can’t be every day, designate certain days of the week for the entire family to be present during dinner time. During each meal ask everyone to share at least one good thing that happened that day or to tell what they are grateful for.
10. Start accepting the sexual orientation of my gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or transgender child.
This may be very difficult for you. There are many excellent books, articles, and websites on the topic. Consider going to a counselor or joining an LGBT support group. Support from you will help your child cope with the significant challenges she or he encounters every day. Additionally, you can visit: Tips for Parents of a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, or Transgender Child.
Let’s say there is one of these habits you would like to work on. Your inclination might be to begin trying to make the habit your own without following a process. Research clearly indicates that this is not likely to result in creating a habit that will be sustained.
Your child needs and thrives on consistency in his or her life. So, try to be consistent and reliable and make family time a routine that will be among your treasured memories for years to come.
That’s positive parenting!