How can positive parenting encourage personal development? How do these words make you feel: affirmation, addition, inclusion? How about these words: negation, withholding, absence? When something is positive, it makes you feel good. When something is negative, it makes you feel bad. Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that focuses on encouragement and support to teach proper behavior rather than reprimands or punishments in response to a child’s misbehavior. Psychology Today links positive parenting to “higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.” How does positive parenting work? Let’s say you are at the grocery store and your toddler is running down the aisle. Rather than shout, ‘Don’t run!’ you would instead say, ‘walk slowly down the aisles of this store.’ Why? Stronger Parent/Child Relationships Positive parenting builds healthier relationships between parents and children. The approach makes parents more sensitive, responsive and consistent in their interactions with their children, and it makes children happier, more optimistic and more intrinsically motivated to choose the behaviors that parents prefer. The positive parenting approach is supported by the National Institutes of Health. As the NIH says in its newsletter, strong emotional bonds with their parents help children learn how to manage their feelings and behaviors and develop self-confidence. Children are better able to cope with challenges such as poverty, family instability, parental stress, and depression. “When parents engage positively with their children, teaching them the behaviors and skills that they need to cope with the world, children learn to follow rules and regulate their own feelings,” said Dr. Carol Metzler, who studies parenting at the Oregon Research Institute. Mutual Respect A hallmark of the positive parenting approach is creating an atmosphere of mutual respect between children and their parents. Parents help their children understand the reasons why rules are made, so the children are more likely to follow them. For example, why can’t your child just run out the back door without letting you know where he or she went? After all, in the child’s mind, you let them play in the backyard all the time. Positive parenting encourages you to explain the reason for the rule saying, “You need to ask permission before you go outside because it is my job to keep you safe. I can only keep you safe if I know where you are at all time. If I don’t know you went outside, I can’t keep you safe.” In positive parenting, parents also help themselves understand why their children are misbehaving in the first place. For example, if your child is throwing a temper tantrum or seems to be in a particularly negative mood, could it be because there is an outside stressor impacting their behavior? Hunger can quickly send any child into a downward spiral. When did he or she last eat? By understanding feelings and reasons, we are teaching both our children and us to be more empathetic, enabling us both to better understand the world and others around us. Set a Positive Example Positive parenting also is an approach that sets a good model for children to follow. Children learn their behavior by watching what we do. “If parents respond by being irritable or aggressive themselves, children can mimic that behavior and a negative cycle then continues to escalate,” explained Dr. Metzler in the NIH newsletter. For example, if your immediate response to a child is to give them a spanking when they pick up a glass vase you told them not to touch, then your own son or daughter’s first instinct might be to smack a friend at school who picks up a toy your child didn’t want him or her to touch. Research shows parental modeling is especially impactful on behaviors related to alcohol and cigarette use. We want our children to build cooperative relationships with others, and to act with kindness and consideration. How we respond to our own kids’ difficult behaviors will teach them how they should react to others. For example, if your child is throwing a temper tantrum or speaking disrespectfully to you, leave the room and let your child know that you will be in the next room and ready to discuss the situation calmly and respectfully as soon as he or she is ready to try again. Higher Self-Esteem Positive parenting is based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good or bad behaviors. It focuses on learning for the future instead of punishing for acts in the past. Rather than yelling at a child for being a “bad boy or girl” for misbehaving, the parent instead calmly and rationally notes why the behavior isn’t acceptable and lets the child know what the consequence of his or her action will be. This process helps a child learn to make better choices in the future and develop cognitive thinking. Mistakes and misbehavior are important learning opportunities for all of us: parents and children alike. Positive parenting is not only beneficial to children, but to parents as well, helping to build self-esteem and confidence in our own skills as parents and our ability to set our children up for future success. Positive parenting is focused on using kind words and gestures, brainstorming solutions to problems together and seeking to help improve our kids’ decision-making abilities one step at a time. Parents feel better about themselves when they have a peaceful relationship with their children and when they feel more confident in their plan of how they will handle common behavior issues.