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The Benefits of Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that focuses on encouragement and support as opposed to discipline and punishments.

Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that focuses on parents providing encouragement and support to teach proper behaviors; rather than reprimands, discipline, or punishments in response to a child’s misbehavior.

Psychology Today links positive parenting to benefits such as “higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance use, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.”

Positive parenting can be especially beneficial in co-parenting relationships. If you and your co-parent agree to use the positive parenting approach, it will help build consistency for your child and can also help them work out negative feelings.

Mother holding daughter

Positive parenting builds healthier relationships between parents and children

Some benefits of positive parenting include making parents more sensitive, responsive, and consistent in interactions with their children. It also 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 parents help children learn how to manage their feelings, behaviors, and develop self-confidence. Children are better equipped 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.

So how does positive parenting work? Let’s say you are at the grocery store and your toddler is running down the aisle. Rather than shouting, ‘Don’t run!’ you could instead say, ‘Walk slowly down the aisles of this store.’

A hallmark of the positive parenting approach is creating an atmosphere of mutual respect between children and their parents

With positive parenting, parents help their children understand why rules are made so that children are more likely to follow them.

For example, your child might be wondering why they can’t just run out the back door without letting you know. In the child’s mind, you let them play in the backyard all the time, so why would they need to ask permission? 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 times. If I don’t know you went outside, I can’t keep you safe.”

In positive parenting, parents are also encouraged to get a better understanding of why 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, you might ask yourself if it could be because of an outside stressor impacting their behavior. Hunger can quickly send a child into a downward spiral. When did your child last eat?

By understanding feelings and reasons, parents and children are both learning to be more empathetic, enabling them to better understand the world and others.

Father hugging son

Positive parenting 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, let’s say your child picks up a glass vase you told them not to touch, and you immediately respond by giving them a spanking. When your child goes to school, their first instinct might be to hit a friend who picks up a toy your child didn’t want them to touch. Research shows that parental modeling is extremely impactful.

Positive parenting encourages children to build cooperative relationships with others, as well as to act with kindness and consideration. How you respond to your child's difficult behaviors will teach them how they should react to others.

Positive parenting is based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good or bad behaviors

The positive parenting approach focuses on learning for the future instead of punishing for acts in the past. Rather than yelling at a child for being "bad", the parent should instead calmly note why the behavior isn’t acceptable and let the child know what the consequence of his or her action will be. The positive parenting process teaches the child to make better choices in the future and develop cognitive thinking. Mistakes and misbehavior are important learning opportunities for everyone: parents and children alike.

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