I am a long-time advocate of positive parenting. It's the way that I was raised, and the way I raise my neurodivergent kids. I truly believe that positive parenting encourages personal development for both the kids, and the parents!
So today, I'd like to talk about the benefits of positive parenting, how it helps kids, and how it helps parents. Let's go!
What is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting is a general parenting style that:
- rewards good behavior through positive reinforcement, sometimes called positive discipline
- redirects or educates around bad behavior rather than punishing children
- recognizes that all behavior is communication, and "bad" behavior happens because a child is in need of something
There are many subspecies of positive parenting as well. My favorite, and the one used in our home, is collaborative parenting. Collaborative parenting is a parenting style that puts you, your child, and any parenting partners on the same team. You are in this together, as a family. You have the same goals and expectations. You will work together to solve everybody's problems, with you and your children on equal footing, being treated with equal respect.
Through creating this bond of trust, the parent can create a more positive, mutually respectful relationship with their children, by demonstrating that the children matter to the parent, and that the parent will hear the children.
Part of your job as a parent is demonstrative – you are teaching your children how to do things by offering them yourself as an example. You can teach them to hear you by hearing them first. You can show them how to work with you by being willing to work with them first. This benefits the entire family.
How can positive parenting techniques encourage personal development for a child?
I think there are three main ways that positive parenting can encourage a child to develop into a happier, respectful, confident adult.
First, a child who is offered a nurturing home environment, having all of their needs met with empathy, encouragement, and clear, consistent, caring boundaries will be more calm, well-regulated, and have better self-esteem. A calmer, regulated child will grow into an individual who can learn better, be curious instead of anxious, and be able to problem-solve and be responsible for their own self-growth. These are all characteristics of personal development that we would like to promote in adults.
Second, children whose parents demonstrate compassion and concern for them learn empathy, which is an important skill to have as an adult. Empathy is the skill of being able to tell how other people are feeling, and to respond to their feels appropriately. It is a skill that some people are inherently better at, but all people can learn.
Children learn empathy by observing, so if a parent demonstrates care for their children, and is willing to help a child learn to observe how others are feeling, that child will grow to have stronger empathy as an adult.
Third, emotional development is a huge component of positive parenting. We want our children to learn to recognize their emotions, be able to name them, and know how to deal with emotions effectively. Emotions like sadness, anger, embarrassment, or fear are part of the normal human experience, and all individuals will feel them sometimes.
However, it's also important to learn strategy to balance those feelings with an overall positive approach to life, not to get stuck in negativity past the point of value. Parents who practice a positive parenting approach set their expectations to help children learn to name their emotions, feel their emotions, and let go of their emotions when they're ready to. Children with higher emotional development grow into adults who have better familial and romantic relationships, higher security, and higher self-confidence.
How can positive parenting encourage personal development for a parent?
Positive parenting isn't just good for kids - it's great for parents, too! Here are a few ways that positive parenting has forced me to grow as a parent in the past several years.
First, positive parenting forces you to lose the ego and consider the entire family. If you have a plan to go to the store, and your kid doesn't want to go to the store, you don't automatically win the fight just because you're the parent. You consider your child's perspective against the true need to go to the store, and make a fair decision.
This letting go of the idea that, just because you're the parent, you automatically get to decide everything, shows your child that you value them as an equal part of the decision process. But, maybe even more importantly, it forces you to remember that you are a part of the whole of the family, too.
Second, positive parenting forces you to prioritize the goals that are truly important to you, the values you stand for, and to be called out when you don't enact them. If you value mutual respect in your home, and expect your children to respect you, but you do not offer them respect, they will not offer it to you. You need a strategy to match your goals to your behavior.
If you don't allow your children to yell at you, but you yell at them, they will call you out for being disrespectful - and rightfully so! If you value respect, you need to enact that value as the parent. If you're paying attention, you'll realize that your children will not learn things that you do not first demonstrate to them.
Third, positive parenting forces you to forgive yourself when you are not perfect. A lot of us grow up with many negative voices in our heads. We think of areas where we feel like we failed, things we never got around to doing, houses that aren't clean enough, meals that aren't extravagant enough, jobs that don't pay as much as other people's jobs.
But, think about this - would you ever, ever even consider telling your children the things that you tell yourself? Would you tell your children that they are failures, and how they aren't good enough and they never be good enough?
It hurts to even think about it, doesn't it?
Thinking about your negative self-talk this way should help you start to recognize how damaging that negativity is, and how much it does not help, and how false it is.
I've learned to be so much more kind to myself, because I want my children to be kind to themselves. I want my children to understand that they are not their successes or failures. And often, the things we perceive as failures are not really failures at all.