Positive parenting – sometimes called positive discipline, gentle guidance, or loving guidance – is simply guidance that keeps our kids on the right path, offered in a positive way that resists any temptation to be punitive.
Studies show that’s what helps kids learn consideration and responsibility, and makes for happier kids and parents.
-Dr. Laura Markham
Positive parenting is an alternative to the punitive, authoritarian approach we are more acquainted with. It is a change of mind set from punishing bad behaviors to actively and creatively modeling and teaching your children about positive behaviors (Positive Parents, 2011).
Positive parenting involves a commitment to approaching your children with love, empathy and kindness rather than creating powers struggles through the enforcement of a set of rules.
The evidence (formal and informal) which is rapidly growing supports the positive parenting approach and its effects on behavior, relationships, mental health and overall happiness.
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Positive Parenting Program
The relationship between parents and their children can have a great influence on their psychological and social well-being. However, parents are not always prepared to be parents, especially when they do not have support from their families or partners.
The Positive Parenting Program – The Triple P – is a system designed to prevent and treat severe emotional, behavioral and developmental problems in children.
What is Triple P?
Triple P – Positive Parenting Program is described as:
“a multilevel, preventively oriented parenting and family support strategy” (Sanders, 1999).
This program was created by Matthew Sanders and his colleagues at the University of Queensland in Australia. The purpose of this program is to prevent severe emotional, developmental and behavioural problems in children by enhancing the knowledge, skills, and confidence of parents. There are five levels of intervention of increasing strength:
- Universal Triple P
- Selective Triple P
- Primary Care Triple P
- Standard Triple P
- Enhanced Triple P
Levels of Intervention
This program is a multilevel program. Each level has different number of sessions that can be applied to address different types of behaviors. You can read more about these levels here.
Level 1: Universal Triple P
This level of intervention targets everyday behaviour difficulties and it is for all parents interested in promoting their child’s development. The purpose is to encourage parents to participate in positive parenting interventions and help them become more confident and self-sufficient.
Level 2: Selective Triple P
This level is for parents with a specific concern about their child’s behaviour or development. Many specific behaviours are targeted, such as bedtime routine difficulties, toilet training, and temper tantrums. Level 2 as an intervention includes one to two brief sessions to provide developmental guidance to parents.
Level 3: Primary Care Triple P
This levels aims itself at parents having specific concerns about their children’s behaviours or development which require active skills training. The targeted behaviours are similar to the ones in level 2. This level includes a four-session intervention.
Level 4: Standard Triple P
This level targets parents of children with more severe problems who want intensive training in positive parenting skills. Possible behaviours to target are aggressive behaviours, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and learning difficulties. This level includes eight to ten intensive sessions.
Level 5: Enhanced Triple P
The highest level is for parents of children with concurrent child behaviour problems and family dysfunction such as relationship conflict. Other behaviours are possibly persistent conduct problems and child maltreatment. Usually at this level, children have quite severe behavioural problems. However, these problems are complicated by additional family factors.
Nowak and Heinrichs (2008) proved positive effects of the positive parenting program across all settings. A meta-analysis was conducted to evaluate the impact of the Triple P program on parents. The results show that:
“Triple P causes positive change in parenting skills, child problem behaviour and parental well-being in the small to moderate range, varying as a function of the intensity of the intervention” (Nowak & Heinrichs, 2008).
The program has proved to be able to affect parents and children’s lives in a meaningful way.
Parents need to be supported and, sometimes, taught how to be parents. The Positive Parenting Program has been proven to effectively impact parenting skills and children’s lives. This program also has many potential applications in other fields. Teachers can also use this program in order to better manage the classroom for example. Further research needs to be done in order to improve this program and its application. You can watch the video below for more information about the positive parenting program.
Positive Parenting Solutions
A safe and engaging environment must be ensured for children of all ages. In order to promote a healthy development and prevent accidents at home, this principle is essential.
Besides a safe environment, children also need a positive learning environment. Parents are their children’s first teacher and set an example (right or wrong) in everything that they do. They teach they kids how to walk, how to speak and how to socialize. Parents need to positively respond to their child’s needs and interactions.
The next principle is to use assertive discipline. The right management strategies must be used to discipline children. Instead of physical punishment, parents are taught to use more effective strategies. These strategies include the setting up of rules for specific situations, discussing these rules with children, using quiet time and time outs, etc.
Sometimes parents have unrealistic expectations for their children. This could lead to parents abusing and neglecting their children. Having realistic expectations helps children to appropriately develop.
The last principle is to take care of oneself as a parent. Being a parent can be stressful. All levels of Triple P encourage parents to view parenting as part of a larger context related to self-care, resourcefulness, well-being and maintaining self-esteem.
5 Ways to Achieve Positive Parenting
Have you ever played peek-a-boo with your child and then they start doing it back to you? Our children learn from everything we do and our actions directly impact them and how they choose to behave.
Our kids are continuously watching us and even if they’re not, we should certainly act like they are. If you want your kid to develop manners, you need to model them.
If you want your kid to share, you should demonstrate sharing with them. Children evolve within the environment they are brought up in and modeling appropriate behavior influences positive behavior.
As a kid, “house” is a common game children would play. It was actually one of my favorites. I would make my mom hold the plastic pots and forks, stirring imaginary macaroni. It might just seem like a simple game, but in reality, it develops the child’s brain and teaches them basically how to do life.
Play is a vital component to developing the child cognitively, socially, and emotionally. It allows you to connect with your child.
Here are some tips on play and ways to implement them:
- Story-time: make up a happy story and engage your child in the story telling
- Play school: let your child be the teacher, and you, the student
3. Social Interaction
“Never fear spoiling children by making them too happy. Happiness is the atmosphere in which all good affections grow.”
– Thomas Bray
Developing and maintaining friendships allow children to grow. Social interaction provides advances in social skills, emotional intelligence, and cognitive development. Whether, it’s just a few hours at the park or a play date with a friend, you’re giving your child the chance to interact with the world and life itself.
It can also be used as a means of learning. They will learn to share and when to use appropriate behaviors, as well as when not to.
Positive parenting if done correctly builds positive emotions and heightens self-esteem in parent and child, not just the child. One cannot look back at a different time and think that what was done then should be done now, only because it was done before.
In many ways we could say that today’s challenges with violence and drug abuse are directly related to yesterday’s parenting. But whether that is true or not is irrelevant, since “yesterday was a different world,” says Louise a mental health counseling expert.
4. Talk and Listen
Maintaining a close positive relationship ensures that your child is comfortable in confiding with you, as he or she should be. It is important to be avid participants in your child’s life.
Also, actively listening to them when they come and talk to you is important in maintaining this positive relationship. Encourage your child to ask you questions. This will result in your child being comfortable to come to you now and even later in life.
The earlier years of your child’s development are most important for developing this positive relationship.
5. Positive Relationship with Your Partner
It is crucial to realize that your child is a mirror image of the how you hold yourself and your relationship with your partner. They notice the way you both act when you’re around each other and this could positively or negatively impact your child’s development, believe it or not.
Enough times, children are brought up in an emotionally abusive home and this negatively affects how they think and feel.
10 Reasons to Embrace Positive Parenting
There are many benefits to taking a positive, intuitive approach to your parenting style. The main ones being a happy home and your children feeling appreciated and respected, 10 other reasons include:
1. A More Peaceful Home
Positive parenting leads to peaceful parents, which leads to more peaceful children. If power struggles are a problem in your home, this approach greatly reduces them. Punitive approaches create conflict which put you against your children. With positive parenting you work with them to promote better behavior, which naturally leads children to fight less for their autonomy and you to struggle less for control. Open communication and peaceful resolution are the keys.
2. More Confident Kids
Children receiving positive parenting are more confident than those parented by other methods. While punitive parenting focuses on their faults and shortcomings, which often leads to low self-confidence. Positive parenting focuses on the behaviors you want from your child as well as their successes. This focus builds a healthy sense of self-esteem and self-confidence, which are essential for your child to grow into a happy adult.
3. More Confidence in Your Parenting Skills
Positive parenting is about doing what feels right. When you follow your instincts, you feel like a better parent. Have you ever punished your child and felt terrible about it? Perhaps you even went into another room and cried because doing so broke your heart. If it makes you feel that bad, there has to be a better way. And there is!
When you positively parent your child, you trust your instincts. This confidence comes through to your children. Being confident in your parenting abilities is part of what makes your child feel safe and secure. If you feel like you don’t know what you are doing, your child will pick up on that.
Ever notice how an infant responds when someone who isn’t confident with them tries to hold them? They cry. When they hand the crying baby over to someone who is confident in what to do, they calm down. If infants can sense this confidence, so can older children.
4. A Stronger Parent-Child Relationship
Punishing a child teaches them they can’t trust you as you might hurt them. Whether this pain is emotional or physical, children don’t understand that you are trying to do what is best for them. Our children were not born knowing the rules. They only understand what we teach them and if it is hurtful, all they know is that the person they love the most has hurt them. This leads to mistrust in the relationship.
Trust is an essential part of the parent-child relationship. When you tell your child “it will be okay” you want them to believe you. You want them to know they can count on you when they need you. Without trust in you, your child has no sense of a safe centre from which to explore. They feel a deep seated insecurity and mistrust of the world that affects them well into adulthood.
5. Fewer Behavioral Issues
Children parented positively have fewer behavioral issues. This is because of modeling. Children act out what they learn from you in the home. If punitive or aggressive behaviours (even simple verbal threats) are used at home, your children are more likely to display these behaviors in other environments. This is especially true for children with any sort of developmental delay or disorder like A.D.D. or autism.
Act the way you would like them to act, with kindness, consideration and emotional intelligence. There are many tips for dealing with difficult behaviors which can help you create cooperative relationships through a loving approach.
6. Less Aggressive
Studies show that children of negative parents are more likely to be aggressive than those from positive parenting households. This is again due to modelling the behaviors they see at home. If your child learns how to manage their frustration and anger through open communication without punishment they will be less likely to act aggressively towards others.
7. Fostering Independence and Self-Control
Positive parenting is about encouraging and teaching good behavior in children. It also encourages them to behave not out of fear of punishment, but out of a desire to feel good. When you use negative discipline, your child may behave, but it will be out of fear. But what happens when your child grows up and no longer fears your consequences?
You want your children to learn to manage their impulses because it is the “right” thing to do, not out of fear of being punished. You want them to learn that they get a good feeling (positive reinforcement) when they do a good thing. This is how they can develop self-control and a clear sense of right and wrong, which will serve them throughout their lifetime.
8. Happier Kids
Kids with positive parents tend to be happier than those from punitive parents. Studies have shown a link between “negative” parenting and depression in the teen years and even into adulthood. Those children from positive parents have a much lower incidence of depression. This is as a result of children having higher self-esteem, and more positive relationships with their parents as well as others.
9. More Empathetic
When you positively parent, you model empathy for your child. Instead of engaging them in what not to do, you let them know you understand how they feel, this is the seed of empathy. The best way to teach your child this important skill is by example. You will soon notice your child showing empathy, too. Perhaps they will show kindness by giving a friend a hug or sharing their favourite toy. You’ll know it when you see it, and it will make it all worth it.
10. Less Stress
Conscious positive parenting allows you to relax and enjoy your children. When you have a peaceful home with no power struggles and kids who actually want to do the right thing, you spend more time enjoying them instead of constantly trying to keep them out of trouble. You can play, become creative in the way you teach your kids how to be happy. This is the greatest advantage of positive parenting! After all, they are only little for a short time, spend that precious time with them wisely.
A Take Home Message
Positive parenting is considerably difficult, but with enough time and energy, it is the best way to be a parent. The outcomes of positive parenting are nothing but beneficial to both the parent and the child.
Being a parent is arguably the hardest job on earth and not every person expects to become a parent, but some do. It is no simple task, but the reward it offers is priceless and I am sure no parent would trade that for anything.
“Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”
– Charles Everett Koop
About the Authors:
Moving from Vietnam to the United States has allowed Nhu Tran to develop her knowledge and skills in many different ways. She hopes to be able to utilize this knowledge in order to make a positive impact in people’s lives.
Brill, A. (2016). 3 Examples of Positive Parenting in Practice. Retrieved here.
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H. (2013). 10 Tips for Positive Parenting. Retrieved here.
Nowak, C.; Heinrichs, N. (2008). "A comprehensive meta-analysis of Triple P-Positive Parenting Program using hierarchical linear modeling: Effectiveness and moderating variables". Clinical Child Family Psychology Review 11: 114–144.
Positive Parenting Tips. (2016). Retrieved here.
Sanders, M. (1999). Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: Towards an Empirically Validated Multilevel Parenting and Family Support Strategy for the Prevention of Behavior and Emotional Problems in Children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2(2), 71-90. Retrieved March 14, 2015.