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- 1 A Look at Research
- 2 How Can it Encourage Personal Development and Self Growth in a Child?
- 3 How Old Must the Child Be?
- 4 What are the Benefits?
- 5 Examples of Positive Parenting in Action
- 6 Positive Parenting Styles
- 7 A Look at Positive Discipline
- 8 Examples of Positive Punishment & Negative Reinforcement
- 9 Five criteria for positive discipline
- 10 Here are her top ten principles
When it comes to family life, everyone strives to figure out how the relationship between parents and children can become ideal. Positive parenting techniques work well for raising children with discipline and good moral values, are every parents’ dream. However, it is not an easy. And it is important to know that the parent child relationship is actually a partnership between a parent and their child. A garden with different flowers becomes beautiful when it blossoms. Similarly, if parents learn how to be a ‘gardener’ and are able to recognize their child’s personality and nourish it, then their ‘garden’ will become fragrant! This is what positive parenting is all about! When parents develop effective parenting skills, they are able to take the initiative in filling the generation gap. When parents start to understand the balance of where to place boundaries, where to encourage, and where to discourage, then their children will not get spoiled. In this way they become good parents. When people do not know how to be a good parent, distance between the two develops. With proper understanding, youth can also strengthen their relationship with their parents. With an aim to offer an in-depth, complete understanding of today’s youth, has given positive parenting solutions for instilling moral values, good manners, and discipline, which work even during adolescence.
A Look at Research
There is plenty of research supporting the short- and long-term effects of positive parenting on adaptive child outcomes. To begin with, work by the Positive Parenting Research Team (PPRT) from the University of Southern Mississippi (Nicholson, 2019) is involved in various studies aimed at examining the impact of positive parenting. The PPRT ultimately seeks to promote positive parenting behaviors within families. In their seven-year longitudinal study; Pettit, Bates and Dodge (1997) examined the influence of supportive parenting among parents of pre-kindergartners. Supportive parenting was defined as involving mother‐to‐child warmth, proactive teaching, inductive discipline, and positive involvement. Researchers contrasted this parenting approach with a less supportive, more harsh parenting style.
Supportive parenting was associated with more positive school adjustment and fewer behavior problems when the children were in sixth grade. Moreover, supportive parenting actually mitigated the negative impact of familial risk factors (i.e., socioeconomic disadvantage, family stress, and single parenthood) on children’s subsequent behavioral problems. Researchers at the Gottman Institute also investigated the impact of positive parenting by developing a 5-step ‘emotion coaching’ program designed to build children’s confidence and to promote healthy intellectual and psychosocial growth.
Gottman’s five steps for parents include
- Awareness of emotions
- Connecting with your child
- Listening to your child
- Naming emotions
- Finding solutions
Gottman has reported that children of “emotional coaches” benefit from a more a positive developmental trajectory relative to kids without emotional coaches. Moreover, an evaluation of emotional coaching by Bath Spa University found several positive outcomes for families trained in emotional coaching’s, such as parental reports of a 79% improvement in children’s positive behaviors and well-being (Bath Spa University, 2016).
Overall, research has indicated that positive parenting is related to various aspects of healthy child development. Such outcomes are neither fleeting nor temporary; and will continue well beyond childhood. Another way of thinking about the role of positive parenting is in terms of resilience. When children—including those, who begin life with significant disadvantages— experience positive and supportive parenting, they are far more likely to thrive. It is in this way that positive parenting minimizes health and opportunity by armoring children with large stores of emotional resilience. And since we know positive parenting works; what parent wouldn’t want to learn how to use it and thereby give his/her child the best shot at a healthy and happy life?
How Can it Encourage Personal Development and Self Growth in a Child?
There are various mechanisms through which positive parenting promotes a child’s prosocial development. For example, Eisenberg, Zhou, and Spinrad et al. (2005) suggest that positive parenting impacts children’s temperament by enhancing emotion regulation (e.g., “effortful control” enabling children to focus attention in a way that promotes emotion modulation and expression).
The authors reported a significant link between parental warmth and positive expressivity on children’s long-term emotion regulation. This ability to use effortful control was found to predict reduced externalizing problems years later when children were adolescents.
Along with emotion regulation, there are many other ways in which positive parenting encourages a child’s positive development and self-growth. Here are some examples:
- Teaching and leading promote children’s confidence and provides them with the tools needed to make good choices.
- Positive communication promotes children’s social and problem-solving skills while enhancing relationship quality with caregivers and peers.
- Warm and democratic parenting enhances children’s self-esteem and confidence.
- Parental supervision promotes prosocial peer bonding and positive youth outcomes.
- Autonomy-promoting parenting supports creativity, empowerment, and self-determination.
- Supportive and optimistic parenting fosters children’s belief in themselves and the future.
- Providing recognition for desirable behaviors increases children’s self-efficacy and the likelihood of engaging in prosocial, healthy behaviors.
- Providing boundaries and consequences teaches children accountability and responsibility.
Generally speaking, there are many aspects of positive parenting that nurture children’s self-esteem; creativity; belief in the future; ability to get along with others; and sense of mastery over their environment. Warm, loving and supportive parents feed a child’s inner spirit while empowering him/her with the knowledge and tools necessary to approach life as a fully capable individual.
How Old Must the Child Be?
The need for positive parenting begins – well, at the beginning. The attachment literature has consistently indicated that babies under one year of age benefit from positive parenting. More specifically, a secure attachment between infants and mothers is related to numerous positive developmental outcomes (i.e., self-esteem, trust, social competence, etc(.
The quality of the mother-child attachment is believed to be a function of parental sensitivity (e.g., mothers who accurately perceive and quickly respond to their babies’ needs; which is certainly a key indicator of positive parenting practices in their earliest form. Not only is a secure mother-child attachment related to early positive developmental outcomes, but more recent attachment research also indicates long-term increases in social self-efficacy among girls with secure attachments to their fathers.
There are even ways in which positive parenting benefits a child or family as soon as the parents learn of a pregnancy or adoption. Therefore, it cannot be stressed enough: Positive parenting begins as early as possible.
What are the Benefits?
There is empirical evidence for numerous benefits of positive parenting, which cover all developmental stages from infancy to late adolescence.
Examples of Positive Parenting in Action
The evidence clearly supports a relationship between positive parenting approaches and a large variety of prosocial parent and child outcomes. Therefore, practitioners have developed and implemented a range of programs aimed at promoting positive parenting practices. Here are some noteworthy examples; including those which target specific risk factors, as well as those with a more preventative focus:
- Parent’s Circle program (Pearson & Anderson, 2001): Recognizing that positive parenting begins EARLY, this program helped parents of infants in the neonatal intensive care unit to enhance their parenting skills in order to better parent their fragile newborns.
- The Home Visiting Program (Ammaniti, Speranza, & Tambelli, et al., 2006): Also focused on babies, this program aimed to increase parental sensitivity in order to improve secure mother-infant attachments. In doing so, psychologists visited high-risk mothers at their homes in order to improve parental sensitivity to their infants’ signals.
- The Early Head Start Home-based Program (Roggman, Boyce, & Cook, 2009): This home-based program also focused on promoting parent-child attachment. Parents in semirural areas received weekly home-based visits from a family educator who taught them positive strategies aimed at promoting healthy parent-child interactions and engagement in children’s activities.
- American Psychological Association’s ACT Raising Safe Kids (RSK) program (Knox, Burkhard, & Cromly, 2013): The goal of this program was to improve parents’ positive parenting knowledge and skills by teaching nonviolent discipline, anger management, social problem‐solving skills, and other techniques intended to protect children from aggression and violence.
- New Beginnings Program (Wolchik, Sandler, Weiss, & Winslow, 2007): This empirically-based 10-session program was designed to teach positive parenting skills to families experiencing divorce or separation. Parents learned how to nurture positive and warm relationships with kids, use effective discipline, and protect their children from divorce-related conflict. The underlying goal of the New Beginnings Program was to promote child resilience during this difficult time.
- Family Bereavement Program (Sandler, Wolchik, Ayers, Tein, & Luecken, 2013): This intervention was aimed at promoting resilience in parents and children experiencing extreme adversity: The death of a parent. This 10-meeting supportive group environment helped bereaved parents learn a number of resilience-promoting parenting skills (i.e., active listening, using effective rules, supporting children’s coping, strengthening family bonds, and using adequate self-care).
- The Positive Parent (Suárez, Rodríguez, & López, 2016): This Spanish online program was aimed at enhancing positive parenting by helping parents to learn about child development and alternative child-rearing techniques; to become more aware, creative and independent in terms of parenting practices; to establish supportive connections with other parents; and to feel more competent and satisfied with their parenting.
- Healthy Families Alaska Programs (Calderaa, Burrellb, & Rodriguez, 2007): The objective of this home visiting program was to promote positive parenting and healthy child development outcomes in Alaska. Paraprofessionals worked with parents to improve positive parenting attitudes, parent-child interactions, child development knowledge, and home environment quality.
- The Strengthening Families Program (Kumpfer & Alvarado, 1998): This primary prevention program has been widely used to teach parents a large array of positive parenting practices. Following family systems and cognitive-behavioral philosophies, the program has taught parenting skills such as engagement in positive interactions with children, positive communication, effective discipline, rewarding positive behaviors, and the use of family meetings to promote organization. The program’s overall goal was to enhance child and family protective factors; to promote children’s resilience, and to improve children’s social and life skills.
- Incredible Years Program (Webster-Stratton& Reid, 2013): This program refers to a widely implemented and evaluated group-based intervention designed to reduce emotional problems and aggression among children, and to improve their social and emotional competence. Parent groups received 12-20 weekly group sessions focused on nurturing relationships, using positive discipline, promoting school readiness and academic skills, reducing conduct problems, and increasing other aspects of children’s healthy psychosocial development. This program has also been used for children with ADHD.
- Evidence-based Positive Parenting Programs Implemented in Spain (Ministers of the Council of Europe, in Rodrigo et al., 2012): In a special issue of Psychosocial Intervention, multiple evaluation studies of positive parenting programs delivered across Spain are presented. Among the programs included are those delivered in groups, at home, and online; each of which is aimed at positive parenting support services. This issue provides an informative resource for understanding which parents most benefited from various types of evidence-based programs aimed at promoting positive parenting among parents attending family support services.
- Triple Positive Parenting Program (Sanders, 2008): This program, is a highly comprehensive parenting program with the objective of providing parents of high-risk children with the knowledge, confidence, and skills needed to promote healthy psychological health and adjustment in their children. While these programs are multifaceted, an overarching focus of the Triple P programs is to improve children’s self-regulation.
Positive Parenting Styles
A reoccurring theme in the positive parenting literature is that a warm, yet firm parenting style is linked to numerous positive youth outcomes. This style is termed ‘authoritative’ and it is conceptualized as a parenting approach that includes a good balance of the following parenting qualities: assertive, but not intrusive; demanding, but responsive; supportive in terms of discipline, but not punitive (Baumrind, 1991). Along with an authoritative parenting style, a developmental parenting style is also believed to support positive child outcomes.
Developmental parenting is a positive parenting style that promotes positive child development by providing affection (i.e., through positive expressions of warmth toward the child); responsiveness (i.e., by attending to a child’s cues); encouragement (i.e., by supporting a child’s capabilities and interests); and teaching (i.e., by using play and conversation to support a child’s cognitive development (Roggman & Innocenti, 2009).
Developmental parenting clearly shares several commonalities with authoritative parenting, and both represent positive parenting approaches.
Overall, by taking a good look at positive parenting strategies that work for raising healthy, happy kids; it is evident that positive parenting styles encourage a child’s autonomy by:
- Supporting exploration and involvement in decision-making
- Paying attention and responding to a child’s needs
- Using effective communication
- Attending to a child’s emotional expression and control
- Rewarding and encouraging positive behaviors
- Providing clear rules and expectations
- Applying consistent consequences for behaviors
- Providing adequate supervision and monitoring
- Acting as a positive role model
- Making positive family experiences a priority
In a nutshell, positive parents support a child’s healthy growth and inner spirit by being loving, supportive, firm, consistent, and involved. Such parents go beyond communicating their expectations, but practice what they preach by being positive role models for their children to emulate.
A Look at Positive Discipline
The term ‘discipline’ often has a negative, purely punitive connotation. However, ‘discipline’ is actually defined as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). This definition is instructive, as it reminds us that as parents, we are not disciplinarians, but rather teachers. And as our children’s teachers, our goal is to respectfully show them choices for behaviors and to positively reinforce adaptive behaviors. Positive discipline again harkens back to authoritative parenting because it should be administered in a way that is firm and loving at the same time. Importantly, positive discipline is never violent, aggressive or critical; it is not punitive.
Examples of Positive Punishment & Negative Reinforcement
Physical punishment (i.e., spanking) is ineffective for changing behaviors in the long-term and has a number of detrimental consequences on children (Gershoff, 2013). Indeed, the objective of positive discipline is to “teach and train. Punishment (inflicting pain/purposeful injury) is unnecessary and counter-productive” (Kersey, 2006, p. 1).
Nelsen (2006) describes a sense of belonging as a primary goal of all people; a goal that is not achieved through punishment. In fact, she describes the four negative consequences of punishment on children (e.g., “the four R’s”) as resentment toward parents; revenge that may be plotted in order to get back at parents; rebellion against parents, such as through even more excessive behaviors; and retreat, that may involve becoming sneaky and/or experiencing a loss of self-esteem (Nelsen, 2006).
Five criteria for positive discipline
- Is both Kind and Firm
- Promotes a Child’s Sense of Belonging and Significance
- Works Long-term (note: punishment may have an immediate impact, but this is short-lived)
- Teaches Valuable Social and Life Skills (i.e., problem-solving, social skills, self-soothing, etc.)
- Helps Children Develop a Sense that they are Capable Individuals
In her comprehensive and helpful book for parents:Positive Discipline, Durrant (2016) also describes a number of key aspects of positive discipline, such as being non-violent, respectful, and grounded in developmental principles; teaching children self-respect, empathy, and self-efficacy; and promoting a positive relationship between parent and child. Stated another way, “respecting children teaches them that even the smallest, most powerless, most vulnerable person deserves respect, and that is a lesson our world desperately needs to learn” (LR Knost, lovelivegrow.com). Since we know that positive discipline does not involve the use of punishment; the next obvious questions become “Just what exactly does it involve?”
This question is undoubtedly urgent for parents who feel like their child is working diligently toward driving them mad. While we will discuss some of the more typical frustrations that parents regularly encounter, Kersey (2006) provides parents with a wonderful and comprehensive resource in her publication entitled “101 positive principles of discipline.”
Here are her top ten principles
- Demonstrate Respect Principle: Treat the child in the same respectful way you would like to be treated.
- Make a Big Deal Principle: Use positive reinforcement in meaningful ways for desired behaviors. Reward such behaviors with praise, affection, appreciation, privileges, etc.
- Incompatible Alternative Principle: Provide the child with a behavior to substitute for the undesirable one, such as playing a game rather than watching tv.
- Choice Principle: Provide the child with two choices for positive behaviors so that he/she feels a sense of empowerment. For example, you might say “would you rather take your bath before or after your brush your teeth?”
- When/Then – Abuse it/Lose it Principle: Ensure that rewards are lost when rules are broken. For example, you might say “After you clean your room, you can play outside” (which means that a child who does not clean his/her room, will not get to play outside. Period.)
- Connect Before You Correct Principle: Ensure that the child feels loved and cared for before behavioral problems are attended to.
- Validation Principle: Validate the child’s feelings. For example, you might say “I know you are sad about losing your sleepover tonight and I understand”.
- Good Head on Your Shoulders Principle: Ensure that the child hears the equivalent of “you have a good head on your shoulders” in order to feel capable, empowered and responsible for his/her choices. This is especially important for teenagers.
- Belonging and Significance Principle: Ensure that your child feels important and as if he/she belongs. For example, remind your child that he/she is really good at helping in the kitchen and that the family needs this help in order to have dinner.
- Timer Says it’s Time Principle: Set a timer to help children make transitions. This helps kids to know what’s expected of them and may also involve giving them a choice in terms of the amount of time. For example, you might say “Do you need 15 or 20 minutes to get dressed?” Make sure to let the child know that the time is set.