As parents, we strive to nurture, protect and guide our children through each stage of their lives. However, it’s not always a smooth and easy path. As they grow and develop, there are times when our kids display undesirable or unexplainable behavior—and we don’t always know how to help them when they struggle. While these parenting pains can be frustrating, there are positive parenting tips on how to stay calm and encourage more acceptable behavior.
Positive parenting focuses on teaching children what type of behavior is acceptable. These techniques help to get the desired behavior we want and allow children to become mentally healthier and better adjusted.
According to recent research published in the journal International Quarterly of Community Health Education, parenting styles influence whether or not adolescents have poor self-esteem, and those who do have poor self-esteem are prone to experiencing many challenges. Their study, which included over 500 students, found that there is a significant association between parenting styles and an adolescents’ self-esteem.
Using my 20 years of experience in working with families, here are my 11 tips on how you can adopt supportive and effective positive parenting practices:
1. Give your child lots of nurturing physical attention
It seems simple, but children like hugs, cuddles and holding hands. Show them the affection they desire. If they aren’t overly affectionate, that’s okay. Know how your child likes to be nurtured and comforted.
2. Offer a variety of activities for them to do.
Children are more likely to misbehave when they are bored, so provide lots of engaging indoor and outdoor activities for your child such as reading, games, puzzles, science projects, nature walks, blanket tents, etc.
3. Set clear limits on your child’s behavior.
Sit down and have a family discussion on the family rules in your home. Let your child know what the consequences will be if they break the rules. Rules should be few, fair, easy to follow, enforceable and positively stated (e.g., Stay close to dad in the store, use a pleasant voice, wash your hands before meals.)
4. Don’t feed into their emotional outbursts.
If your child misbehaves, stay calm and give them clear instruction to stop misbehaving and tell them what you would like them to do instead. (e.g., “Stop throwing. Play with the truck on the ground.”) Use specific praise with your child if they stop. (e.g., “Thank you for playing with the truck on the ground.”)
5. Have realistic expectations.
All children misbehave at times, and it is inevitable that you will have some discipline challenges. Trying to be the perfect parent—and expecting the perfectly behaved kid—can set you up for frustration and disappointment.
6. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
It is difficult to be a calm, relaxed parent if you are stressed, feeling anxious or down. Try to find time every day—or at least once a week—to let yourself unwind or do something that you enjoy. I know as parents it is difficult to do, but give yourself permission to take time for yourself. It makes a difference.
7. Don’t forget to give your child positive attention.
Your kids need positive attention. If they do not receive positive attention from family, they may choose to seek out negative attention. This is because negative attention is still attention, and any attention is better than being ignored. Remember to communicate with your child. Love and care are the greatest healers.
8. Guide your child through their mistakes & weaknesses.
Punishing a child is not as effective as using praise and rewards. Rather than focusing on weaknesses, find ways to assist your child in developing to their full potential. When encouraged, children will acquire talents to compensate for any deficiencies.
9. Avoid negative emotional reactions to your child’s behavior.
If your child has problems with control, negative responses—like anger, sarcasm and ridicule—will only make them feel worse. Use short and mild verbal phrases/acronyms to remind your child to focus, like “L P.A.,” for “let’s pay attention.”
10. Parent by example. (Model what you expect)
Think of your kids like a copy machine who will mimic everything you do. If you make poor choices in behavior, you are giving them permission to act in the same ways. Check in with yourself, and don’t lose it in front of the children.
11. Don’t ever give up on your child!
All of your child’s problems can be worked through with humor, goodwill and perseverance. With proper parental support, even the most troublesome teens can become amazing people.
Adopting these tips for your family may take a little adjusting, but stick with it, and you will see and love the results. When we take compassion and kindness into parenting practices, we are going to have much better outcomes and the whole family is going to be happier and healthier.
Reena B. Patel is a licensed educational psychologist, guidance counselor and author of two children’s books about compassion and kindness, “My Friend Max: A Story About a Friend with Autism,” and “Winnie & Her Worries.”