According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, by the time children have reached the fifth grade, around 80 percent of them have been physically punished (which includes spanking and hitting), behavior that has shown to be ineffective. They also report that it can lead to more aggressive behavior. They recommend that parents use something that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to as positive parenting.
“Positive parenting focuses on teaching children what type of behavior is acceptable through means that are more effective and positive,” explains Reena B. Patel, a parenting expert, licensed educational psychologist, and author. “When we focus on positive parenting techniques, we get the desired behavior we want, and we help to create children who are mentally healthier and better adjusted.”
Patel has spent over 20 years working with families to help them adopt supportive and effective positive parenting practices.
Here are 11 positive parenting practices that Patel recommends families adopt:
1. Give your child lots of nurturing physical attention – children like hugs, cuddles and holding hands.
2. Children are more likely to misbehave when they are bored, so provide engaging indoor and outdoor activities.
3. Set clear limits on your child’s behavior. Sit down and have a family discussion on the family rules, letting your child know what the consequences will be if they break the rules.
This guideline stood out to our Bluffton parents! Colleen Heaton, 5th grade teacher and mother to two daughters under eight, comments that consistency is key! She remarks that, “often times as a parent (and teacher) we set these limits and then over time these lines start to blur. It’s hard to stay consistent in today’s world with all that is thrown at us.”
Similarly, Amanda Bonilla, mom of a high school senior and two elementary-aged kids, says, “I use the ‘If you do this behavior, then consequence xyz will happen.’ Then follow through on whatever consequence you mentioned. I think THIS is the biggest one. Kids are constantly testing boundaries. Whatever we say, we must follow through with.
Tony Carneavale, of Bluffton, parent to 7-year-old Owen, says, “Setting clear limits on behavior with known consequences goes a long way toward getting the behavior you want, as well as avoiding meltdowns when a child wanders outside those limits. We’ve done this in our house for years, and Owen knows exactly what will happen if he breaks the rules. It’s bound to happen, and when it does, we calmly remind him of the rule he broke and then, believe it or not, Owen usually tells us what his consequence is.”
4. If your child misbehaves, stay calm and give them clear instruction to stop and tell them what you would like them to do instead and offer specific praise when they obey.
Carneavale mentions having a discussion right then about future consequences. “The consequence should be related to the behavior and it only applies if the behavior occurs again.”
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 can set you up for frustration and disappointment.
Bonilla raises some good questions about these points. “What is the next step if the child continues to misbehave? Obviously, we won’t have perfect children and should give lots of grace as we receive grace everyday…but at the same time, we should have that conversation about boundaries and what we need to do to work towards desired behavior.”
6. Look after yourself. It is difficult to be a calm, relaxed parent if you are stressed, feeling anxious or down. Try to find time every week to let yourself unwind or do something that you enjoy.
This really resonated with Heaton! She said that she recently started working out. She says the 45 minutes she takes for herself is not a disservice to her kids! It helps her to be a better parent! Bonilla needs to run alone at least three times a week.
7. Children need positive attention. If they do not receive positive attention from family, they may choose to seek out negative attention, 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.
Heaton’s experience shows that by the time she gets students in fifth grade, “they have been conditioned in one of two ways by parents. They either thrive with positive attention or pay no attention to it. It is what they are used to at home.”
8. 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 his or her full potential.
Bonilla says, “What some children perceive as “punishment” may be effective, i.e. a teenager not being responsible with her smart phone: confiscate the smart phone and give them a flip phone. I’ve done it! It works.”
9. Avoid negative emotional reactions, such as anger, sarcasm, and ridicule. If your child has problems with control, negativity will only make him or her feel worse.
10. Parent by example (Model what you expect). Poor choices in behavior give kids permission to act in the same ways. Check in with yourself, and don’t lose it in front of the children.
11. Don't give up on your child, ever! 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.
Carneavale says “never giving up on your child takes patience and can cause a few gray hairs, but it’s the most important take-away from the article.” He goes on to say that “a child who doesn’t feel supported will develop low self-esteem. It takes constant effort on our part to support them. Be their advocate and set the example. Teach them to never give up by leading the way.
“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,” added Patel. “If you are not used to using positive parenting practices, it may take a little adjusting, but stick with it, and you will see and love the results.”
American Academy of Pediatrics. Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children.http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/142/6/e20183112
International Quarterly of Community Health Education. Relationship between parenting styles and adolescents’ self esteem. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30426845