Positive parenting is about meeting our children where they are, seeing the needs and feelings behind their behavior, respecting them as whole and complete human beings, ones that deserve to be taught and guided, not punished and disciplined.
It doesn’t only sound beautiful – it truly is! So why doesn’t it work for so many families who abandon classical parenting paradigms and shift to positive parenting?
Why Shift to Positive Parenting?
Classical parenting paradigms don’t feel good. Punishing your child doesn’t feel good. Sending crying children on a time-out doesn’t feel good. Many parents I talk to shift to positive parenting because they want to feel better while parenting – they don’t want to feel the guilt of a hurting child, they don’t want the post-yelling sore throat. They don’t want the pain of disconnection classical parenting brings. When they first come across the positive parenting paradigm, it suddenly feels like freedom to all – and that’s what they want – the freedom to parent from the heart, the freedom to be kind and loving to a child no matter what – and doing that without the judgments usually involved.
The Mistake Parents Make When Shifting to Positive Parenting
This promise sounds so grand and releasing, yet the balance is often lost, which is why these parents don’t see the results of their shift. Instead, what they see are children who set the rules and become the leaders of the house. They see children blinded by the freedom they suddenly receive after not having it for so long. These kids are gasping for it as if it was fresh air after living underground. Freedom and protection only work when there is a healthy balance between the two. You can not become a positive parent and celebrate the gifts of connection without holding on to your boundaries.
Positive Parenting is not Permissive Parenting
Celebrating your child’s freedom and autonomy, seeing their needs, experiencing them, and communicating to them without judgment does not mean giving them everything they want. It means giving them what they need – and this is often confusing.
What does Positive Parenting Look Like in Real Life?
I’m so happy that you’ve chosen to shift to positive parenting! I can promise you that doing it right will serve you and your children immensely and that the ripples of your shift will benefit generations to come! Each child who is not motivated by fear, guilt, and shame is a child who will become an adult who will carry these peaceful and respectful strategies forward and will change the world.
In the following paragraphs, I will examine everyday challenging situations and explain how to handle them positively, with compassion and empathy, without punishing, bribing, or yelling – while maintaining your position as the gentle leader of your house.
Let’s Say that Your Toddler Doesn’t Want his Diaper Changed
This is a common struggle! You announce that your little one’s diaper needs to be changed, and he starts running around the house or even crying that he’s not interested. If you used to chase him in the past – that’s no longer happening. Your first step is empathy – meaning – describing to him what you think he’s feeling: “Wow, you really don’t want to change your diaper now, do you? You were having such a great time doing X and this! I get it”!
Now that your little one feels seen, heard, and understood, you set your boundary with an explanation – “I need to change your diaper so that you don’t get a rash.” Once he knows the reason, you offer all possible choices: “I can change your diaper standing up or lying down, here or there – what would you like”?
If your toddler does not cooperate, pick him up gently and lovingly, and keep talking in a calm voice. Explain what’s about to happen and change his diaper while still being empathetic to his feelings. Don’t fear your child’s emotions; use them to coach him to emotional intelligence, name them, accept them, and celebrate them even when they are unpleasant emotions.
Let’s Say that Your Child Struggles with Transitions
Another common struggle – you’re not alone 🙂 Many kids find it hard to leave the house, leave an activity, start a new activity, or anything alike. Start by giving notices, many! Not five minutes ahead of time, but 30 or more if possible. Let your child pick the last activity before shifting, or let them choose the next activity when possible. If your child still doesn’t cooperate, start with empathy. “Wow, I can see that you are enjoying X, and you don’t want to leave. I get it”. Then take your child on an imaginary trip when his wishes can realize – “I too want you to continue doing X; I wish it were possible.” Then offer an outlook into the future that gives your child hope: “we will be able to do this again on Tuesday.”
Suppose your child is still unwilling to follow you; set your boundary with love and compassion. Don’t yell, don’t threaten, don’t punish. You can do it 🙂
Let’s Say Your Child has a Tantrum (an Emotional Outburst)
I’ve written extensively on why tantrums are a good thing, and I’ll summarize – emotions need an outlet. Emotions are messengers of needs; they tell us the story of our child’s soul. We need to listen to their tantrums and learn from them. Not try and stop them from expressing their emotions or shaming them for having such complex feelings.
The biggest tantrums usually have to do with the imaginary need to control, which is actually the need for autonomy and self-efficacy. When parents control most of their child’s decisions, tantrums are expected around every decision the child can’t make.
Take the time to list the rules and boundaries that you have to insist on, then make a list of those you can decide on together, and then make a list of those your child can decide for himself.
Do this, communicate all this to your child, make decisions together and let him make his own. This alone will reduce the amount and potency of tantrums ASAP, and when they do occur – you can copy-paste the strategy you just learned:
- Imaginary trip
- Choice and future Outlook
- Compassionate boundary
Becoming a positive parent is not easy, but it is rewarding on so many levels, with the most important one being your relationship, your connection to your child. Relationships are built upon mutual trust and understanding, acceptance of feelings and characters, and positive communication. You’ve got this!
I hope all this made positive sense 🙂 If you want more information or inspiration, join my positive parenting support group on Facebook! I hope to meet you soon 🙂