So, you’re tired of the disconnection and power struggles that traditional parenting techniques bring and you’re ready to give positive parenting an honest go, like this mother did. But you’re not sure where to start. If you’re a newbie to positive parenting, these tips should help ease the transition.
Tip #1: Reframe Parenting Goals and Roles
It’s really helpful to get out of the mindset that you must control your child’s behaviour. That’s an exhausting endeavour, and a feat you’ll never accomplish because, in the end, the only person you can ever really control is yourself. The goal of positive parenting is to raise thoughtful children with a strong sense of what is good and right and the inspiration and self-discipline to reach their highest potential.
That means your role is model, encourager, and mentor. I like to say I went from punisher to healer. Rather than punishing my child when his behaviour got off track, I looked for the inner hurt that was causing his bad behaviour and did my best to heal that hurt, whether it was disconnection, tiredness, hunger, or frustration.
Tip #2: Reframe Discipline
I’ve come to think of discipline in a different way. As I was trying to set a daily rhythm for our homeschool, my plans kept failing. I’d start the school year off with a bang, but several weeks in, our routine would slip, I would be less consistent with sticking to my predetermined schedule, and frustration would creep in. I realised I needed more discipline to keep a tight, consistent routine for the long haul. Did this mean I needed someone to come and sit me in a corner when I got off schedule? Of course not!
What I needed was inner motivation and better time management skills, not punishment. I think of discipline in the same way now for my children. My goal is always to teach them how to govern themselves – their emotions, spaces, time, behaviour, etc. Therefore, I ask “what does he need right now to build self-discipline?” The answer has never been an arbitrary punishment.
Tip #3: Get Ahold of Yourself
This is probably the most challenging aspect of positive parenting, controlling your own thoughts, words, and actions. Old patterns are difficult to break, and you may find that you slip back into negative thinking, yelling, or a desire to punish often.
Like everything, practice makes you better. The more you choose a helpful or positive thought over a toxic thought or to step away and take a deep breath when you’re angry, the easier it will become for your brain to take that new pathway.
Tip #4: Get Your Partner On Board
This is such a huge subject that I wrote a whole book about it. (Go ahead and pre-order it!) You can’t control your partner either, but you can inspire and influence him/her. Explain the brain science behind your change of parenting, your goals, and your new plan. Make sure your partner understands that this is not permissive parenting (a common worry I hear). Start by having a discussion to answer the following questions:
I feel that my partner is a good parent because____.
I feel that my role as a parent is to ___.
My parents were ___ and I feel that was ___.
It’s most important to me for my child to be ___.
These questions provide a good jumping off point to find your common ground. I recommend posing the question and taking turns answering each one and then letting the conversation flow.
Tip #5: Learn How to Decode Behaviour
Understanding what’s driving your child’s behaviour is key in coaching her toward improvement. You’ll have to become quite a good detective. We often want to punish children for simple immaturity and childish behaviour that we find inconvenient.
While blatant disrespect for people and property should not be tolerated, rowdiness, tears, overwhelming emotions, and poor ability to handle difficult situations don’t need punished so much as they need worked through. Time takes care of many “misbehaviours” because it allows your child’s brain to grow and mature. Example and mentoring take care of the rest.
Tip #6: Become a Problem-Solver
I’ve said before, “Look for solutions rather than punishments. Children need to learn how to fix their mistakes, not just pay for them.” Sometimes the solution might look like a consequence (taking away a toy that keeps getting thrown or making a child earn money to pay for a broken or wasted item) but the intent behind the lesson – and the empathy that accompanies it – will mean the difference between a punishment and a solution.
The goal is to empower and encourage children to right their wrongs and fix their mistakes, and this should feel good, not bad. If it is attached to shame – “You naughty child!” – it will feel bad. If it is presented in a positive light – “Oops, mistakes happen. I know you’ll think of a fantastic way to fix this, and I’ll help you if you need me”- this facilitates learning.
Tip #7: Grace for All
Children need to be given grace while they learn and grow. Parents do, too! As you embark on this new journey, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way. Don’t beat yourself up. Be your own gentle, encouraging friend.