When a child is brought to the world by the miracle of birth, it rarely comes with an instruction manual. Giving birth is just the beginning.
Your life takes a 180-degree turn and it will never be the same again. You are entrusted with the huge responsibility of raising another human being.
But most of us are unaware that getting educated on “how to parent” is of paramount importance. Because the way you parent is ultimately how your child will turn out. Consciously or unconsciously, we raise our kids the way we were raised and it could be the right or wrong way.
The earlier years of a child’s life is centered around its parents. Hence the way you parent has a direct impact on their development: socially and cognitively. It also determines the relationship you will have with them later in life.
When it comes to parenting, everyone has their own style. Parenting styles can be classified into four, based on the discipline techniques used.
BAUMRIND’S STYLES OF PARENTING
Diana Baumrind, a researcher who focused on the classification of parenting styles, identified three initial parenting styles: Authoritative parenting, Authoritarian parenting, and Permissive parenting. Later Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin expanded upon Baumrind’s three parenting styles. They placed parenting styles into two categories: demanding and undemanding. And this lead to the distinction of parenting styles into four categories:
- Authoritative parenting (positive parenting)
- Permissive parenting
- Authoritarian parenting
- Neglectful parenting
Read this article to learn more about each parenting style. Out of the four styles, authoritative parenting is the most recommended one if you want to raise children in a healthy way.
Now, there are different names that come under authoritative parenting. They can be called peaceful parenting, positive parenting, respectful parenting, gentle parenting, etc.
Are all these the same?
They can differ in some of the techniques used for disciplining children. But one can consider that all these come under the giant umbrella term called “Authoritative parenting”. Authoritative parenting focuses on setting healthy boundaries by respecting the needs of children.
SO, WHAT’S POSITIVE PARENTING?
Rebecca Eanes, in her book “The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting” defines positive parenting as,
Positive Parenting – sometimes referred to as positive discipline, gentle guidance, or love-based parenting – is guidance offered in a positive way, keeping in mind the dignity of the parent and child preserving the parent-child relationship.
Positive parenting is different from permissive parenting, where parents do not set appropriate rules and limits.
Kids do need limits so that they learn self-discipline and learn to manage their responsibilities. Positive parenting techniques let us set firm limits, but respectfully and showing empathy.
Here are the key building blocks of positive parenting system:
- Positive discipline
Let’s see what each one means.
As a parent, you go through a lot of tough times. The times when our kids won’t sleep due to sickness or when they don’t listen to us when we say “it’s bedtime” even a hundred times or the times when your kids won’t stop fighting and complaining, you feel like your head is going to explode. You secretly feel like disappearing from your home and reappear in the mountains of Himalayas and stay there.
Parenting is hard. There is no doubt about it. But what makes it still worthwhile is the emotional rewards you receive.
No matter how angry or desperate you feel, you are the center of your kids’ world when they are young. And they love you unconditionally no matter how bad parent you think you are (we all have such moments).
But to keep your relationship with them strong even when they grow enough to spread their wings and fly, you need to practice this positive parenting technique, which is “connection”.
HOW TO CONNECT WITH YOUR CHILD?
Connection simply means spending quality time with your children doing the things that they enjoy. It strengthens the bond between you two and they feel loved and nurtured. Lack of connection is sometimes the reason behind attention-seeking behaviors.
If your child is being clingy or “acts out”, it is usually the manifestation of their inner need and craving for attention.
But our lives are so hectic and we need to tick off so many items on our list on a daily basis that we don’t have time to sit and relax with kids. I know, I know.
But nurturing connection is not a difficult task. You can do that in your spare time that you get here and there. If your kids are older, make them involved in your activities. That makes them feel important and they feel connected.
Some activities that build connection are reading, playing, cooking, listening attentively (to their rambling), or doing anything that they would love you to do with them. This helps to fill their cup and they feel emotionally safe.
Positive parenting is built upon mutual respect. We treat our kids as individuals and understand that they deserve respect like any full-grown adult does.
Like in authoritarian parenting, we do not say, “You will listen to me because I am your mother” or “Because I said so.”.
We acknowledge the fact that children are human beings just like us and they have the right to feel angry, sad, anxious and every other feeling that makes them human.
We do not discount their strong desires as being stubborn and punish them for those, but try to understand why they feel so in the first place.
Our job as a parent is to respect those feelings and respond to them in an empathetic way.
Which brings me to the next point.
According to Wikipedia, empathy is defined as,
Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
Kids have the innate need to be heard and understood. Not only kids, we adults need it as well.
In authoritarian parenting, we see that kids are not allowed to express their emotions. We fear that when they show anger and we acknowledge that, their emotions increase in intensity. Yes, it does sometimes.
When my daughter looks sad and when I empathize with her saying, “You are upset”, she cries more intensely with a louder volume. My acknowledgment didn’t amplify her feelings, but when she felt understood she felt it safe to let her feeling out which was inside her anyway.
What if, I ignore her? She may not cry more, but those feelings lie inside bottled up, weakening the connection between us and will burst out with more intensity some other day.
So, kids, when they complain and come to you with their little problems, what they need is the safety net of an adult who perfectly understands their feelings and empathizes with them. When they feel they are always heard, they grow emotionally strong by developing good EQ.
Empathy in positive parenting means listening to their feelings and trying to understand the big picture. They might have had a hard day, they might be facing constant frustration from a sibling or a family member. But kids do not know to name and express the feeling as such. But as a mother, you can reflect upon the “whys” of a tantrum and try to empathize with them.
Authoritarian parenting or fear-based parenting focuses on punishment as the tool to discipline children.
Children need to be disciplined and there should be limits, but in positive parenting, we do not use punishments, instead, we use positive discipline.
Studies show that punishment doesn’t work. In fact, spanking and other kinds of punishments have a direct impact on a child’s behavior later in their life.
And also punishment doesn’t “teach” kids a lesson, but it only induces fear in their mind regarding the source of punishment, that is you, or the other parent or any other caregiver. As a result, they start avoiding the source and try to do the same thing behind their back.
And this is why everyone needs to learn positive parenting techniques or try to attend parenting workshops and classes because most people repeat the cycle of bad parenting practices upon which they were raised, unknowingly.
Ultimately, as a parent, what you want for your kids is to raise them as good human beings who are capable of facing the world and have a good relationship with you no matter where they are in the world.
Punishments also induce aggressive behavior in children because that’s what they see and experience. If you resort to spanking when you are angry, what kids learn is the use of violence. They learn to use violence as a tool to get what they want because that’s what their parents do.
We resort to punishments to discipline young kids because it gives faster results. We are able to “shut the kid up” by yelling, threatening or spanking than if we were to deal with them using positive discipline.
Positive discipline and positive parenting, unlike traditional parenting, require a lot of work and patience. But the reason many parents prefer positive parenting is, the rewards are much higher and last long term.
Positive discipline focuses on teaching good behaviors and confronts mistakes with gentle discipline and kindness. Unlike the children who are punished for their mistakes, children who are brought up by positive parenting feel more connected to their parents. And as a reason, they behave better, because they don’t want to displease their parents.
Positive discipline concepts include:
- Effective communication that leads to the identification of the cause of the behavior and solving them, rather than trying to change the behavior blindly
- Setting clear rules and regulations and keeping your word if those are not followed
- Being kind but establish firmness in your response to the misbehavior
- Instead of punishment, trying to communicate with children and bring up solutions that work for everyone
- Seeing yourself in the same team as your kids and not as enemies, which shifts your focus from punishment to guiding and teaching
Now the next question comes,
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH POSITIVE PARENTING?
The change starts with you.
No matter what your kids’ ages are, you can start applying positive parenting strategies with them. Take a resolution to become a calm parent from today onwards, so that you can raise happy and calm kids.
Our brains have been wired by the experiences of being raised by parents who didn’t probably follow the authoritative parenting method. But don’t worry, now you have an idea about what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to parenting techniques.
Changing your ways may not be easy. But thankfully, there are studies that show that the brain’s wiring is something we can override with lots of practice.
HOW TO IMPLEMENT POSITIVE PARENTING?
In order to become better parents, we need to focus on meeting our child’s needs rather than “fixing” them all the time.
Children don’t need to be fixed, we need to fix our expectations of them.
What they need is gentle guidance.
The first step in understanding your child’s needs is understanding how their brain works.
- Understand your child’s brain development
We often dismiss a child’s tantrum as stubbornness whereas, in reality, they’re only acting from their brain’s capacity to withhold emotions.
Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though it can vary among individuals.
The brains of adults and kids (teens included) work differently. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, which is the rational part of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making, planning, and judgment. It doesn’t develop fully until a person reaches his mid-twenties.
This explains why toddlers burst out when they have intense emotions. Their brains are simply not capable of thinking with logic and reason, no matter how many times you say the same thing to them.
They don’t yet have the ability to verbalize their feelings. So their brains deal with the intense emotions by throwing tantrums.
As a parent, our duty is to understand this and offer them the emotional support they need when they feel these intense emotions.
- Change yourself and your mindset
You don’t have to change your personality once you become a parent. But if you want to implement positive parenting strategies, you need to be able to model the behavior you want to see in your kids.
As adults, we have days of intense emotions and frustrations too. We too sometimes struggle to manage our responsibilities.
I have always felt that becoming a parent can make you a better person. Because if you want to become a good parent, you try to behave as well as you can. The little eyes are always watching you and it’s upon you to lead them with intention.
You cannot teach your child self-discipline and self-control if you can’t control your anger and throw things at others when you are angry. Learn to discipline yourself so that you can show your kids how to behave.
Identify what triggers you and work on solving them by creating better strategies to handle your emotions. Your kids will learn from you.
Remember that no one is perfect, neither you nor your kids. We are all in this parenting journey working things out, one day at a time.
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