Maybe you’re new to positive parenting, or perhaps you’re looking to hit the “reset button” on your positivity at home. Either way, you’ve found the right place, my friend. While I don’t know if anyone can ever truly call themselves an “expert” on the hardest job in the world, I do know one thing for sure: As parents, we’re better together. Learn the 10 top tips for positive parenting from 10 inspiring and diverse mothers!
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What does it mean to be a positive parent?
First, let’s talk about what positive parenting is (and isn’t). Then, we’ll dive into the top tips for positive parenting that you can put into action today to spark some extra love, laughter, and peaceful limits in your home.
What positive parenting isn’t
Positive parenting is the antithesis of authoritarian (or what I like to call “old school”) parenting. If phrases such as “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” or “do it because I said so” sound familiar, you already have an excellent vision in your mind of what I’m talking about here. This type of parenting attempts to use fear, demands, and harsh consequences to control children, along with their feelings and choices. Time-outs, forced apologies, and sometimes even spankings are commonplace.
Now I’m certainly not saying that caregivers with an authoritarian style don’t love their kids. Heck, this is the way most of us were raised. For most, it comes from a place of love, trying to get kids to do the “right thing”. If you’ve fallen into some old school practices or ways of thinking, you’re not alone. As parents, we start with what we know! As we expand our horizons and learn new practices, we can pick and choose what works for our family and feel good about that approach.
Why are parents moving away from authoritarian practices?
So what’s with the shift away from old school parenting? When and how did we get here? First and foremost, research shows that authoritarian parenting isn’t effective and can even make things worse for kids. Furthermore, there’s a significant correlation between authoritarian parenting methods and challenging behavior in young children. For example, a cross-cultural study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology identified harsh consequences as a primary contributor to disruptive behavior among four-year-olds.
Second, the concept of emotional intelligence (the ability to make decisions based on the emotions you accurately identify in yourself and others) became a game-changer after its introduction in the early 1990s. Consequently, modeling and instilling empathy in children has emerged as a high priority for many parents. You’ll notice that most “buzz-word” parenting approaches that have come about in recent decades hold empathy as a core parenting value: Attachment, gentle, natural, intentional, conscious, and positive parenting, to name a few.
What is positive parenting?
As authoritarian practices are on the decline, positive parenting has certainly become a front runner among the new parenting approaches referenced above. In the simplest form, positive parenting is all about taking an authoritative approach, one that is nurturing and responsive, yet clear and consistent. You’ll find endless definitions of positive parenting floating around out there. One of the most widely accepted, yet broad definitions comes from Seay, Freysteinson & MacFarlane’s 2014 concept analysis of positive parenting:
“Positive parenting is the continual relationship of a parent(s) and a child or children that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally.“
Perhaps my favorite definition comes from Amy McCready of Positive Parenting Solutions, one of the most nationally recognized advocates for positive childrearing. She writes:
“Positive parenting holds children to realistic standards by using clear expectations and empowering children to become the resilient and capable children you hope them to be.”
Common themes across positive parenting definitions:
- Building and maintaining a nurturing, trusting, and respectful relationship between child and caregiver, from infancy onward, is pivotal.
- Parents should respond sensitively to their children’s developmental stage and unique needs. Positive parents take time to observe and listen to their children.
- Children benefit socially and emotionally when recognized for their strengths and accomplishments.
- Parenting decisions should be made consciously and intentionally, rather than out of frustration or anger.
- Children are entitled to their feelings, both positive and negative. Positive parents validate their children’s emotions through words and actions.
- There are no “bad” kids. Positive parents recognize that all kids make not-so-good choices at times.
- Natural consequences should be utilized over arbitrary or physical punishments, as a positive approach to discipline.* Positive parents set limits and boundaries from a place of love.
- Children should be supported and empowered to build autonomy and resilience.
- Empathy should be both modeled and taught to children. Positive parents talk openly and supportively with children about how their choices impact others.
*see chart below
Why we’re better together when it comes to top tips for positive parenting
Undoubtedly, every parent has walked a different journey. We’ve all experienced unique childhoods, diverse paths to parenthood, and raise our children according to their own personalities, strengths, and needs. Every mom, dad, or caregiver who strives to be a positive parent does so with a different “why” driving that decision.
My positive parenting “why”
For example, my positive parenting why is two-fold:
- First, I want to take on a parenting style that places a loving, trusting relationship with my child as a top priority.
- Second, in my professional experience as a former school counselor and Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports Coach, I have seen first-hand that a positive approach to children’s behavior works.
How we benefit from the “whys” of others
Every parent adopts a positive parenting approach from a different perspective. We each find new and different ways to build connections with our children and to empower, encourage, and support them to be their best selves. Sure, we stumble and face different obstacles along the way, but we reflect, readjust, and grow accordingly. As parents, we can be so much stronger, wiser, and energized when we share ideas and work together. If you ever feel like you’re walking through parenthood alone or are struggling to find a like-minded support system, you’ve found the right place!
10 Top Tips for Positive Parenting: According to 10 Uniquely Positive Moms
When I decided to write about how to be a more positive parent, I knew immediately I wanted this to be a collaborative venture. So I put the question out to the Such a Little While circle of support and fellow positive parenting bloggers: What are your top tips for positive parenting? The answers were more diverse and inspiring than I could have ever imagined.
To the supportive, thoughtful women behind this post, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart! You’ve inspired me to keep growing and learning as a positive parent.
Tip #1: Validate the feeling, but limit the behavior
“One key to positive discipline is to put boundaries on kids’ behavior, but not on their emotions. Allow kids to express emotions (even “negative” ones) but you can set boundaries on behavior (e.g., not hitting, throwing things, etc.). “
Additional thoughts on positive discipline
Well said, Dr. Webb! Unfortunately, this is such a common misconception about positive parenting (which can also lead to parenting criticism from friends and family who may follow a more authoritarian approach). Just because we validate a feeling, does not mean we are excusing or agreeing with the behavior. Another myth is that limits are “off-limits”. As positive parents, we surely carry a responsibility to set boundaries to protect the health, safety, and emotional well-being of our children and others.
Tip #2: Continuously self-reflect on your emotions
“My tip for being a positive parent is to recognize that when you become upset with your child it almost never has anything to do with your child! So take a moment to recognize your feelings and figure out why you’re being triggered. Are you tired? Hungry? Worried? Usually, when something is upsetting us about our child’s behavior, it’s showing us old wounds (I used to get punished for that) or fears for the future (is my child going to grow up and be a bad person? Are other parents judging me right now?). Our children can show us areas where we need to grow or let go of things and then we need to parent ourselves gently through our own big feelings. When we can do that, we can calmly and gently parent our child through their unwanted behaviors.”
Additional thoughts on self-reflection
Wow! I’ll be the first to admit that this one hits home for me. During the first few months of motherhood with my high-needs newborn, I could not figure out why my son would explode into hysterics anytime I took him in public alone. On family outings with my husband, he was significantly calmer! When I interrogated hubby to spill his baby whisperer secrets, he politely inquired if I might be feeling anxious about our solo ventures.
Ouch! Could I really be the cause of my baby’s incessant cries? The next time we left home, I made it a point to calm my mind. More importantly, I stopped worrying about what others might think of my parenting. To my surprise, my husband was right!
If a two-month-old can pick up on mama’s energy and emotions, we better believe that older kids can too. In the counseling world, we call this “countertransference” and hold an ethical obligation to self-monitor and separate our own emotions from those of students or clients. As positive parents, we carry that same responsibility to minimize the role of our own emotions in our parenting.
Tip #3: Remove distractions and be intentionally present
“Always put aside your phone or tablet when your child is asking you a question. Not only are you present and there to help them, but you’re also setting a good example for when they’re playing a game on it and you want their attention.”
Additional thoughts on intentional parenting
As a toddler mom, this one got me thinking about the future. I know I’m not alone in feeling #parentingguilt anytime I check an email, text, or social media notification in my child’s presence. While it’s nice to say phones are strictly off-limits, it’s just not realistic for most parents. I appreciate what Margaret suggests and feel it strikes a healthy balance. Be intentional and aware of when your child needs you and your attention and purposefully exclude technology from those moments. When in doubt, model the behavior you wish to see from your children in the future!
Tip #4: Remember this time is equally special and short
“Live in the moment. Your kids will grow up and leave your home one day. You will miss those moments when you had time but you did not enjoy it. So do this, live this time as it will be gone before you know it. Kiss your kids more, love them more, hug them more.”
Additional thoughts on keeping it in perspective
Saima, there’s no doubt I’m on board here. 🙂 At 35 weeks pregnant, I was strolling through HomeGoods and burst into tears upon encountering a beautiful wall hanging with this quote.
I immediately embraced it as my motherhood mantra (and it later became the inspiration behind suchalittlewhile.com). We have an incredibly short time to love on our kids and help shape the adults they will become. So why not do so positively, empathically, and with no regrets?
Tip #5 Model healthy coping skills
“When life feels overwhelming, try to take a deep breath before speaking to your kids. It’s so easy to snap and take out the day’s frustrations against your little ones. Try to remember that they are just that – little! They are supposed to be loud, make messes, explore their environment, and most of all, need you. This can get exhausting, so remember to take a deep breath and refocus throughout the day. I’ve also caught my toddler taking deep breaths when she feels overwhelmed! It’s a powerful tool that is great to pass on to your kids as well.”
Additional thoughts on practicing what we preach
Lindsey, I love this powerful reminder that our actions speak so much louder than our words! Teaching and explaining coping skills to a toddler can feel so daunting, but truthfully the best teaching tool is leading by example. It’s also a great way to show kids how important it is to “stop and think” when you’re feeling upset or frustrated.
Additionally, it’s no secret that self-care can be such a struggle for parents of young children. We know it’s important, yet there’s only so much time in the day. I like to say that “taking care of your child includes caring for his or her parent”. As positive parents, we owe it to ourselves and our children to engage in self-care, both physically and emotionally!
Tip #6: Make kindness a priority in your home
“An act of kindness costs very little but it is really worthwhile.”
Additional thoughts on spreading kindness
The idea that “it’s cool to be kind” has taken off in recent years across many schools and let’s hope it’s just the beginning! There are so many fun ways to engage kids in celebrating kindness at home as well. Children can get incredibly creative in thinking of ways to give compliments, help friends and neighbors, and work to solve community problems.
Suggested resources for teaching kindness
As a school counselor, I’ve loved engaging my students in an annual kindness challenge during Random Acts of Kindness Week each year. I agree with Sushma that it’s quite worthwhile to also lead the charge on kindness at home. I’ve included some of my all-time favorite kindness resources from my school counseling bookshelf to help you spark some ideas on how to get started!
Tip #7: Know the strength that comes from asking for help
“Asking for help does not mean you are weak. Mama, it only means you are wise.”
Additional thoughts on parenting self-advocacy
Beautifully put, Emily! I struggled with this mindset as a first-time mom. I may have thought I wanted no help, but the fact of the matter was, I needed it post-c-section. Here are some examples of ways you might ask your partner, friends, or family members to support you. Remember, you are a gift, not a burden, and you can always ask how you can support them in return!
Ways to ask for help
- Ask someone you trust to take the kids on a walk or to the park for 30 minutes of alone time.
- Rotate weeks on household responsibilities like grocery shopping and laundry (or make them a family effort!).
- Be upfront when you just need a nap.
- Have the courage to say, “I’m overwhelmed/frustrated/stressed and I just don’t know what to do next.”
- Be humble enough to ask for advice from parents who support you. (Let’s stop comparing… we can all benefit from one another’s knowledge and experiences!)
Tip #8: Take time to have FUN with your kids!
“Give your child the gift of play – they need it for both cognitive and social-emotional development!”
Additional thoughts on playtime
Yes! As positive parents, let’s let kids be kids. Additionally, let’s play alongside them while they still want us to :). My toddler and I love playing with pretty much anything made by Melissa & Doug these days. Nearly all of their toys are made from wood, designed for children’s unique developmental stages, and spark curiosity and creativity. As a mom, they’ve always been a brand I feel good about for safety, fun, learning. Truthfully, I enjoy playing them too! Here are a few current favorites from our collection:
Tip #9: Practice gratitude as a family
“We encourage our children to be mindful, grateful, and connect with their feelings through gratitude journals. Every night we journal together as part of our bedtime routine. It gives our children the opportunity to reflect on their day, find something to be grateful for, and acknowledge both the highs and lows of their day. Our kids are developing a positive mindset and are more open to sharing their feelings by making this part of our daily routine and doing it together.”
Additional thoughts on family gratitude journals
This is such an inspiring positive parenting tip for the whole family! It’s essential to create a safe, trusting space for kids to talk about both the highlights and challenges of their day. While this is important for all kids, I especially love the idea of winding down the night this way for kids who struggle with worries and anxiety. I wouldn’t be surprised if this routine would help many kids get a better night’s rest! Like grown-ups, kids need and deserve a chance to process their feelings and thoughts on the day’s events with someone they love and trust.
Tip #10: Always challenge yourself to keep growing
“Remember that it is through the most difficult moments as parents that we grow the most.”
Alright, I’m going to take a stab at a top tip too :). Whoever said, “a parent’s work is never done,” wasn’t just talking about the laundry! While on one hand, this quote exhausts me, on the other, it motivates me to keep growing and learning as a mom. Think back on your life journey thus far:
- What were the most challenging times for you?
- What values, skills, or life lessons did you gain from overcoming those obstacles?
- How have you benefited as a result?
Additional thoughts on growing through adversity
While I may have a few fond memories of spending summers off work in my 20’s playing Candy Crush by day and “going out” by night, I can’t exactly say these experiences helped me become a better person. It was during the first few school years I spent as a counselor at a Title 1 school that forever changed my life trajectory. Those were by far the hardest years of my professional journey.
Putting in 60+ hours a week to barely stay afloat, I felt beyond overwhelmed and underprepared. Suddenly at age 23, kids and parents were coming to me for help with problems like suicidal thoughts, homelessness, child neglect, substance abuse, and the foster care system, to name a few. I would have never believed it then, but those were the best and most beneficial years of my career.
The blood (yes, literally), sweat, and tears I shed in that school will forever have a profound and lasting impact on my life journey. Through this experience, I gained the ability to advocate for myself and others, a skill I have used time and time again to persevere through challenges.
The power of challenging yourself as a positive parent
My point is, sometimes we have to step outside of our comfort zone and push ourselves a little more to grow. There’s always more we can learn from one another as parents. Let’s face it, just when we think we have parenthood all figured out, our kids will throw us another curveball. But not to worry, as a result, we will come out of it smarter, stronger, and more skilled to hit the next one out of the park!
Challenge yourself & take on 30 more top tips for positive parenting!
Ideal for busy parents with big hearts
- Are you new to positive parenting or are you looking to hit the “reset” button on your positivity level at home?
- Have you been meaning to buy a positive parenting book, but know realistically you won’t have the time to read it?
- Are you tired of parenting resources filled with too much “fluff” and not enough tools you can put into action quickly and successfully?
What will I gain through the 30-Day Positive Parenting Challenge?
The 30-Day Positive Parenting Challenge provides simple, effective top tips for positive parenting, helping you to:
- Identify and clearly define your personal positive parenting “why” to keep you motivated and on track
- Learn the foundation and essentials of positive discipline
- Uncover the truth about appropriate and effective consequences
- Successfully validate your child’s feelings
- Increase two-way trust in your parent-child relationship
- Set limits and boundaries with love
- Be present and make the most of every moment with your child
- Show love in ways children best receive it
- Help your child grow through their mistakes
- Increase your child’s ability to show remorse and feel empathy for others
- Foster your child’s sense of autonomy and gain independent skills
- Remain confident in your positive parenting approach, even if you lack support from loved ones
- Model and practice self-care
What will I need to do?
The 30-Day Challenge is truly a pint-sized powerhouse when it comes to top tips for positive parenting! Find just 2-3 minutes to tackle one tip a day and reflect as you go! It’s really that straightforward and time-efficient. The workbook is designed to help you celebrate your greatest parenting wins, note any areas for growth, and record your own ideas for how to grow as a positive parent!
Now’s the time to be the positive parent you always planned to be… for free!
Sign-up below and the 30-Day Positive Parenting Challenge will be delivered right to your inbox! Never hesitate to email me with questions along the way, I’m happy to connect. In addition, you’ll be added to the Such a Little While circle of support newsletter (Don’t worry, you and I are both too busy for spam. I share only the very best content and free bonus resources with my top parents!).
The last thing you need to know about top tips for positive parenting
I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned some incredible top tips for positive parenting today from this inspiring group of moms! The best part about learning from one another and growing together is knowing you will always remain the expert on your children. As you reflect on these top tips for positive parenting and tidbits from other parents in your life, take and implement what feels right for you and your family. Adapt, adjust, and forgo what you would like. There is no perfect science to parenting! Even when implementing evidence-based positive parenting practices, you’ll want to take into account your child’s individual strengths, areas for growth, and temperament. Fortunately, you know these factors like the back of your hand. In other words, you got this!
References & Resources