Spotlight Series #2 – Insight Into Children’s Behavior

I frequently hear statements like “my parents have implemented [A, B, C] and I am perfectly alright” or “I just don’t want to be like my mother / father” in my therapy- or classroom. Although these statements appear to be at odds with one another, they both pertain to a traditional, sometimes harsh parenting style. Being a parent is challenging, especially in today’s society where there are many responsibilities to balance.  But, with the right approach, I believe all parents can become the parents they’ve always dreamed to be.

Have you ever considered a strategy with a decent balance of almost everything? Assertive without being controlling, firm without being inflexible, and supportive of discipline without being harsh. A parenting strategy that applies to children of different ages and stages of development; something that genuinely works for behavioural issues that arise daily as well as those that are more distressing or severe? It almost sounds too good to be true!

This month’s spotlight focuses on the wonders of positive parenting and how you may use it in the development of your child’s behavioural management plan.

Getting Context

Positive parenting is defined as the ongoing interaction between a parent and a child that includes nurturing, teaching, guiding, communicating, and consistently and unconditionally fulfilling the child’s needs. According to this viewpoint, there is no “good” or “bad” children; rather, children with different needs. The strategy further assumes that all children are born good, selfless, and eager to behave morally correct. Therefore, a mindset change is frequently necessary, before parents can fully embrace this strategy. In addition to being warm, loving, caring, and nurturing, parents also take the role of teachers, leaders, and role models to their children. This empowers children to realize their full potential as resilient, content individuals.

Parents that use this strategy are known to share both authoritative and developing parenting techniques. Typical parental behaviors include:

  • Expressing warmth and affection to support positive child development.
  • Being responsive to a child’s behavioral cues.
  • Supporting and encouraging a child’s abilities and interests.
  • Using play and conversation to support a child’s cognitive development;
  • Establishing clear boundaries and being consistent with expectations.
  • Prioritizing family time and valuing emotional experiences.
  • Engaging in regular, open dialogues with children.
  • Supporting children’s independence and individuality.

Adopting this strategy does not guarantee all will immediately be butterflies and rainbows.  It also does not suggest that a parent should condone negative behavior. Positive discipline is both effective and supported by research – it is applied in a kind manner without hostility, threats, yelling, or retribution. This strategy suggests consistency and follows clear guidelines, expectations, and consequences for negative behaviors.

Sure, positive parenting sounds good. But some parents worry that it is too fluffy, soft, and may not work. 

Contrary to conventional methods, positive parenting offers numerous evidence-based advantages.  Children’s self-esteem, emotional expressiveness, self-efficacy, sense of belonging, social skills, and capacity to make decisions, are all encouraged by this strategy.  Additionally, the positive parent-child relationship is linked to academic achievement, less behavioral issues and overall favorable youth development. The strategy emphasizes the typical behavior that parents want their children to emulate over time, not about finding a quick fix. Positive parenting has long-lasting and permanent positive outcomes.

Try it out at home

It’s never too late to start practicing positive parenting. Strategies apply to children of any age and developmental level. Consider implementing these five tips during the upcoming month. If you find it helpful, connect with more positive parenting-related activities, workbooks, books, videos, courses, articles, and podcasts – there is a global support network.

Tip #1: Identify and seize opportunities to foster trust

Occasionally, it can be difficult to cede control. However, letting your child know that you believe in them can help them recognize their own skills and give them the confidence they need to become more independent.

Practical example:

ToddlerSchool-agedAdolescent
Wherever possible, provide your child with choices, for example –   a choice of two lunchtime snacks, or two outfits when getting dressed.Encourage your child to set their own attainable goals and take responsibility for them. For example, based on their development, ask them to list three learning goals.Give your child considerable leeway while establishing expectations and goals. For example – they must complete one task per day but let them choose it. Give them a deadline for completing their task but allow the freedom to decide when and where to complete it.

 Tip #2: Pay attention to emotions

Reflecting on your own childhood, it’s important to recognize that childhood can be confusing, annoying, or downright challenging. Demonstrate to your child that you understand this and that you are there to provide support. Share your own strategies for dealing with similar circumstances.

Practical example:

ToddlerSchool-agedAdolescent
If your child becomes upset about something you perceive as minor, such as receiving the wrong cup or having their shoelaces come untied, keep in mind that, to them, this is a big deal!  Be patient and sensitive to their feelings.If your child put a lot of effort into an assignment, let them know you appreciate their efforts, even if they don’t earn a good grade. Give your child praise for effort, rather than results.Possess reasonable expectations. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally, even you. Preteens or teens who are attempting to find their way to adulthood, will inevitably make mistakes.  Instead of concentrating on isolated incidents, consider repeated habits.

Tip #3: Choose discipline, rather than punishment

There are plenty of ways to discipline your child without leaving them feeling scared or threatened. It’s important to be clear, consistent and considerate. Make sure the reasons for the punishment and the appropriateness of the consequences are understood.

Practical example:

ToddlerSchool-agedAdolescent
If your child behaves in a way you don’t like, show them what they should do in that situation instead. For example, if they throw their food on the floor when they’re done eating, put the food back on their plate and demonstrate the proper way to bring it to you.State clear expectations ahead of time. Always state the potential consequence of their actions and let them decide if they will continue with their behavior – for example: If you continue with [A, B, C]; you will get a time-out.Make sure the punishment fits the crime. Instead of grounding your child every time they misbehave, choose a consequence that is appropriate for their specific actions.

 Tip #4: Embrace positive reinforcement

Instead of focusing on what your child does incorrectly, acknowledge the positive behavior that they show.  This implies avoiding shame and celebrating brilliance! If your child behaves well, be sure to recognize it by giving them positive attention, verbal praise, or even tangible rewards.

Practical example:

ToddlerSchool-agedAdolescent
When your child behaves well, pay additional attention to them, but refrain from doing so when they act out or have tantrums.Encourage your child positively to improve in the areas they need to while rewarding and reinforcing the skills they already possess.To encourage good behavior, allow your child to select from a list of rewards. For example, extend their curfew or let them pick the menu one night every week.

Tip #5: Set boundaries in a positive manner

Find ways to be firm without being harsh. Demonstrate the value of following rules without frightening or upsetting your child by setting clear boundaries and being upfront about them.  Positively communicate ground rules and how following them will result in positive outcomes.

ToddlerSchool-agedAdolescent
Use positive language and avoid “no” as much as you can. Instead of saying “no yelling,” say “use your quiet voice.” Be careful to overwhelm your child with rules. Carefully select behaviours you want to prioritise and set these as “house rules” that are easy to recall and repeat.Collaborate on the rules. For example, rather than having rules regarding screen time – discuss a schedule. Encourage your child to suggest how much time they should spend on games, messaging etc. versus schoolwork and family activities.

The Bottom Line

Overall, a positive parenting strategy is one that fosters a child’s autonomy by implementing parenting techniques that develops healthy, happy children. This parenting strategy has shown to be quite successful, and I continue to be amazed by the outcomes. Heather Lonczak noted that positive parenting techniques which is employed consistently, will help a parent to develop a meaningful, lifelong relationship with his/her child. Wow, that is a relationship that I would do certainly want to have. Would you?

Find the next building block for your behavioral management approach in the following post in this series; we’ll place the spotlight on “words” that addresses behavioral challenges.

If you’re having difficulty developing your approach, our team at MOT will be happy to assist you with this. Alternatively, consult a mental health professional or your primary care physician. 

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