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Three Elements of Positive Parenting

Have you found yourself stuck in a pattern of parenting lately where everything you say is negative? Get positive by applying these three basic elements of positive parenting.

Do you feel like all you ever say is “no” or “stop that”? Is your parental negativity bringing you (and everyone else) down? If so, it’s time to get positive – positive parenting, that is.

For some reason, negative behavior jumps out at us – much more so than good behavior. Our kids could be playing nicely together for an hour, hardly noticed. But as soon as the shouting starts, our ears perk right up. When we see (or hear) negative behavior our instant goal is to eliminate it – so we call attention to it, address it and move on. The result: a negatively charged family environment. And negative behavior that keeps coming back, just like that whack-a-mole game at the fair.

If you are ready for a change, positive parenting is your answer.

The basic tenant of positive parenting is that you focus on the positive more than the negative. This doesn’t mean that you ignore the negative; it simply isn’t your focus. And it doesn’t mean that you become a permissive parent. You can effectively teach, train and instruct with the following three positive parenting techniques:

1) Make simple observations. The first step is to notice what is going right. Sounds easy, right? But unfortunately, parental negativity can become habitual – and we all know how hard habits are to break. We need to retrain our brains to see what we want more of. Here are some examples:

  • “You are sharing with your brother.”
  • “You are using a tissue.”
  • “You are chewing with your mouth closed.”
  • “You put your clothes in the hamper.”
  • “You are not fooling around at the dinner table.”
  • “You made your bed.”

You can also use this simple technique to teach a principle, for example:

  • “You put your clothes in the hamper without being asked. That is great personal responsibility.”

The added statement at the end, tells the child what specific character trait they are demonstrating. We identify it, so they know what it looks like in action.

You may think, “Easy for you to say, you haven’t seen how naughty my kids are – 24/7.” If you are in “negative mode” you may have blinders on to see the positive that is already there. It is there, you just have to look for it and call attention to it. Even if it is something as rudimentary as: “You got dressed and came downstairs.” Positive feedback will spur them on to do more to get more.

2) Build up with encouragement, not praise. There is a big difference between praise and encouragement. Here are some examples of encouragement:

  • “You worked so hard on that.”
  • “I can see how much you are trying to do better.”
  • “You did it!”
  • “You didn’t give up; you persevered.”

It is equally important to encourage the person and not just the actions with statements like:

  • “You are so special to me.”
  • “I am so glad you are in this family.”
  • “You are such a thoughtful person.”
  • “You have a contagious smile.”

2) Discipline to teach, not to punish. Do not think that positive parenting means that nothing negative happens. It is not the same as permissive parenting. But it isn’t authoritarian either. The mindset of discipline is simply different. Instead of trying to “make them pay,” “make it hurt,” or “give them something to cry about,” we need to discipline with the objective of training into them what we want to see more of. Here are a few examples:

  • “You can have your iPod back when you can go 48 hours without a hurtful word to others.”
  • “You can have the Tinkerbelle sheets back when you have made your bed every day without a reminder for one week.”
  • “You can have dessert again when you have had good table manners for 4 days in a row.

In contrast, punishments tend to focus on making kids “pay” in some fashion. A punishment would be: “I am taking your iPod for two days for being hurtful to your brother.” It is the same consequence on the surface, but in the end, the child has not learned anything. The child simply has to buy his or her time until the “debt” has been paid. See the difference?

Positive parenting isn’t a “soft,” get-away-with-everything approach to parenting. It is based on respect, boundaries, encouragement and multiple opportunities to train and to teach.

What kinds of things to you do in your home to make your parenting more positive?

Photo credit: bluekdesign from

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.

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