I am biased! I experienced tough discipline myself while growing up, and it hurt. I remember that I was not allowed to share my point of view about things – I remember being told to stay quiet as I was too young, and this was in my teenage years. I was not always given reasons for certain decisions that affected me directly at home and I remember the feeling that this was extremely unfair. I was also told to do as my parents said I should act and not as they behaved themselves. Punishment was the order of the day.
I am now a mother myself and I I can say I am starting to recognise the rewards of positive parenting. I have also studied Psychology and that has helped me realise quite a few things, both about myself and about the people close to me. Research developments in the field of parenting have also shown that we must embrace new ways of dealing with our little family members. “They didn’t know any better,” that is my mantra when I recall and discuss with others how we were raised. Our parents were doing their best in the circumstances and with the limited access they had to resources, such as parenting tips and psychological support.
How does Positive Parenting work?
My introduction to this concept was through an international online group of parents sharing their parenting adventures and perceived misdeeds while asking for others’ guidance and support. I realised that whilst I was not aware of the official name of the parenting style, in some ways I was striving to adopt this style through small actions on a regular basis.
It is not an easy style to practise, especially in the fast paced life that we lead. It is not easy to stop and think before acting, especially when we are under constant stress from work and life in general. Moreover, it is also challenging to practise since we would be constantly working on breaking old habits, unlearning past styles of parenting and adopting new behaviours. We are animals of habit and change takes time and a lot of effort.
But I believe that in the same way that an athlete gets better results through practise and perseverance, we can achieve better results in our parenting, by persevering and never giving up. But what is Positive Parenting made of and how does it give results? Why is Discipline not the ideal way of parenting?
How do I go about being the best version of a parent?
Parenthood is a whole journey. Friends who have teenage kids tell me they are still learning how to go about this whole project as they grow along with their kids. Different challenges come up at different phases of growing up, and ideally as parents we would be a step ahead , armed with knowledge, in order to be in a better place to support our little ones. There is no set textbook to follow, but it sure is a learning experience.
We all aim to raise a child who would be a happy, responsible and respectful adult. First and foremost, children need to be exposed to these forms of behaviour, before they can actually engage in them themselves. So if as a mother I am showing that I am extremely short tempered when my child wants to tell me something, that will then be their reaction in return when I ask something of them, or when another adult tries to ask something from them.
How do we guide children to make better behavioural choices? Positive parenting strategies for the teenage years
If I feel that my child is being defiant, it would help me to stop and understand their current stage of development and answer to their needs and guide them accordingly. Beyond the behaviour that is being manifested, what is the message that the behaviour is communicating, and how can I guide them to make better choices?
In that manner I would be modelling listening, understanding and cooperation, rather than being authoritarian and aggressive. The change in behaviour will come from within and it will be longer lasting.
The idea is also to watch ourselves and our behaviours as we go through the day. If I notice that I am raising my voice to make a request or to attract attention, I need to take a deep breath, stop myself and change my language and non-verbal signals. It may sound mechanical, but it is one very helpful way to improve on our behaviours and to become a better version of ourselves. We all make mistakes, and sometimes we may not get it right, and that is perfectly fine. Let’s excuse ourselves, let’s ask for an apology – that sets the model that it’s ok to make a mistake, ask for an apology and try to better next time. We may feel disappointed with ourselves when we lose it and scream at our child, but acknowledging we have made a mistake would be the first step towards making the needed change.
How do I tell others how I am trying to raise my child?
When your kid is spending time with their grandparents, you may observe that your parents are using the parenting tactics they used when they were raising you quite some time ago. And you may feel that these tactics are the opposite of what you are trying out with your child. So how do you go about letting them know that you disagree with their style?
You may start off my modelling the parenting styles that you wish that your parents will use with your child. Do not criticise or attack them personally for their style- they may not know better – unlearning old styles and learning new ways takes time, patience and support. You may say things like, “We do not shout in our house, that will not stop the behaviour. We discuss things and move on to how we want to change the behaviour,” or “Yelling or fighting will not help anyone in the long run, it is best that we talk with the children and try to understand where the behaviour is coming from.” Then you model that same positive approach with your child in front of your parents, so they can see it in action, and experience the peaceful house once more.
They may resist at first, then they may make mistakes again and then it may start working out, and they will too see the benefits of positive parenting. They will see that criticising and threatening the child does not stop them from misbehaving. Instead it will prevent the child from loving themselves and can make the misbehaviour worse. It can also create more problems later in life, such as low self-esteem and depression.
Positive Parenting is rewarding!
The rewards of Positive Parenting will come to you, I promise. Watch your child be kind to others, learn how to be assertive to get what they need and enjoy a close relationship with each other. There is help available should you wish to embark on this journey. Online resources are endless and easily accessible. But I think the best resource is friends and other mothers going through the same journey – sharing stories, experiences and supporting each other go a long way in helping us go through the parenting process in a healthy and rewarding manner, for the benefit of all! I wish you luck! You can do this 😊
Writer for Therapy Hunter as well as psychology
professor at Malta University.