Interview with a psychologist

What is positive parenting? A close look at the topic

The principles of positive upbringing will allow you to improve the child’s behavior without screaming and physical punishment and to nurture in them a full-fledged personality that would be respectful of others’ personal boundaries, will know how to get out of conflict situations, and achieve goals. This will not be about permissiveness, but rather about systematic work on the behavior of all family members. We talk about positive parenting in this article.


What is positive parenting?


This method of upbringing is called “positive” as it is based on the creation of positive bonds between the child and the parents, the formation of mutual respect in the family, and the development of the child’s potential.

People who stick to this approach have the fact that every person already has everything necessary for prosperity, as their starting point. However, in order for these “good sprouts” not to die and to allow them to turn into flowers and to bloom, they require a motivating environment and positive relationships with loved ones.

When a child behaves in an incorrect way, they simply want attention, and they do not know how to get it in any other way. In this case, punishment or screaming from parents will only aggravate the situation.

According to Gerald Patterson’s “theory of coercion”, the issues in the relationship between parents and children lead to the development of antisocial behavior in the child in the event in which the behavior is responded to in an incorrect way. The kid begins to opt for more and more aggressive and manipulative methods of counteracting parents, and adults lose control over the child in response to that. Positive parenting aims at preventing this from happening.

Today, positive parenting is a well-studied approach. Research conducted for over 30 years in 25 different countries has demonstrated that the principles of positive parenting work, for instance, in Japan, and in Europe, in the same way. In 2018, the UN has officially recognized evidence-based research on positive parenting as the most extensive parenting study in the world. The children’s foundation of UNICEF has been promoting this program since 2015. Moreover, recommendations to support positive parenting were adopted in 2006 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

In Europe and the US, “responsible parenting” is widespread and recognized. It has got lots of similarities with the concept of “positive parenting”. Responsible parenting has got its own committee that sets out plans for a period of time, discusses the implementation of initiatives, and reports on their results.

The principles of positive parenting


Family therapist John Gray, the author of the book “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, and of the “Children are from Heaven” bestseller, came up with five main principles of positive parenting presented below:

Principle 1. Being different from others is normal

Every child is unique, regardless of gender and age. There is no universal approach to their learning and development. Parents need to spot and understand the talents and needs of their child, and to find the right approach to their kids. It is certain that parents should not compare the success of their son or daughter with the achievements of another child, as this will save the child from unnecessary worries.

Principle 2. Making mistakes is normal

Mistakes are inevitable, and everyone commits them. However, there is no need to make a tragedy out of a child’s oversight. The child should not live with a constant sense of guilt and fear of doing something wrong. On the contrary, they must learn to take responsibility for their actions and look for solutions in case of failure. Moreover, they should not be afraid to admit guilt and forgive themselves. In this case, leading by example would be a useful strategy to be adopted by parents.

Principle 3. Displaying negative emotions is normal


It is normal for a child to be angry, upset, embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, or for them to experience other negative emotions. However, the son or daughter should understand that screaming and tantrums are not always appropriate, despite the fact that they should not be afraid to address their problems with their parents and to discuss solutions to them. At the same time, parents should not manipulate children’s emotions through intimidation, or, conversely, through giving them toys or sweets to calm them down in public places.

Principle 4. Wanting more is normal

A child shouldn’t feel flawed or guilty if they want something. With that, they also must understand that they cannot always get what they want, therefore, it is important to learn to negotiate and look for solutions. Having mastered this skill in childhood, a person will be able to become more successful in achieving their goals in the future.

Principle 5. It is normal to express disagreement, however, it needs to be done with respect and cooperation from parents as they are older and have more authority

The word “No” that comes out of the mouth of a child is not an ultimatum, but an expression of opinion and a starting point for discussing a disagreement. It is important that the child learns not to give up their position under parental authority, together with being ready to listen, to discuss all pros and cons, and understand why dad and mom have an opinion that is different from theirs.

For example, if a child does not want to go to the dentist, they may openly declare their unwillingness to do so. The parent who has adopted a “positive” strategy, will not drag them there by force but will explain why it is important, and tell them that in life people sometimes have to do what they don’t like.

What methods are being used in positive parenting?


1) A child that throws tantrums is simply demotivated. They see no other way to get the adult’s attention. Hence, as long as you focus only on bad behavior, the situation will not change. It is necessary not to scold the child, but rather to restore a positive connection with them.

2) Approve the child’s actions and not their personality. It is better to say “I am very happy that you picked your toys off the floor” than to call your child “cutie” or “clean child”.

3) Devote some “special” time to your child. Even if you are very busy, find 5-10 minutes a day for some kind of joint activity. The child will feel needed and will behave much better.

4) Invite your child to talk about the saddest and most joyful experiences they faced during the day in the evening on a daily basis. If your child cannot remember anything good, help them by talking about your joyful moments or by reminding them of what happened on this day.

Don’t know how to get your child to talk? Read the article on 30 questions to ask your child instead of “How was your day?”

5) Organise family gatherings to find solutions to problems together.

The atmosphere should be friendly, meaning that everyone should have the right to be heard. Brainstorming will help to find a solution to the problem, while the chosen option should suit everyone. If a family member takes on the responsibilities, decide on an exact deadline, with precision to the minute. If the child is in breach of their commitments, remind them that they voluntarily agreed to them.


6) Do not have your child thinking that they will not need to do anything and that you will do it all for them. Let them learn and not be afraid to make mistakes. If they need help, assist them with advice or instructions.

7) Do not forget to clarify if the child understood you correctly when you asked them to do something.

8) Show your child a positive example based on respectful communication with others. Be firm if the situation calls for it, but don’t go into swearing, insults, or aggression.

Read on the psychologist’s advice on How to stop yelling at a child? Learning to control our emotions.

9) Learn to stop and cool off in time in order to assess the situation calmly and to make an informed decision. Introduce your children to this approach.

For example, a child tells you that they hate you. Tell them that their words are the furthest from being pleasant to you, but that you understand that they say it in the heat of the moment. Invite the child to take some deep breaths, and then allow them to explain to you calmly what made them upset.

10) Create a bright and safe place for your child with toys and calm music, where they could sit and think about their behavior calmly if you called for a time out.


11) Punishment will help to stop bad behavior in the heat of the moment, however, it will cause sadness, resentment, or even revenge later on. Therefore, if you take the child’s toy away from them, explain calmly why you did it, and under what conditions they will receive it back.

10 ways to punish the child without screaming, physical punishment, and humiliation.

12) Errors are something to learn from. Work towards correcting a mistake begins with its acknowledgment. After that, it would be time for some overall reconciliation, including the child forgiving themselves. When this happens, you can work together to come up with a plan to fix the mistake.

13) Do not try to deal with the consequences if the problem is in the child’s behavior. Let your child help you figure out how to solve it. The method chosen should be related to the size of the problem and should be respectful and helpful to the child.

14) When you are trying to alter and improve a child’s behavior in one way or another, do not forget to show them respect and remind them that they are important and loved.

What age can mark the start of positive parenting?


Supporters of the positive parenting approach argue that it is effective for children of all ages. It is sure that the sooner you start putting the principles and methods of positive parenting into practice, the easier it will be for both you and your child.

Please note that changing the parenting approach requires a lot of effort on the part of the parents. It is very difficult to resist and not yell in response to certain actions, especially if you have been doing it for years. A change in behavior would also mean not succumbing to manipulation and refusing to buy your child a toy in response to their tantrum.

Positive parenting is the work of parents on their mistakes in the first place. Children of all ages learn through example and through collaboration, which helps to develop and improve the principles of the concept.

At the same time, you need to understand that changes in the child’s behavior will not come instantly. Nevertheless, you will come closer to improving the atmosphere in the family little by little: there will be less negativity, and there will be more love and trust.

How will positive parenting affect the child?


Children in families who are guided by the principles of positive parenting have fewer problems with their behavior, they are less hot-tempered and they can tell their parents about their concerns. In addition to that, they are less likely to be depressed or anxious.

Positive parenting will allow your child to do the following:

  • control negative emotions;
  • develop and display their abilities;
  • learn to be independent and responsible;
  • satisfy their needs for love and security;
  • learn the norms of behavior;
  • figure out how to get out of conflict situations in a peaceful way;
  • learn not to give up and look for ways to achieve their goals.

How to become a positive parent right now?


You can start building a trusting relationship with your child and creating a positive atmosphere starting from today. In order to do this, be patient and follow these simple but important guidelines:

Step 1. Keep a special journal

This will be the place where you will write down your achievements and failures on the path to positive parenting. This will allow you to analyze your and your child’s personal behavior on a daily basis, identify problems and look at the situation over time. You will also be able to see whether you spent enough time with your child if you discussed their highs and lows of the day before bedtime.

Step 2. Involve the child in the process

Make a calendar of important things for your child. This could include doing homework, cleaning the room, and even behaving well during a trip to grandma’s house. The main thing is that the child will need to take the responsibility for adhering to the plan and understand how to fulfill each of the points in a conscious way.

Step 3. Learn to explain and to ask instead of demanding and requesting


Instead of forbidding the child to do something, explain to them positively why this is a bad idea. Learn to reason your objections. Remember to talk to your child about the causal relationship between their actions and their consequences.

Provide instructions for your child on how to deal with different situations in order to allow you to stop worrying about them.

The Find My Kids app can help you worry less about your child. When using it, you will always know where your child is and what is happening around them. You will also be able to quickly get through to them even when their phone is in silent mode!

Step 4. Start listening and hearing your child

Learn to listen and understand your child. Don’t lecture or moralize them, but rather listen carefully and respectfully, and explain why your point of view is not the same. Be consistent so that your words and actions are in sync.

For example, if you explain to your child that they need to cross the road to the green traffic light, do not cross the road when the light is red yourself, even if there are no cars on the street.

Step 5. Make an emphasis on successes and not on failures


Show approval for the right actions of the child. For example, if a child has done their math homework, but made some mistakes in it, do not scold them for it. Show support for the fact that they did their homework and work together to correct the mistake. Let them try again to allow them to come up with the right answers on their own.

Ignore bad or annoying child behavior. In the event when it becomes unbearable, invite your child to take a time out.

Step 6. Think ahead

Predict difficult situations and come up with a solution in advance. For example, if you have a long journey ahead, plan how you can distract your child from boredom with games or a responsible task, such as giving directions, even if you know them perfectly.

Step 7. Ask the right questions

When discussing solutions to problems with your child, focus their attention on the following questions: “What is the problem?”, “What can be done to solve it”, “What happens if …?”, “Which solution is better to choose?”, “Did the solution work?”. This way, the child will learn to think and make decisions in an organized and independent way.

What do psychologists recommend to parents who are willing to adopt the concept of positive parenting?


Marilyn Price-Mitchel, an American psychologist with a doctorate in philosophy, lists the following five ways for parents to become a positive role model in her article on positive parenting:

  1. Learn to manage your anger. It is the biggest problem when building a relationship. If parents behave impulsively and swear, children will do the same not only at home but also with their peers.
  2. Don’t be looking for someone to blame. Before placing the blame on someone else, including the child, stop and think: what was your role in the issue or a conflict? Even if it is not your fault, turn your attention to solving the problem, rather than blaming your child or other people.
  3. Do not touch on “hot topics” when raising children, especially adolescents. Disputes about politics, statements about religion, orientation, or ethnicity in the presence of children can affect children, not for the better, and cause not only disagreements in the family but also lead to problems in kindergarten or school.
  4. Learn to admit your mistakes. Children sometimes have an unrealistic demand for perfection. Without your example, they will not learn to admit their mistakes.
  5. Move forward towards your goals. Adults who not only talk about their dreams but also strive to realize them, even in small steps, form invaluable skills in their children and become a positive example for them.

“Stay positive and hopeful when going through hardships”, – Marilyn Price-Mitchel.

What to read on positive parenting?

Here are books that teach on positive parenting:

“Children are From Heaven” by John Gray


The book examines each of the principles of positive parenting and explains how to behave with a child in difficult situations in detail, including when your child is entering the age of adolescence.

“The A-Z of positive upbringing” by Karen Joslin


In this book, the mother of 4 children, Karen Jocelyn, answers 140 questions about child behavior in alphabetical order.

“How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk” by Adele Fabor and Elaine Mazlish

This book will help you build a solid communication pattern with your child. Don’t forget that positive parenting involves learning to listen to your children and communicating your thoughts to them.

Stick to your principles, but do not overdo it


In conclusion, we note that you cannot limit yourself to only a part of the principles and methods of positive parenting. You need to adopt the entire approach in order not to go too far.

Many parents start to use time-outs all the time for every little thing. They send the child to their room or take them outside from the shopping center or public transport. However, in this case, the meaning of a “timeout” as an emergency measure is lost as it simply becomes a new form for threats and coercion into good behavior. Ignore the small behavioral issues. Warn your child at least three times that you think their behavior is unacceptable before deploying the “timeout” procedure.

Positive parenting is a learning curve not only for the child but also for the older family members. Explain the new approach to parenting to grandparents, uncles and aunts, so that they don’t become manipulated by the child and understand why you ignore your son or daughter when they do not behave in the most correct way.

Explain to your relatives that you don’t have to do everything for the child. Otherwise, your efforts to educate an independent person may fail after the first child’s week-long visit at their grandparents’ house.

Notice what your child is doing and praise them, even if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Your son can’t score a goal at soccer? You’ll have to forget that the new Lionel Messi is growing up in the family, and find something that the child is really good at and something that will bring joy to them.

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