A Guide to Positive Parenting

What does parenting positively mean?

Most parents love their children, but sadly some children do not experience feeling loved. Parenting positively is about understanding each child as a unique individual and knowing how to communicate your love effectively.  It is about listening, understanding, praising, encouraging and being a good role model for your child.

As positive parents, we need to be thinking not only of the immediate situation, but also to be asking ourselves such questions as:

  • How can I respond to this situation in a way that will help my child to grow?
  • What are the personal values I hope my child will choose?
  • Is my behaviour demonstrating these values to my child?
  • Will my actions help my child to grow to be a kind, caring, responsible adult?
  • Am I creating a family atmosphere where my child feels loved?

What are the benefits of parenting positively?

Parenting positively creates happier homes where children are naturally more co-operative. Children who grow up feeling secure and loved have lower stress levels, better overall health and are likely to do better at school.

It seems that different parents do things differently

Parents often express amazement at how two children from the same family, within the same home are so different. In the same way, parents vary in their own temperaments, their life experiences and the values on which they base how they parent their children.

Most of us start from the basis of the parenting style we experienced as children. We then either parent in a similar style or we react against that style and do the complete opposite. Be conscious of the reasons that you parent the way that you do. Ask yourself if the parenting methods that you use are positive and helpful.

What is meant by a ‘parenting style’?

Parenting style means the type of behaviour that you use when interacting with your child.

Many people are now trying to develop an approach to parenting that combines the most helpful aspects of these different approaches.

[toggle title=”Autocratic (or authoritarian) Parenting” state=”close” ]Autocratic (or authoritarian) parenting is based on the belief that the parent is always right and children must obey. Although this is helpful in some ways, as children need limits to keep them safe, children often feel frustrated and even unhappy because they feel as though what they think or feel doesn’t count.[/toggle] [toggle title=”Permissive Parenting” state=”close” ]Permissive parenting is where parents want their children to feel happy and to grow up with minds of their own, so they let the children do what they want. However, children need limits and often feel unsafe when there are no clear boundaries or consequences to their behaviour. If adults don’t take responsibility, children can feel insecure and can grow up to think only of themselves.[/toggle] [toggle title=”Democratic Parenting” state=”close” ]Democratic parenting aims to involve children in decisions about their lives, but the parent takes a lead role and encourages appropriate behaviour without using excessive control or allowing children to do whatever they want.[/toggle]

Is there a ‘right’ way to parent?

There is no one way to parent. Every child and every family is unique, with its own history and its own way of doing things.

Think about how you want to parent to help your child to grow up to be all that he or she has the potential to be. This isn’t about thinking about what career your child might follow, but about what sort of person he or she might be and what sort of values he or she will have.

Make a list of things at home that really matter to you, such as kindness, communication, honesty, fun. Then choose the three that are most important to you. When you focus on the outcomes you want to achieve, you will create a suitable environment in which your child can thrive.

How can I be a positive parent?

Children need to know that they matter to you, just for who they are. Although you want your child to do well, he or she needs to know that your love is unconditional – that nothing would ever end this love and that you always want to keep the connection between you.

Help your child to do things for him or herself and to gain confidence. Listen to your child and protect him or her – both physically and emotionally.

Part of protecting children is making sure that when you leave them in the care of someone else they are safe. Whenever you are arranging any form of child minding, make sure that this person (or childcare centre) will take care of your child’s needs – not only physically but emotionally too.

In many ways, children live in a different world to the one we grew up in, with mobile phones, the internet, PlayStation and many other gadgets that can make life more exciting, but also more dangerous. Children do not have the life experience to understand the dangers that may face them. You, as a parent, need to know how to keep your child safe.

Think about what your child needs:

  • Does your child know you love him or her, no matter what?
  • Do you discuss fair rules and keep these consistent, so that your child feels safe?

For example you might say, ‘You can choose to watch this television programme tonight or you can choose to keep your television hours for later this week.’ If your child chooses to watch the programme now, he or she can not also have the extra hours later in the week. Your child needs to experience the consequences of the decision he or she makes.

  • Do you acknowledge your child’s feelings, viewpoints and experiences (as well as your own)?
  • Do you allow your child to experience reasonable consequences for his or her actions (providing his or her physical and emotional safety is never put in danger)?

What information is helpful to keep on track with positive parenting?

Knowing more about how children are at different stages of their development helps you to understand what your child is going through, what he or she can cope with, where support is needed and what exciting new possibilities there are. Understanding more about your child’s development at this stage will guide you to make helpful decisions. This website’s ages and stages section is a great starting point.

How do I improve my parenting skills?

Combine your own experience with learning from other people, support groups, the internet, reading and parenting courses. The best teacher of all is your own child.

As children have different needs at different stages, it is helpful to take relevant parenting courses.

As you keep improving your knowledge, learn to trust your own inner wisdom and develop effective communication so your child can share with you how he or she is experiencing life.

Can anyone parent positively?

Yes, and being a parent should be an enjoyable experience.

Whatever parenting style you choose, remember that it is important to spend time with your child and listen to what he or she has to say. Aim to provide limits to keep your child safe but also have fun together.

“This information is taken from the Parenting Positively series, a series of booklets by Barnardos that provides information and guidance to parents of children between the ages of 6 and 12. The aim is to help to create a positive, loving and supportive relationship between you and your child. Please see www.barnardos.ie for further details”. To see the full Parenting Positive Booklet click here.