Many years ago when I made the paradigm shift to Positive Parenting, I came up with 5 principles by which I wanted to live and parent. I shared these principles in my book Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide.
1. The first principle is attachment.
This is a deep, secure emotional bond. I made this a priority because for a child to grow and develop well, he must feel secure in the care of his caregivers. Importantly, securely attached children follow our guidance more readily and accept our boundaries. They trust us. Only when we have their hearts do we have lasting influence in their lives.
2. The second principle is respect.
This concept was simple to me. If I want them to show respect, they must be shown respect.
3. The third principle is proactive parenting.
This means putting in the time and teaching up front before a problem arises and putting in the relationship work that strengthens my influence.
4. The fourth principle is empathetic leadership.
This came to my list because of the power of empathy to both connect and to calm. I do not believe in permissiveness which takes a backseat role in parenting, allowing the child to take the lead. Parents must maintain the leadership role as we were meant to do, but it is in leading with empathy, gentleness, regard, and kindness that sets positive parenting apart from the authoritarian style.
5. The fifth principle is positive discipline.
I don’t believe lessons are learned with noses in a corner but through holding children accountable and teaching them the skills needed to make better choices, make amends, and correct their mistakes.
These principles have guided my hand over the last 8 years, and I have shared these ideas with parents all over the world who are drawn by their hearts to this connected way of raising children.
Positive Parenting resonates with millions, yet while the principles are easy to understand, putting them into action can feel a bit daunting. When you realize that much of what you are already doing is positive parenting, it becomes easier to implement the rest.
Here are 7 ways you’re already doing positive parenting
1. You play with them.
Every time you sit on the floor and roll a train, pretend to run a grocery store, play hide and seek, or play a board game—you’re filling your child’s emotional tank and strengthening your relationship.
Play is the way to a child’s heart, and it is one of the quickest ways to connect heart to heart with them. Connection is the foundation that positive parenting rests upon, and every time you take the time to play with your child, you’re being a positive parent!
Did you know that it also wards off problem behavior? It’s true! When your child feels connected to you and his emotional tank is full, his good behavior will reflect how good he feels inside. This falls under the principles of attachment and proactive parenting.
2. You encourage them.
“You can do it!” You started saying to the wobbly baby learning to walk, and continued saying to the teenager entering senior year, and to the adult child holding her own child for the first time. You are your child’s encourager, the one who sees their light and protects its glow.
Empathy, respect, attachment, proactive parenting, and positive discipline all come under the umbrella of encouragement. It is life-giving, and you are already supplying it.
3. You read to them.
When you read to your child, you are carving out special time just for the two (or more!) of you. There are no distractions. You’re present, focused, and attentive. This hits principles one, two, and three!
This special time connects you and strengthens your attachment. You’re showing that you respect your child enough to prioritize time with her, and both of these things are preventative measures against misbehavior.
4. You teach them right from wrong.
You already teach your child which behaviors are appropriate and acceptable and which are not. You correct wrongful attitudes and confront poor choices. Most parents discuss with their child what he should have done differently or how to better handle himself the next time. You are already teaching her the skills she needs, and so you’re a lot closer to positive discipline than you may think.
While discipline is probably the area that requires the biggest adjustment when transitioning to positive parenting, you are already doing so much right!
5. You comfort them when they need you.
How many boo-boos have you kissed? How many times have you rocked your crying baby or held your upset or sad child in your embrace? Countless, I’m sure. Each time you’ve done so, you’ve provided empathy.
6. You give them wings but remain home base.
Sometimes you hold your breath as your preschooler climbs at the playground, staying close in case she falls, but standing back. You are respecting her autonomy. You allow her to venture a little farther away, to climb a little higher, to pour her own juice, to discover who she is. Sometimes you let go of her little hand and you watch. Yet you always remain home base.
You are the sun that she spins around. So much of parenting is a dance between letting go and holding on, and you are already learning the steps. This is positive parenting.