by Erin O’Keefe, Parent Coach and founder of The Intentional Parent:
What is positive parenting?
I like to think of it as an overall way of being as a parent. It is a way of interacting with your family that promotes learning and teaching over correction and coercion. A positive parent looks at a child in terms of their strengths, what they can do (rather than focusing on what they can’t) and works to enhance these qualities.
How do they do this?
Positive parents discipline; they don’t punish. Here is the difference:
Punishment is punitive, it seeks to “punish” a bad behavior and in so doing, it places the focus on the negative, undesirable action.
“Punishment is the authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group” (Wikipedia)
Discipline on the other hand, can be quite positive. Although we tend to use the terms discipline and punishment interchangeably, they are actually quite different.
“To discipline means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct or order. In the field of child development, discipline refers to methods of modeling character and of teaching self-control and acceptable behavior, for example, teaching a child to wash her/his hands before meals. Here, washing hands before meals is a particular pattern of behavior, and the child is being disciplined to adopt that pattern.” (Wikipedia)
Have you ever stopped to think about the “how” and “why” behind your parenting choices? Do you have a strategy in place, or are you merely “flying by the seat of your pants”?
Many of us parent on autopilot (so to speak). We do things the way that our parents did them. Unless something is seriously not working, we don’t typically take the time to step back and reevaluate the “why” in our parenting.
Often we accept, as fact, that punishment ( removing privileges, spanking, etc.) are a normal part of childhood. Most of us after all, were punished as children, and we turned out just fine.
The problem with punishment though, is that at its core, it is about control. When we punish, we want to control our children and their behavior. The issue is (besides any potential moral objections) that we can never truly have control over anyone. That’s right, I’ll say it again, we can never have control over anyone, even ourselves. Think about it, if we really had complete control of our own behavior, we would all eat well all of the time, exercise regularly and never slip up and say something that we wish we hadn’t (I’m guessing that most of us fall short of this ideal).
I’m not perfect. I don’t expect or even want a perfect child. What I do want is a thoughtful, inquisitive and self assured child.
Rather than perfection, our goal should be teaching and learning from all of our choices, good, bad or other. When you, as a parent, set this as a goal for yourselves and your children you create an environment that nurtures a child’s ability to make positive and responsible decisions. That is positive parenting.
Erin O’Keefe holds a Masters Degree from the University of Connecticut and a Certification from the Parent Coaching Institute. She is also the mother of two highly spirited and inquisitive boys (who keep her on her toes!). As a Parent Coach, Erin works with families to create and implement effective parenting strategies, and work toward a more positive and rewarding family experience. She is the founder The Intentional Parent Coaching, and writes the Intentional Parent Blog.