Parenting is as tough as it is fun and rewarding. With so many guides (be it people, books, the Internet, etc.), it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with information. You may be inclined to raise the child a certain way because your friend does so, or your parents suggest so, but the only thing that’s important and will matter in the long run is staying positive in your approach and adopting a positive parenting style. And that will be instrumental in supporting your child’s well-being, mental and physical.
But how does one do it and what are the things to look out for? Two leading counsellors show the way.
What is positive parenting?
It’s an approach that focuses on building strong relationships with the child. It touches three important aspects of a child’s development—emotional, cognitive, and social. There is an emphasis on honest and open communication, and the child is taught empathy by demonstrating empathetic behaviour. It also involves establishing consistent boundaries.
Things parents can do to practice positive parenting
Foster and encourage effective communication: In addition to engaging in open and honest communication, parents must ensure they practice active listening without any judgement. Life isn’t perfect and it’s natural that the parent and child will have certain disagreements, but parents should avoid dismissing their child, lest they want the child to stop communicating with them. The child may feel and begin to believe that their opinions and emotions don’t matter to the parent. If you want to practice positive parenting, give the child a platform to voice their thoughts and opinions in a way that makes them feel viewed, valued, and empowered.
Empathy and understanding: When your child comes to you with a problem, solve things with them instead of coming up with a solution all by yourself. Also, try putting yourself in their shoes and seeing things from their perspective. With this approach, the child will feel his independent self and you will validate their experience as well as support their autonomy. If you want to raise successful kids, praise the efforts of your child, regardless of the result. Don’t shame them or compare and criticise them.
Set clear and consistent boundaries: As a parent, you want to be friendly, but not become their friend, and you can achieve this by establishing consistent and age-appropriate rules. The former means, if the rule applies today, it will be the same the next day as well. If you are not consistent in your behaviour, the child will take you for granted. As a parent, you also need to express your expectations and tell them the reasons behind them. This helps foster good communication and ensures that they follow through as they can see reason behind it. When the child does well, encourage them with positive reinforcements as it helps build their self-esteem.
Your behavioural patterns should be predictable (in a good way), as it encourages a non-anxiety-inducing environment and the child does not need to walk on eggshells, trying to predict or understand the parent's mood swings. The actions of the parent should provide a sense of security. However, this doesn't mean you stay rigid and not change your ways when needed. It’s important to adapt and show flexibility. More importantly, you shouldn’t be treating the children the way you were treated as a kid.
Spend quality time with your children: This plays a crucial role, especially when you have more than one child. While you spend time with all of them, it’s important to give them one-on-one time as well. And this goes for both parents. By doing so, the child does way better as he sees you’re more involved. As parents, you should know what your child is doing, not by spying, but by fostering a safe space where they can tell you what they’ve been up to.
Give them structured and unstructured free time: Let them have the autonomy to decide what to do with their time. It helps them be independent, explore the world around them, and reduce screen time.
Apologise when necessary: Have the humility to say sorry to your child. A lot of problems arise when one doesn’t acknowledge their mistakes. Errors are an important part of our life and that’s the only way to grow. If parents don’t take responsibility for their actions, their children will grow up to be like them and have issues accepting their fault in their adult life.
Remember that you’re not alone: Positive reinforcement goes a long way in raising kids well. You can do so by praising them and appreciating what they do. Say what they say, imitate and do what they do, describe what they did well, and be a part of their joy by enjoying with them. And this will only happen when you’re patient and have a watchful eye over their behaviour.
Inputs by Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy, Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai