Positive Parenting: A Proven Strategy To Reduce Child Abuse
Parenting is one of life’s most challenging jobs. It’s an enormous responsibility that often leaves parents second-guessing if they’re doing a good job.
While there’s a seemingly endless supply of parenting books and magazines, there’s no definitive manual to guide parents; the way we were parented becomes our automatic default response. Unfortunately, that only works well for those with good parenting role models.
Of the multiple parenting techniques and philosophies that have evolved — authoritative, attachment, helicopter, neglectful, and permissive — positive parenting is celebrated as a proven way to reduce child abuse. In addition, a growing body of evidence suggests that building the skills necessary for positive parenting helps protect children from violence within the family system.
What Is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting strategies were first introduced to the United States in the 1920s by Viennese psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs. Since then, parenting experts and programs worldwide have refined and championed various positive parenting solutions.
Positive parenting starts with the belief that children are born good and desire to do the right thing. It emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and using positive ways to discipline. The approach focuses on teaching proper future behavior instead of punishing past misbehavior.
Also known as gentle parenting, positive parenting establishes fair, firm boundaries with children without harsh punishment. This approach ensures that a child’s needs are met, their emotions are heard, and they are taught to consider others when expressing those needs and feelings.
Some people confuse positive parenting with permissive parenting, mistakenly believing it allows children to do whatever they want without consequences for inappropriate behavior. This can lead to the misconception that parents can let their children get away with being jerks. That is not the intention of positive parenting.
Positive parenting views the parents as the authority in the household, but you also respect and consider your child’s emotions and needs in the context of their developmental stage. Rather than using violence and coercion to teach expectations, positive parenting includes consequences for inappropriate behavior, and the consequences directly correspond to the misbehavior.
The Benefits of Positive Parenting
Fewer Behavior Issues
Decades of studies have shown that children have better behavior and emotional growth outcomes when positive discipline is used. Conversely, harsh, punitive parenting in early childhood leads to more behavior problems. In addition, in situations where parents are uninvolved and unresponsive, children tend to have worse self-regulation, which further exacerbates the child’s behavior issues.
Close Parent-Child Relationships
Removing yelling, power struggles, and hostility as forms of punishment changes the parent-child dynamics. As a result, relationships improve between parents and children.
Improved Self-Esteem and Mental Well-Being
Studies show that children raised with positive parenting have higher self-esteem and are more resilient. In addition, children who are resilient with self-confidence have less family conflict and better connections with their loving parents.
Better Social and Problem-Solving Skills
Research has also shown that positive parenting contributes to better social and problem-solving skills. For example, children are more likely to be able to advocate for themselves constructively.
Improved Self-Esteem and Less Stress for Parents
Parents also benefit from a positive parenting approach. Research shows that parents who practice positive parenting have a greater sense of self-esteem and are more confident in their parenting. In addition, their stress levels decrease because their children have better self-discipline and are well-behaved.
5 Positive Parenting Tips
1. Get to the Root of the Behavior
The behavior is usually simply a symptom of a larger problem. The challenge for parents is figuring out what’s really underneath that frustrating behavior. In a perfect world, children would tell parents when they need attention.
Accomplishing this requires some detective work. When a child begins to act out, ask yourself what your child is trying to gain through their actions. Young children especially, don’t always have the emotional awareness or verbal skills to do that, so instead, they push buttons to get your attention.
2. Focus on What and Who You Can Control
This tip may be the most challenging, especially in the heat of the moment. To help you respond appropriately, try to remember that there’s always a reason for a child’s behavior and that your children have free will. Once you realize that you can’t control your child’s responses, only your responses, you’ll be in a much better place. In addition, keeping in mind that your child isn’t equipped with the right tools to behave appropriately in a given situation will better prepare you to handle the misbehaviors.
3. Be Consistent
Realistically, this is sometimes easier said than done. Most parents understand the importance of consistency intellectually, but life happens — unexpected situations make plans change — so it’s not always possible to control what happens day to day. However, maintaining consistent routines, schedules, and expectations whenever possible, eliminates the need to nag your children.
4. Don’t Use Rewards
Although rewards sound positive, they only offer short-term benefits. Eventually, they may even lead to a sense of entitlement. For example, if you bribe your picky eater to eat their vegetables with an offer of ice cream for dessert, they know that they can hold out until they’re offered a reward in other situations, too. While it can be tempting, especially on a tough day, children don’t require rewards to behave appropriately.
5. Discipline Instead of Punishing
One of the most significant differences between positive parenting techniques and other parenting methods is the focus on discipline over punishment. Discipline means “to train by instruction and exercise” while punishment means “to inflict a penalty for (an offense, fault, etc.)” or “to handle severely or roughly.”
While strict punishments may deliver immediate results, they won’t help in the long term. Instead, teaching children the appropriate ways to behave without using punishments, which only blame, shame, and cause pain, helps equip and empower them to be competent young adults.
Help Us End Child Abuse and Neglect
Parenting is hard, and no parent is perfect. However, parents can guide their children to a fulfilling and balanced life with the right tools. Sure there will be days when it seems impossible, but hopefully, these suggestions for positive parenting will make life more manageable and less stressful for you and your children.
If you’re an adult survivor of child abuse, EndCAN is always here for you with valuable resources, including information and tips about parenting and support to help you learn and heal.
EndCAN’s survivor community support group, Louder Than Silence, through Inspire, is a free, online community of support groups where people can feel safe, be authentic while anonymously sharing their experiences, and learn from other people who have “been there.”
Don’t suffer in silence. Breaking the silence is one way we can stop child abuse. When you’re ready, share your story, so other adult survivors of child abuse know they’re not alone either.