Parenting is one of the noblest tasks in the world as it ensures the growth and continuity of the human race. There is a link between the kind of parenting adopted and the growth as well as the outcome of a child, thus choosing what parenting style to utilize is significant. Positive parenting is one of this styles that attempts to offer care and support without being punitive. This paper explores the literature that surrounds positive parenting from numerous sources and synthesizes them to give a clearer picture of positive parenting. The paper explores what positive parenting entails and offers a distinction between positive and negative parenting. It then delineates the benefits of positive parenting and proffers some of the challenges to positive parenting in the modern age.
What it entails
There is no consensus among clinicians on what positive parenting is, but many agree that it is the kind of caregiving that seeks to enhance good behavior in kids by setting clear guidelines and rules, enhancing good communication, and rewarding positive behavior. There are many ways to approach positive parenting, but there are certain traits that if adopted make for positive parenting. One of this traits entails being warm and nurturing and giving love unconditionally. Unconditional love entails understanding that kids do not achieve full cognitive development until they are in their 20s and as such, they are prone to many mistakes. A positive parent thus does not stop giving love to a child who is erroneous in their ways or loving some children more than others. This parent is also empathetic and respectful to the child and is thus willing to be flexible in order to accommodate the needs of the child. To do so, the parent will also need to be an active listener who constantly gives feedback to the child hence helping the child learn from their actions and improve.
Additionally, a positive parent is reasonable. This entails being consistent and predictable in what they say or do to the child. Children love predictability, and as such it is important to set and communicate clear guidelines of limits and expectations from the child as well as consequences for irresponsible behavior. Additionally, a positive parent is protective of their young ones. Children are helpless and need a protective base both physically and emotionally. Besides providing a safe and conducive external environment as well as providing for the basic physical needs of the child, the parent also interacts with the child in a way that builds an emotionally safe environment where the child can express and experiment with ideas, relationships, and emotions.
Positive parents also play the role of teachers where they provide opportunities for children to learn in an encouraging and accepting atmosphere. A good parent offers a wide variety of choices for the child to choose from and offers guidance on how to make choices but leaves the kid to solve the problem and make decisions independently (Gordon & Cui, 2015). Above all, however, being a good teacher entails being involved in the child’s life s this is when the parent gets to learn the kid better and discover areas of improvement and weakness. A positive parent should thus be involved in activities like play, schoolwork, and other aspects of the child’s life.
To be a positive parent, one is also required to have good behavior since children learn more from observation. Rebecca Eanes (2016) opines that undisciplined parents generally lack the effectiveness of positive parenting regardless of their vastness in parenting knowledge. The best way for children to learn about how to relate to their environment as well as with other people is through observing their parents (Eanes, 2016). If children, for example, hear a parent complain, they will start to complain. Additionally, it is ineffective for a parent to warn a child to stop committing a certain act if the parent also commits the act. As such, parents must learn to work on their own behaviors and thought patterns in order to influence their children positively.
Punishment v. Discipline
Punishment is an intervention that seeks to stop a child from wrongdoing by instilling penalties for the wrongful acts usually in an unpleasant and painful manner. Punishment can be physical involving acts like spanking and slapping or verbal where harsh words and ridicule are used. In some cases, withholding of rewards or instituting penalties is also considered as punishment. Punishment usually stems from a parent’s feelings of desperation and frustration and has been shown to have negative consequences on children.
Over two decades of studies have shown that punishment is associated with aggression and antisocial behavior in children that may blow over to drug abuse, anxiety, and unhappiness in later life (Bornstein, 2013). Children who are often punished live in perpetual fear of being punished again and will thus conform to good behavior not because it is the right thing to do but in order to escape punishment. Punishment also teaches the kids that hostility is an acceptable way of settling conflicts and problems and will thus result in aggressive behavior. They also feel hostile towards the person exacting the punishment and will spend hours angry at the parent or planning on how to exact revenge.
Additionally, punishment does not proliferate good behavior. This is because children who suffer punishment feel that there is something awfully wrong with them to deserve such punishment, and will consider acting badly. They also feel that they cannot be in control of their behaviors and have to rely on their parents to do so thus becoming dependent on other people (Telep, 2009). These children also feel that they have already paid for their misdeeds and are free to sin again. Children also learn to deceive their parents in order to escape from punishment instead of being honest, hence adding to other negative attributes. Inadvertently, therefore, punishment reinforces bad behavior instead of promoting good.
Discipline, on the other hand, is a proactive rather than a reactionary way to instill good behavior in children using various incentives that are not punitive in nature. Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2010 articulate numerous ways of instilling discipline. Time-out is one of these methods in which kids are given time alone to calm themselves down and think about their actions when they are angry so that in future they can take to evaluate the consequences of their actions before acting. Another discipline technique involves ignoring attention-seeking kids who then learn the benefit of politeness and patience. Instilling discipline also involves communicating with the child about compromise, managing emotions, and problem-solving so as to arrest behavioral problems before they start occurring (Plotnik & Kouyoumdjian, 2010). Incentive schemes including rewards and praise have also been found to be a good way to instill discipline in kids.
The most common form of discipline, however, is the use of consequences for erroneous behavior. Here parents let the children experience the unpleasant consequences of their actions which act as a deterrent to future wrongdoing. These consequences are divided into two; natural and logical consequences. Natural consequences stem from the natural order of things in the world where decisions such as refusing to eat lead to hunger. Logical consequences, on the other hand, are arranged by the parent. When using consequences, parents should set the rules for good behavior and then clearly communicate the consequences for not adhering to these set rules. The parent should also clearly communicate the reasons for such consequences to the child, be willing to accept the child’s decision, and met the ascribed consequence for the specified bad behavior. There must also be a relationship between the misbehavior and the consequence otherwise, the child will not learn (Telep, 2009).
Parents must also recognize that some forms of discipline are negative rather than positive. Yelling, for example, is ineffective as kids learn to tune parents out and become desensitized quickly. Nagging is also ineffective as it teaches kids not to behave responsibly as they will be reminded later. They also learn how to overpromise without delivering. Giving long lectures, shaming children, and using repeated threats are also discipline methods that can be attributed to negative parenting. As such, while discipline is a form of positive parenting, punishment as well as some discipline techniques are associated with negative parenting.
Benefits of Proper Parenting
The most important benefit of positive parenting is that it leads to a secure attachment between the parent and the child. This attachment is essential for a child’s healthy development as it builds resilience, impacts positively upon brain development, and enables the child to form healthy relationships with others. The self-attachment also enables the parent communicate positively with the child and reinforce good behavior. Since the parent also learns to view the child as a unique human being, the child develops their own individual personality at an early age hence enabling them to be independent. The child also learns to trust themselves in making decisions and in so doing improve their creativity and self-worth, unique ingredients for success in the modern age (Epstein, 2015).
Additionally, positive reinforcement strategies such as rewards and compliments lead to improved conduct since when good behavior is rewarded children continue in its performance with the hope for more rewards. As they age, these children learn to perform good deeds not because they should expect rewards but because of the of the intrinsic goodness of the deed (Epstein, 2015). Kochanska (2011) further adds that the secure attachment that children get from positive parenting also helps them in fostering regulated behavior since these children have a relatively mature conscience that results in greater control of behavior as well as low instances of antisocial behavior (Kochanska, 2001).
The self-attachment is also beneficial in anger management as the child has greater psychological resources to deal with negative emotions and events besides understanding others’ emotions better than insecurely attached children. Power (2004) states that parents who exhibit high levels of positive emotions have children who are better able to manage stress and regulate their response to it (Power, 2004). This is because such children are unlikely to be over aroused and have positive attitudes towards their parents’ efforts at guiding their behavior and focusing their attention.The benefits of positive parenting on anger management were elucidated in a study that found a positive relationship between negative parenting and aggressive, defiant, and explosive behavior in kindergarten children (Nauert, 2011).
The positive reinforcement also leads to lower levels of depression in children as these kids are unlikely to be over aroused and have more resources for dealing with stress. In a warm, supporting and accepting relationship, there are fewer incidences that cause emotional stress in the child and besides, when they do occur the child has a listening and empathetic parent to help them through the negative emotions. Dallaire et al (2006) did an extensive study in which they found high levels of depressive symptoms in children from families with low levels of positive parenting behaviors and low levels of depressive symptoms in children with supportive parents (Dallaire, et al., 2006).
Challenges with Positive Parenting
Good things come at a cost and with positive parenting, the risk is that some techniques may have unintended consequences. Praise and reward, for example, is meant to reinforce positive feelings and behavior but if overly done has the ability to affect a child’s ego structure. Kids who receive too much attention become grandiose and may turn into attention seekers or feel the need to be rewarded even for minor accomplishments. Once this praise or rewards stop flowing, the child is confused and may misbehave (Epstein, 2015). Finding this compromise in the level of praise and reward to give to a child becomes a challenge to most parents who may end up making their kids dependent on their parents as a source of motivation.
The 21st century has also not been lenient on parents. In an increasingly industrialized and urbanized society with changing constellations of family sizes and demographic shifts, parents find that they lack the time or resources to provide adequately for their children’s positive development. With single parent households, families in which all parents are working, increased numbers of teenage parents, lesbian and gay parents, etc, there are many pressures exerted on parents (Bornstein, 2013). As a result, many modern parents have left leave the responsibility of raising their children to nannies, teachers, and house helps. Many of the parents today have also been brought up in an age when authoritative parenting was preferred and thus believe that since they turned out well, their children should too. Besides, they are also ignorant of what positive parenting is.
In conclusion, positive parenting is a parenting style in which positive reinforcement is used and which focuses more on disciplining and guiding the child rather than punishment. Positive parenting requires the constant involvement of parents in their children’s lives and good communication that leads to a secure attachment between the parent and the child. This, in turn, results in positive attributes in the child such as a better ability to manage emotions, the reinforcement of positive traits, independence, and healthy brain development. In the modern age, however, parents are indisposed and few find the time to interact positively with their children. Additionally, most of them have been brought up in the old style and hence know not what positive parenting entails. There is thus a need to promote positive parenting since it has been shown to be beneficial for the healthy development of young ones.
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Dallaire, D. H., Pineda, A. Q., Cole, D. A., Ciesla, J. A., Jacquez, F., LaGrange, B., & Bruce, A. E. (2006). Relation of Positive and Negative Parenting to Children’s Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 313-322.
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