Raising kids can be hard at times … especially when they’re playing up. So why not try some positive parenting techniques to help you deal with your child’s unacceptable behaviour in a calm and positive way.
What is positive parenting?
There isn’t a set of rules for positive parenting. Instead it’s a way of parenting that looks for solutions to your child’s misbehaviour rather than focusing on punishing her for being naughty.
It’s not a new way of raising kids. The roots of positive parenting – sometimes called positive discipline – go back to the early 1900s. Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler believed that when kids feel connected to others, they are less likely to misbehave.
Which is why – along with teaching your child rules and boundaries – a key element to positive parenting is having respect for your kids …. and teaching her to respect others.
5 positive parenting tips to get you started
1. Introduce boundaries from an early age
It’s never too early to start using positive parenting techniques.
You can start teaching your baby and toddler about rules and boundaries. Start with something simple like a consistent bedtime routine. And as your toddler learns to talk, teach her to always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
2. Understand – and sympathise – with how your child is feeling
It might be your toddler is playing up because she doesn’t want to share a toy at playgroup. Show her you understand her frustration by saying, ‘I know you don’t want to share but it’s important to take turns. We always share our toys.’
This also sets out an expectation in a kind but firm way.
3. Have clear and consistent rules
Your child can often be overwhelmed with learning about the world around her. As such, keep your rules simple but consistent so she knows what is expected of her.
4. Help your child express her feelings
Encouraging communication between all members of your family will help your child learn to share her feelings before they get too much to handle.
This is especially useful for older children and teenagers who tend to bottle their feelings up. Acknowledging angry feelings can also help to dissolve them before they turn into a proper tantrum.
5.Try to get to the cause of the misbehaviour
Has there been a recent change in the family? Perhaps a new sibling has arrived or you’ve moved house? These can all impact on your child’s behaviour.
Recognising these ‘triggers could help you understand why your child might be playing up.
Remember that every child is different and may need different levels of guidance or discipline to suit her personality.
If your child is being naughty or challenging, a key part of positive parenting is not to hand out punishments.
Because while these might work in the short term, they are less likely to be effective long term in changing your child’s behaviour.
Instead, try these positive parenting technique to help calm her down and help her understand the consequences of her actions:
Use challenges to overcome tricky behaviour
If your toddler hates getting dressed, approach the scenario positively by saying ‘I bet you can’t get dressed in under three minutes’.
Likewise if she doesn’t like brushing her teeth, challenge her to a ‘teeth cleaning race’. Whoever wins (obviously your toddler!) gets a sticker to put on her reward chart.
Prepare your child
Keep talking to your child to let her know what is happening in her day.
For example if you’re in the park, say ‘Ok, three more slides and then we’re going home’.
By preparing her, you’re giving her the heads up on what’s going to come next and helping her feel included.
Create opportunities for choice
Giving your child a choice can help give her a sense of control and direct her thoughts away from whatever is causing the challenging behaviour.
For example, if she doesn’t like bath time, try asking if she wants bubbles or the stackable cups in the bath.
If it’s mealtimes that are the problem, show her the plate cupboard and let her pick out her favourite dinner plate and cup.
As simple as these suggestions sound, they can be surprisingly effective.
Provide a distraction
This works especially well for young children. If you can see your little one working up to a tantrum, distract her by reading a book or asking if she wants to play together outside.
Keep your cool
No matter how challenging your child is being, it’s important to try and stay calm – which is often easier said than done.
Children learn from those around them so by keeping your cool and being firm but kind, she’ll mirror this behaviour as she gets older.
Focus on her good behaviour
Think about whether your child gets more attention from you when she is playing nicely … or when she is being naughty.
If it’s the latter, then switch your focus to her good behaviour. Children love a big pat on the back and rewarding her good behaviour is great for building herself-esteem.
Positive parenting for older children and teenagers
Behavioural issues don’t stop at pre-school age. Older children have their moments too.
If your child seems angry at the world or starts throwing regular tantrums, discuss her behaviour with her to see if she can identify a cause.
Older children can also struggle to deal with change so if you’ve moved home or they’ve started a new school, that could well be the trigger. Other potential factors could be falling out with friends, fears and phobias or struggling with school work.
Again try your GP or school nurse to rule out any physical causes, and have a chat with the class teacher to see if there are any known difficulties at school.
You could work out how to deal with her behaviour together and discuss what sanctions will be used. These could include deducting pocket money or confiscating games consoles.
And remember older kids need praise for good behaviour too.
More help and information on positive parenting
Nobody can claim to be the perfect parent and in reality, it can be hard to keep your cool when your child’s behaviour is escalating from bad to worse.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. If you feel you need help with anger issues or coping strategies, there are plenty of resources to help you get through those tough times. Here are a few steps you can take:
Speaking to other mum’s can really help put your issues in perspective and provide support and advice when you need it most. You can chat to other mums in our Coffeehouse forum.
Find further information on positive parenting from the NSPCC.