Beginner's Guide to Positive Parenting

The Beginner’s Guide to Positive Parenting

Parenting is really hard. They send you home with a brand new baby, no user manual, and you’re expected to figure it out as you go. At some point, you have to decide what kind of parent you want to be. But it’s so confusing. There’s helicopter parenting, free-range parenting, lawnmower parenting, attachment parenting, positive parenting, and a million other buzz-words describing various parenting styles. Where do you start?

Here we’re going to focus on Positive Parenting. I’ve spent thousands on parenting books, online courses, expert seminars, and numerous products that promised to make me a better parent. I’ve coached other parents through tough parenting situations. Hands down, Positive Parenting has given us the best results in the quickest time.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. I share these companies and their products because of their quality. I will never recommend a product I wouldn’t use myself. You can read our complete disclosure here.

What is Positive Parenting?

Positive Parenting drives parents to develop deep, lasting bonds with their children through positive communication and mutual respect. It might seem simple, but Positive Parenting takes a lot of practice to master, especially when your patience is tested by little ones that know exactly how to push your buttons.

To be clear, Positive Parenting is NOT saying “yes” to everything your kids demand. It’s not doing whatever it takes to be best friends with your mini-me, or making sure their lives are full of cupcakes and rainbows. It’s also not coddling your kids so they never make mistakes or experience difficult situations. Positive Parenting is actually the opposite, in fact. It is about coaching kids through real-life situations and helping them develop real-life skills to make them successful human beings.

The Science Behind Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting draws upon the theories of Alfred Adler from the early 1900s. He was the founder of Individual Psychology and a contemporary of the popular psychologist Freud for a number of years, although they disagreed on the primary motivators and factors for psychological development and eventually parted ways.

Adler developed a set of child guidance practices based on respect and dignity, which were considered revolutionary during his time. Adler focused on the foundational idea that family was a democracy. He believed human cooperation and encouragement were essential for development.

After Adler’s death, a psychiatrist named Rudolf Dreikurs compiled Adler’s work into what is known as the Adlerian System, or Adlerian Psychology. He wrote a popular book titled “Children: The Challenge”.

The core Adlerian principles are as follows:

  • Family Constellation – the foundational factor referencing a child’s perception of his or her position within a family, primarily based on the child’s birth order.
  • Belonging (or significance) – the primal need for every human being to feel significant and a sense of belonging within their community or family constellation
  • Encouragement – the need to focus on effort and improvement to build self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Life-style – a term used by Adler to describe one of the four primary ways individuals can live their lives.
  • Social Interest – a human’s ability to feel a sense of community and to care about the needs of others above their own desires.

Adlerian Parenting Goals

Positive Parenting is based on four foundational pillars of Adlerian Parenting Goals, which are:

  • Connection – Transform your parenting technique into a democratic methodology where your child feels respected and valued as an individual, ultimately developing a strong sense of connection and belonging.
  • Capability – Teach children to problem-solve and think for themselves, as well as recognize the impacts of their emotions and behaviors.
  • Counted – Help children feel valued as individuals within the family or community.
  • Courage – Help children develop the courage to handle the adversity that comes their way. Ultimately this will build a sense of self-confidence and self-esteem that they will depend on throughout their life.

Put simply, Positive Parenting is built upon the idea that children will seek power and attention by any means necessary. If we meet their needs for power and attention in positive ways, any negative attention or power-seeking behavior will dwindle.

Beyond Alfred Adler

Other researchers and psychologists have taken Alfred Adler’s work and further developed it into actionable material for parents. Some of my favorite are Daniel Siegel, Hal Edward Runkel, Don Dinkmeyer, and Gary D. McKay. I’ve linked my favorite books by these authors in the resources section below!

Why use a Positive Parenting approach?

The benefits of a Positive Parenting approach are plentiful. You’ll find short term and long term benefits with this approach.

Your kids will develop confidence and self-esteem

One of the foundational pieces of Positive Parenting is fostering an environment where kids feel like they belong and are valued. It’s an environment where kids feel like they have power over their own lives. Naturally, children thrive in this type of environment. They easily develop confidence in themselves and exhibit a high level of self-esteem. You’ll find your kids taking more chances, expressing themselves more creatively, contributing more as a family member, and thriving in social environments.

Your kids will excel in emotional development and intelligence

Children surrounded by adults practicing positivity and exhibiting emotional balance will emulate these skills. They will practice calming techniques and problem resolution skills. And they will tame their anger quicker each time they get upset. You will hear them use big words to express how they are feeling. They will learn long term skills to maintain their mental and emotional health.

Your kids will do better in school

If you have school-aged kids, you may see tremendous progress in school reports. You’ll probably discover that Positive Parenting will enable longer periods of focus in the classroom. You may be surprised to find grades are improved. Teachers will report less conflict or distractions caused by your student.

Your kids will take more responsibility

When children get a hit of power from being responsible for chores, they will naturally seek more opportunities for power. Progressively they will take on more chores. And being responsible for family contributions will make them feel significant. As a bonus, they will be learning real life skills to use once they fly the coop.

Your kids will develop a life-long strong work ethic

Part of Positive Parenting is focusing on effort and progress instead of results. It also focuses on internal motivation as opposed to external motivation. For example, you might say to your daughter “You worked so hard on your science project. You should be proud of yourself!” (focusing on the effort, and being proud of herself) instead of “I’m proud of you for getting an A on your science project” (focusing on the result, and an external motivating factor – you). The difference in these two sentences might seem trivial, but it actually changes the way your child will think about their work and their motivations. The first time you hear your little say “Look ma! I’m proud of myself!” you will be beaming with pride.

You’ll experience superior family communication

Positive Parenting tools will naturally help families develop excellent communication skills. Kids will be less whiny. And probably more articulate, especially when making requests. Squabbles between siblings will diminish because they will be able to negotiate and compromise amongst themselves. And again, these are skills your children will use well into adulthood.

Your kids will gain coping skills

Disappointment, frustration, and anger are a natural part of life. A Positive Parenting approach tackles these big feelings head-on when kids are little. They will get ample practice at coping with these big feelings. Their long-term mental health will benefit from learning how to get through the tunnel of bad feelings.

Negative behaviors will diminish significantly

As children begin to feel a sense of belonging and significance, they will stop acting out. When they feel as though they have control over their lives, negative behaviors will lessen even more. Positive Parenting fosters an environment where the needs of kids are met daily, so negative attention-seeking behaviors aren’t necessary.

You’ll Have a Strong, Trusting Relationship with Your Kids

When you consistently spend one-on-one time with your kids, your relationship will strengthen. When you start using Positive Parenting tools, you’ll build trust with your kids. After routines, chores, and contributions become consistent, your relationship with your kids will flourish.

You will enjoy parenting

Yelling isn’t a part of Positive Parenting. Punishment isn’t included either. Many of the things you struggle with will be resolved through Positive Parenting tools. Once you experience less and less of the negativity related to parenting, and start really getting to know your kids, you’ll enjoy parenting a lot more.

Your Relationship with your Partner will improve

Spoiler: Positive Parenting actually works with your spouse or partner too! These tools don’t just work on kids. They can be utilized to improve adult relationships as well. After you’ve spent some time putting these principles into practice at home, you’ll probably start using them with everyone you interact with!

Where do I start with Positive Parenting?

So you’ve decided Positive Parenting might be for you. Where do you start? How do you make it work for you? Positive Parenting is a life-style. It’s not a quick fix. It’s a set of tools that you have to develop over time. Here are 11 tools I’d recommend to start.

Make 1-on-1 Time a Priority

When starting out on your Positive Parenting journey, the very first thing you should do find time each and every day to spend focused one-on-one time with each of your kids. You can call this “Mommy and Me Time” or “Special Time”, or whatever label makes sense for your family. The important thing is to label this time so your kids understand that they are going to get your full, undivided attention for a specified amount of time each and every day. It should be at least 10 minutes per day, and you should do an activity your child chooses.

Start small. Find just 10 minutes each day (per kid), and really focus on engaging with them. It won’t take long for you to see the impact of this very small time investment. Your kids will behave better and they will contribute more when they feel a consistent sense of belonging.

This quality time is important for kids of all ages. Sometimes older kids will resist hanging out with parents because its not cool. But find things they really enjoy and be persistent. Eventually, you’ll find something that works. Kids will begin to look forward to this time with you, and they will start to plan their activities in advance.

Give Your Kids Power

Let your kids make choices regularly. Giving them the power to choose will give them a sense of belonging and significance. It will also make them feel like they are a valued member of the family. And letting kids dress themselves, choose between the red cup or the blue cup, or deciding if you’ll eat spaghetti noodles or penne noodles for dinner will not really impact your day at all.

Offer choices any time you feel you might experience a little pushback. For my youngest, I like to offer choices at bedtime. It sounds like this, “We need to sleep now, do you want the nightlight on or off? and do you want the door open, or closed?” By making a choice, she is not only agreeing to my initial statement of ‘We need to sleep now’, but she also has some choice in the matter. It makes her feel powerful, but I still get what I want: bedtime.

Focus on Routines

Human beings, kids especially, thrive on routine. When you know what comes next there’s very little to think about or be anxious over. For kids, routines build trust and help develop strong relationships with caretakers. When all the basic routines are in place to take care of all their needs, they are free to focus on the ‘work’ of being children (which is learning through play). Develop routines for all the repetitive processes in your life. My advice is to start with bedtime, morning get-ready time, and mealtime. Once you have routines in place and follow them consistently, you’ll get much less pushback from your kids, and those key transition times will go smoothly and quickly.

Look Beyond the Misbehavior

The next time you experience mischievous behavior, stop to consider the cause of the behavior. Very rarely are kids naughty just for the sake of being naughty. Ask yourself questions, like did we miss our Mommy & Me time today? Could she be hangry? Did he not get enough sleep last night? Was there an unusual, stressful situation that popped up today? More times than not you will realize that there’s an outside factor that’s influencing the situation. When you’re able to recognize that your child is HAVING a hard time, and not just trying to GIVE you a hard time, it’s much easier to handle the situation with love and grace.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep is a grossly under-recognized stressor for kids. There’s ample research indicating that children today are not getting enough sleep. It’s imperative for children to get the right amount of sleep for brain and social-emotional development. Put routines in place to make sure your children are meeting the minimum. You might notice that behavior, attitude, and focus improve drastically once your little one is getting the right amount of sleep consistently.

Implementing “Rest Time” or “Quiet Time” can help ensure kids get enough rest. This is a 60 to 90 minute period around mid-day where everyone gets a break. Kids can play quietly, read books, or ‘rest their eyes’. You can read more about the Magic of Rest Time here!

Spend Time Playing as Your Inner Child

Allow your inner child to come out when you’re engaging with your kids, especially during your one-on-one time. This means you might have to get messy with paint, play pretend with monster trucks or destroy your immaculate kitchen to make rainbow unicorn cupcakes. This is how you’ll build strong relationships and develop lasting memories with your kids.

Use Your Calm Voice

Practice using your calm voice every single day. This skill is essential to Positive Parenting and it’s a very difficult skill to master. Many of us (especially me) have spent our entire lives raising our voice when our blood pressure starts to rise. Developing calming techniques, communicating your feelings and needs in a productive manner, and displaying emotional maturity are key to your success. Let your kids see you using the calming techniques. Your kids will emulate your behavior. And you will definitely be rewarded with less yelling and more problem-solving from your kids.

Use “Time-Ins” instead of “Time-Outs”

Time-Outs don’t work. There’s a large body of research that shows that time-outs don’t actually improve behavior and they can actually create mental health issues. The isolation related to time-outs creates feelings of shame, worthlessness, and insignificance. This is exactly the opposite of what we are trying to achieve with Positive Parenting. Instead, when misbehavior occurs, try a Time-In. This is when you redirect, then engage and connect with your child. A common misconception is that this is ‘rewarding’ misbehavior. Your time, love, and acceptance should never be considered a reward. It should be unconditional, and you can prove that to your kids by engaging in a Time-In when they are having a hard time (see Look Beyond the Misbehavior above).

Stop Playing Referee

Mediating arguments between your kids is absolutely exhausting, especially when you were not there when the conflict began. Stop participating as a referee or peacemaker for your kids. Share your decision with your kids ahead of time, and inform them of the consequences should conflict occur. A good strategy is to put the kid ‘all in the same boat’, meaning the consequence will apply to ALL parties. For example, if they cannot decide who gets to choose the TV show for their 30 minutes of screen time, then they don’t get screen time at all. It can be helpful to role-play some conflict resolution skills before implementing this ‘all in the same boat’ rule.

Create Effective Consequences

Consequences are a basic principle that kids need to learn. Through Positive Parenting you can create related consequences for behaviors your want to discourage, or you can let natural consequences occur and let kids learn lessons from life herself. The key is that consequences need to be related to the misbehavior. They should also be realistic and revealed in advance of the misbehavior. If you don’t follow these three guidelines, the consequence will feel like an unfair punishment, and your little one probably won’t learn from it.

Here are a couple of examples of effective consequences:

  • You may not throw your iPad. If you throw your iPad, we will put it away for the rest of the day. (Related Consequence)
  • I cannot pick you up from school today. If you forget your umbrella, you will probably have to walk home from school in the rain. (Natural Consequence)

Require Contributions from Everyone

Chores are a huge battle for many families. Gather your family and discuss how each person can contribute to the family to achieve common goals. These chores should not be tied to an allowance or any kind of reward. Kids should contribute to the family because they are part of the community. For example, in my family, we all contribute around mealtime. I often cook the meals, the kids set the table and help with cleanup, and my husband washes dishes. Implement a routine to make these contributions just part of the way your family operates. It will give your kids a huge hit of belonging and significance.

Tips for Success

Start Slow

First, don’t try to implement every Positive Parenting tool and strategy on day one. Start slow. Master one strategy before moving on to another. You’ve probably been parenting differently for months or years. Sustainable change happens over time.

Recognize Positive Parenting as a Lifestyle

Positive Parenting is not a quick fix to discipline problems you’re currently struggling through. It’s a lifestyle, and it needs to be implemented over time. You won’t get the results you’re looking for if you don’t commit to a long term lifestyle change.

It’s a Process for the Whole Family

Positive Parenting isn’t just a ‘kid’ strategy. It’s a lifestyle for the entire family. You’ll have to change some of your own behaviors. It’s necessary for you to face some of your own skill gaps. It requires patience, persistence, and sometimes perseverance.

Stick With It

Don’t throw in the towel without giving it a true chance. You will get out what you put in. Spend time understanding and implementing the tools. Make the effort to change your own bad habits. If you push through the struggles you’ll reap the rewards.

Handle Setbacks with Grace

Every family is different. Each child is unique. Some tools will work better for your family than others. Realize that your Positive Parenting solution will be unique to your family, and face setbacks with grace. When you make mistakes, own up to it, talk about it with your kids, and make a plan to do better next time.

Positive Parenting Resources

Here are some of my all-time favorite books to help you build your Positive Parenting knowledge and skills.

Other Resources:

  • Parenting Coach – Connect with me to learn more about my Parenting Coach services

Common Questions/FAQ About Positive Parenting

How do I know Positive Parenting is for my family?

Positive Parenting is for parents that want to build strong, lasting relationships with their kids. Parents that value open communication and seek mutual respect with their kids will find the strategies helpful. It’s also for parents who want to parent without yelling.

How long does it take to see results?

Each family is unique. Some people will see immediate results, within the first two weeks, of implementing the first principle (One-on-One time with each kid). Other families might have a little more work to see results. In my experience, most families will recognize changes in their kids behavior within the first few months of implementing a Positive Parenting approach.

What if my partner or co-parent doesn’t agree with this approach?

It’s always helpful if all parents or guardians are on the same page in terms of parenting style. However, it’s not absolutely necessary. You can absolutely use Positive Parenting tools and see results within your personal relationship with your kids without your partner’s support. If this is a significant barrier for you, please email me! I’d love to help you brainstorm strategies to move forward with Positive Parenting.

Is this approach only for young kids?

No way! These are skills and tools that can be useful at any age. Positive Parenting can be especially influential with Teens.

What if I am a chronic yeller?

That’s ok. I was too. Yelling becomes a habit, and you’ll have to re-learn how to respond to your kids when your buttons are pushed. This can still work for you, but you’ll need to be patient as you learn these skills along side you kids.

What is a Parenting Coach?

A Parenting Coach is a fantastic resource for parents who need a little assistance. We can serve as a sounding board for ideas you might have, we can offer advice or strategies to help you get through rough patches, we can give you tools to build your parenting skills, and so much more! If you need a little one-on-one help, reach out to me here!

The Last Thing You Need to Know About Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting takes effort. But the effort you put in upfront will be rewarded 10 fold by avoiding anger and frustration by attention-seeking kids. If you want to stop yelling, start enjoying your parenting journey and grow well-adjusted human beings, then you should try a Positive Parenting Strategy.

If you have questions or comments, please drop them below! I’d love to hear your thoughts on Positive Parenting.

14 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Positive Parenting”

  1. Wow this is truly a comprehensive guide! The benefits are all what we hope to achieve via parenting, and all it requires is a little retraining in terms of our actions and reactions.

    Love this!

  2. Yes, I remember studying some of Adler’s work in my undergrad, as well. These are all such helpful tips for family bonding and positive parenting! I’ll have to check out the books you recommended 🙂

  3. Thank you for this wonderful post! Positive parenting has had such an impact on how we interact with our son. It’s amazing how willing he is to cooperate if we give him two choices, even if it’s just as simple as “Would you like to brush your teeth or would you like me to brush your teeth?” He’s doing what I need him to do either way, but he feels like he has some power in the situation.

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