Positive Parenting Skills with Young Children!
Welcome back to another article on Best Case Parenting. Today, I want to look at the idea of positive parenting and some strategies we can use to do this with young children. What is positive parenting? By the end of this article you should (at the very least) have a better idea!
I will start by giving a short answer to what positive parenting is. Positive parenting is a parenting style that aims to build a strong bond between child and parent. This bond is used to encourage and teach a child how to act and behave appropriately in a positive way. Rules and expectations are not just set, they are explained and the child is supported to meet them. Parents with this style often have a firm but fair approach, and act as good role models to show their children the way. Positive parenting also has the expectation that the end goal is that the children will be autonomous, and be able to be able to act appropriately without constant guidance.
I like to give a brief summary at the start of my articles, now let's dive into the finer details!
I want to give a pre-cursor to this article, by saying it's a good plan to start early with positive parenting for toddlers. This will build a solid base for the rest of your parenting - child relationship. The later that you start, the more chance that a child already has bad habits and ideas ingrained in their behaviour, which will be harder and take longer to work out.
Welcome to the Best Case Parenting (Mini) positive parenting programme!!
I have done some small articles in the past, such as the one about what to do when your child throws a tantrum! But this is our first attempt at a more detailed guide.
Enjoy the ride! And don't forget to fasten your seatbelts!
I really don’t want this article to come across as patronising in any way! I am approaching this by spelling out all the important areas that I think will lead to a more positive approach to parenting. You may already know none of this, some of this or all of this! It is hard to write an article to fit all of those levels. So if I say something that is obvious to you as a parent, no offense intended!!
Why is Positive Parenting Important?
I understand that being a parent is not easy! We are all so busy and stressed a lot of the time and, in the heat of the moment, it is easy to loose our temper with our young children.
This harsh method of disciplining is not good for you or your children. The parent will often feel deep regret afterwards, for starters.
These days, I think most people would wholeheartedly agree that physical disciplining, such as spanking, is damaging to the child and is not socially acceptable any more. Although it may seem to work in the short term, it has been proven to cause rebellion, low self-esteem, and may actually make your child fear you in the long run.
There is an excellent and well researched study from New Zealand that highlights this very thing. You can read all about it HERE.
Most people don’t realise that shouting at your child, or “putting them down” can be equally as damaging. Psychological damage is equally as important as any actual physical damage to a young child. Some people would argue that it is even worse!
I know that for me personally, if I get shouted at or “put down”, it can effect me greatly! Even as an adult. Can you imagine what it must be like for children?
Anyway, you need not worry. There is another way to guide our children and offer them a more positive form of discipline in everyday parenting. This method is proven to be very effective and works by teaching children acceptable behaviour. However, this is done in a consistent and loving way, using age appropriate parenting techniques. These will form the base of your positive parenting skills and strategies, that you will start to call on daily!
This style of parenting will have a great impact on your child’s development, helping them grow up and develop positive behaviour naturally.
This style of behavioural management will also empower parents to enjoy their child’s younger years, making it as smooth as possible. You will positively enjoy watching your child gain independence and confidence along the way.
In this article, we aim to show you age appropriate positive parenting skills and strategies for toddlers. Although, this is not an exact science and could be used for older children too. Due to my teaching career, my own personal experience is with 3-5 year olds.
The most important thing, is to try and start this process when the child is young, This usually means that bad habits have not yet formed and the child should be more responsive to the ideas we will present to them, as stated at the top of this article.
Phew, now that our long winded introduction is out of the way, lets really get into what positive parenting is! On with the programme!
THINGS TO REMEMBER!
EXPECTATIONS AND CONSEQUENCES ARE REALISTIC!
At the heart of positive parenting, are a set of expectations and resulting consequences that are age appropriate and fair on the child. We don't want to set the behavioral expectations so high for a young child, that they can never realistically meet it. Also, we don't want to make consequences that change all the time and are not reasonable on the child!
Helping a child to behave in an appropriate way is quite simple at it's core. We want to praise the positive behaviour and discourage the negative behaviour we see in them.
For the negative behaviour, I will have a time out system. When I see inappropriate behaviour, I will ask the child not to do this and explain clearly why. If I see them display the same behaviour again, I will tell them again in the same way and tell the child that if they do this same behaviour a third time, they will need to have a time out. This time out will usually be to sit on a chair in the corner of the room, away from distractions or entertainment.
I usually call the chair the "thinking chair". When I sit them down on the chair, I explain exactly what they have done wrong and why this is wrong. I ask the child to sit nicely and think about what they have done and how to improve.
The child needs to sit on the thinking chair for one minute for their age. So, if they are 3 then 3 minutes. Although this is not an exact science, you can play it by ear and ask them to go play again when you see they have clearing thought what happened through.
When their time is up, I ask them something like "What do you have to remember next time?"
I want the child to show me they understand what they did wrong and what they should do next time.
If the child is not sat nicely on the chair, I will go back to them and explain to them that they cannot go play again until they have sat nicely on the chair and thought through what they have done. Stick to your guns, no matter how long it takes, and only let your child continue with normal play when they have done this. For a child with ingrained bad habits, this may take longer at the start, but at soon as your child knows you mean business and won't back down, the process will get quicker.
Most children quickly learn they would rather be playing than on a time out chair. Usually, with consistent and fair use of this technique, your child's negative behaviours will reduce over time.
The whole time, do not shout or show emotion. Talk to your child in a calm way!
I love the thinking chair method of time out! The most important thing is it gives your child a chance to improve their behaviour or actions BEFORE any consequences or punishments are implemented!
One more thing to say, is to make sure your child is safe whilst they are sat on the thinking chair.
In the same way that we want to discourage the undesirable behaviours, we have to do the reverse for the good behaviours. We don't want to come across negative by only highlighting the negative behaviour. Make sure to take the time to praise your child for good behaviour too.
Both sides are vital, to highlight both the positive and negative behaviours. One cannot succeed without the other!!
Explain exactly what that behaviour was and why you are so proud of them. This positive reinforcement will encouragement more of this behaviour to continue. Your child will naturally look up to you as the parent, and your praise will hold great weight for them.
If you see your child deal with a problem well, then tell them that and make them feel good about it.
Maybe, you feel this praise is "cheesy" or "corny", but believe me it will go along way to reinforcing the positive behaviour your child is displaying.
Personally, I am not a big fan of physical rewards, such as buying your child a toy or ice cream (for example). I would rather want the child to behave well for me rather than for a physical reward.
The best way to use a physical reward is if your child has behaved well for a whole week or a month. Then you can treat them to something and explain why.
This is easier said than done, but it is key that you don’t let emotions cloud how you act with your child. When most people are angry, they will end up doing or saying something that they regret.
You must try and detach yourself from the situation, and remember that it is not your child’s fault that they behave this way. They are young and need our guidance! I like to separate out in my mind the child from the behaviour. This allows me to not make it a personal thing with a child. I find, this helps me to stay calm and focus on the problem behaviour that I want to eradicate.
KEEP IT CONSISTENT
With everything that we will talk about with positive parenting, consistency is very important. Every technique that we teach needs to be applied consistently 100% of the time. This means that your child knows exactly what will likely happen in every situation. There are no surprises!
Think of the rules and expectations in your household as a physical boundary. If these are continually changing, it is confusing for your child and harder for them to follow. This is why consistency is key.
This consistency must be agreed upon by all parents and adults in the household. It is really confusing for a child to get told off for something by one parent but not for the exact same thing from another. All adults must be on the same page and react to the child in the same way!
Don't Make Empty Threats
A common mistake I see from parents, is that they make empty threats to children. If you don't do this, I won't let you do this....etc. etc. If these threats are unrealistic and can't be followed through, your child will quickly work this out and they won't hold any meaning to them anymore. Your child will simply learn to ignore your empty threats.
Positive parenting is all about having expectations and consequences that are fair and realistic. Empty threats are not a part of this and should be avoided at all costs!
They usually happen when a parent is emotional, this is why we say you should try to avoiud emotions when disciplining a child.
THIS IS NOT A DISCUSSION
When behavioural expectations have been agreed upon in the home, you must always stick by them.
If you start giving in to your child, and allowing them to deviate from the plan, they will think that they can do this every time. I have seen a lot of parents of very “wordy” children make this mistake.
By that, I mean a child that has excellent spoken communication skills for their age. What ends up happening, is that the child will enter into a discussion and try to talk their way out! If you allow this, prepare yourself for many struggles. You must calmly and consistently insist that your child follows the plan, without exception (of course barring some very extreme cases!).
WE ARE ROLE MODELS
We must always remember that we are the ultimate role models to our children. Whatever they see us do, they will likely copy.
So when you shout and scream at a child, you are showing them that it is OK to do this to solve a problem.
By modeling the appropriate behaviour in these difficult times, we are helping our children learn to do this too.
BED TIME, A COMMON STRUGGLE!
Bed time routines are often a key flash point between children and parents. We usually want our children to go to bed at a reasonable time, but the child is not always on the same page! Preschool age children, for example, need 10-12 hours of sleep a night. It’s hard to explain this to your young child though!
So let’s start here!
When there are issues at bedtime (or any problem behaviour) you need to get to the root cause of this particular behaviour. You will usually find there is an underlying problem that can be solved.
For example, maybe your child is tired after a full day of activities? Maybe they haven’t seen you all day, and feel like they are “missing out” on something when going to bed?
These could be some reasons why your child is reluctant to go to bed. So make a point that the parents in your household have made sure to give some quality time to your child that day. I know that it can be hard after a tiring day at work, but it will be worth it.
Make a plan and stick to it!
Try to have the same routine every day at bedtime. Young children need routine, and can easily play up if things are often changing. A settled routine often leads to a more settled child.
Don’t just decide on this routine yourself, give your child the opportunity to have their input. By having more ownership of the process, your child will be much more likely to follow along.
Sit down with your child and talk about all the things they need to do in a day, as well as all the other fun things they would like to do. Decide together on a suitable routine to follow and make sure both you and your child agree to it.
This agreement HAS to be kept by you 100%. Crucially, if your child sees that you don’t follow through, they will be less likely to follow your instructions in future. If you expect your child to follow this, you also need to be held accountable in the same way.
When making your plan, try to make it a natural progression from more active activities in the day time, then the less active ones as you get closer to bedtime. This should help your child wind down seamlessly during the course of the evening.
It might also be an idea to put this routine into writing, so that you can remind your child of it. Usually, if you make a fun and colourful chart together, that would suffice. Again, if your child plays a part in making it, it will likely hold more value to them.
Now that you have an agreed plan, whenever your child tries to step outside that routine, you can remind them of the plan that they already agreed on. Clearly explain the reasons why they need to follow the plan at that time. As these reasons were discussed when making the plan with your child, they can’t back out.
If the plan is not working, discuss it together the next day to agree on changes.
You may find some resistance to this plan at the start. If you stick with the plan clearly and consistently, this resistance will usually become a lot less. If your child learns that you don’t give in, they will stop trying to push these boundaries.
Give your child warnings!
I have always been taught to do this as a teacher, and it is equally important in the home. You never want your child to feel rushed or anxious about the timings on your daily routine. In a classroom situation, I would give the example of “tidy up” time. I would tell the children 10 minutes before the expected tidy up time, to help them prepare to finish their activities. This would then be followed up by two other warnings at around 5 and 2 minutes.
This mental preparation is very important for a young child, and regular time checks throughout the routine will help greatly.
Make bedtime fun!
This daily routine will be far more interesting to your child if it is fun as well!
Try to make it into more of a game where possible. Maybe it could help to time your child and see if they can do the routine faster the next day. You could do a routine along with your child and see who can do it faster.
By letting children do chores independently, they will often feel much more interested in the process as well.
I know, it may be hard to watch your little one struggling to undo buttons when you are in a rush, but this increased level of independence should have a positive impact on your child and how they feel about these routines.
You could also give your child positive rewards if they complete the bedtime routine well. Maybe they could get to choose a book to be read, for example. I am personally not a massive fan of sticker charts, but you may find they work well for your child.
After a week of good behaviour, maybe you could expand these rewards. This could be taking them to their favourite park or doing an activity they enjoy but don’t get to do often.
End the Day with a Special Moment!
I would recommend that near the end of the bedtime routine, that you have a heart to heart with your child.
Let them talk to you about their day and get things off their chest. It’s also a moment for you to show them how much you care. Go over any positive accomplishments for your child that day, and plan for what will happen tomorrow.
This should end the day on a great note for both of you.
Continued calm and consistent reinforcement!
You may find your child trying to tell you they are not tired, or walking out of the bedroom.
Each time this happens, just calmly tell them what they have to do and why. Like I said before, no discussion!
If you are calm and consistent, they should be too (in the end)!
If you still have problems…..?
I would have a “debrief” after any problems the next day. Talk to your child and find out the root of the problem.
Are they not tired?
Is the room too noisy to sleep?
Is there a problem with the bedroom environment?
Is something scaring them?
After having this discussion, both agree on some amendments to their routine plan that may help.
NEVER agree to these on the fly, only in these debrief sessions 🙂
After sticking to this consistent bedtime routine for a while, you should start seeing results. If your child has already gotten into bad habits it will take longer. But, stick with it! It WILL improve!
The hope is to make bedtime a joy for both parent and child!
THE POSITIVE APPROACH TO STOPPING HITTING!
I am sure we have all seen young children becoming aggressive to those around them and resorting to such things as hitting.
Actually, this is a natural response for a young child. A child gets hungry, upset and scared just like an adult. It is just they haven’t learned the best way to deal with these situations yet!
Of course, as a baby, they are not able to tell people what the problem is, so they are likely to resort to these types of behaviours. As a child gets older, they should grow out of this as they learn to communicate better. This is not always the case though.
The child must be hitting for a reason, so you need to find out what that reason is and give them an alternative solution to that problem.
To do this in a positive way, try to get involved in a situation early before it escalates. You may find that, with a quick reminder, they immediately improve their behaviour. But sometimes, this will not happen straight away.
In the same way that we discussed bedtime procedures with our child, we need to do the same for other situations too. Not in the heat of the moment, but when both of you can have a calm discussion. So remove your child from the immediate situation to do this.
Talk about different situations and agree upon an acceptable behaviour for each situation. Tell your child that everyone gets angry or upset, it is normal. But this doesn’t mean you can hit or push people (or whatever undesirable behaviour has just happened).
These discussions are very important. In the same way an adult may feel upset after shouting at their children, a young child could also feel bad after they have shown aggressive or undesirable behaviour. Your discussions will help them feel better about this and know what to do next time.
Always use positive language throughout and do not result to shaming your child. Do not dwell on this undesirable behaviour for any longer than you have to.
It’s also a good idea to give your child a loving hug at the end of this. As I talked about before, we try to discipline our children without emotion. Not only to do this in the most appropriate way, but also because these behaviours are not the child’s fault. By hugging your child, you are showing them it is not personal and you still love them.
You can then let your child rejoin whatever activity they were doing.
When something arises again in the future, you can then clearly and consistently tell your child what they are doing wrong and why. Remind them of the agreed upon action.
We are helping our children to come up with acceptable solutions to problems. If new problems arise, have a de-brief the next day. Discuss what happened with your child and agree on a new plan of action.
What to do if it still escalates?
As with any behavioural expectations, there are always times when your child doesn’t want to follow. This is especially true at the very start.
If you have tried to remind your child about their behaviour and it continues to escalate, you then need to remove your child from the situation even more.
The thinking chair time out method I described earlier in this article can also be used here. Make sure to implement it in a consistent manner every time you see hitting. The child should know exactly what will happen when they hit, and you should follow through on this every time.
The time out and thinking chair method allows your child to acknowledge what they have done and how they can improve next time.
It also gives you a consistent set of consequences that do not involve emotion!
When using this method, make sure to keep a half eye on your child to make sure they are still safe. I would do this in a covert way, so the child feels like you are not giving them attention. This is why I prefer this method to the alternative of putting them in a stairwell or locking them in a room. Something I have heard for this method in the past and don't agree with!
Another reason to have a thinking chair type procedure, is to allow your child to fully calm down. Often, after behavioural problems they will feel anxious and upset. This time will help them to calm down and be able to reason with you again.
In the same way that you can't make good parenting decisions when you are emotional, your child can't make good decisions in this frame of mind too. They need time to calm down.
You may find that you can give them something at this time to help them calm down.
For example, maybe they have a toy or soft toy that they can hold that has proven to help calm them down. Of course, this can not be anything that could be seen as a treat!
What else can we do?
There are some great books out there that deal with a wide variety of behavioural issues. You could read these to your child from time to time to enable discussions about the appropriate ways to act in certain situations. Also, by reading you are talking about topics in a non direct or confrontational way. You are not accusing your child of such behaviour, but using a third person to highlight and discuss them. This can be incredibly useful!
For example, below are two books you could use to talk with your child more about behaving in a more positive way. Click the cover pictures to get more details.
If your child’s behaviour has caused someone hurt or has made a mess, make sure to get them to agree to apologise and clean up any of the fallout from the incident.
This shows them that they have to take responsibility for their own actions.
You might also find that teaching your child some anger management techniques help.
For example, to breath deeply or release that anger in a more appropriate way.
Be careful with the media that your child is consuming.
In this internet age, we have to be careful what they are watching. In the same way they copy their parents or other adults they see, young children will also copy actions they see in videos or movies.
I have a review on my website for a parent control application that helps you monitor your child's online behaviour. To read this article simply click HERE.
HOW ABOUT THE DREADED
What should we do if our child is often answering back to our demands and showing defiance in this way?
As with everything else we talked about, we must remain calm and consistent. Not allowing high emotions to make us shout or blame our children for their behaviour. With positive parenting, we want to focus on only the positives!
We don’t want to scare our child or hurt their feelings, we want to support them to behave better.
Why do children say no?
Defiance is common with young children, since their sense of identity is stronger and more secure than in toddler years. Talking back is one of the ways that a young child asserts his or her new independence on others.
When this happens, we want to respond in a calmly positive way. Explain clearly what your child needs to do and why.
We don’t give in to demands or let them do whatever they want. However, you can offer a couple of sensible choices to help the child feel better about the situation.
Maybe your child is getting ready for school and it’s time to put socks on. You could give the child a couple of appropriate choices, but don’t allow them to become picky. Give them a feeling of independence without allowing them to take total control.
The routines we previously talked about discussing with your child above, can include the morning routine too.
As with the bedtime routine, you can try and make it fun. You can set out clear expectations together.
If there are problems, discuss them together when both of you are calm. Then, agree on any changes to the routine for the next day.
As with the bedtime routine, you can have rewards for positive behaviour.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS…..?
If you have followed everything we have talked about closely and are still seeing extreme behaviours, you might consider taking your child to see a professional.
Sometimes, an underlying and undetected learning or behavioural disorder can be the root cause. If this is the case, it is important to get your child the help they need as soon as possible.
Also, remember that any negative or disruptive changes in a household can effect a child’s behaviour too. Think about if there are any recent changes in your child’s life. These can be discussed with your child, to see if a solution can be found.
Before you go down these routes, first make sure you have made a good effort to use the techniques in this article over an extended period of time. Don't just give up at the first hurdle and think your child has a learning disorder or suchlike!
Well, it is time to wrap up this attempt at a positive parenting programme of sorts. It is pretty hard to cover everything in an article of this length, but I hope that I have given you some food for thought. Your positive parenting skills and strategies playbook should be somewhat thicker now!
There are key elements that run throughout our positive parenting strategies.
Taking emotions out of the situation, giving positive reinforcements of good behaviour. Setting clear and consistent behavioural boundaries. Having realisitic expectations of your child!
I am sure you have seen these running themes throughout this article.
It would great to hear from you in the comments section below, to hear what your experiences have been!
You can also let us into any additional positive parenting skills or strategies you may use. These can be positive parenting strategies for toddlers or older. All age groups will have common elements that run through them.
Thank you for reading our rather long article on the subject of positive parenting. I am very passionate about positive parenting being a great way to successfully bring up a young child.
However, this article only scratches the surface of this type of parenting. By it's very nature, an article on a website can never give a complete picture, it can only act as a starting point.
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