The Problem With Positive Parenting

The Problem with Positive Parenting
Family, Self

There are many child advocates and parenting specialists who advocate a parenting method that is more positive in nature; no hitting, limited screaming and yelling, no name calling or belittling, and no criticizing.  I advocate this as well and have utilized it with my own three children. However, I’m concerned that positive parenting may be misunderstood and is heading to the dark side.

Here’s the problem, many parents seem to have taken this to mean that we don’t set limits for our children, we don’t say no, we don’t discipline in any way, and we let the children run the house and our lives. I’m often appalled at the lack of limits I see on children as they run through restaurants, shopping malls, and other people’s homes. Many children are not being asked or taught how to be respectful, wait their turn, or be appropriately assertive. 

The larger problem, of course, results in children who do not know how to manage themselves or their emotions. Setting limits for your children is a gift you give to them that they eventually (and hopefully) will internalize as they head out into their adult lives.  Learning how to take no for an answer without throwing themselves on the ground and having you give in to them is one of your jobs as their parents. Do you want your children to be adults who are unable to wait their turn, feel entitled, and deny themselves nothing? 

Some of the confusion seems to come in the idea that if you want to be positive you can’t set limits.  That is anything but the truth. You can set a firm and understandable limit with almost any aged child if you do so with respect and kindness but also without negotiation. If your child wants to run in the street, it is your job to loudly and firmly say no. You don’t need to call them names or belittle them for trying but you do need to teach them that this behavior is dangerous and unacceptable. 

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If you don’t tell your children no or set limits with them, what makes you think that they will ever learn how to listen to you? I’m not sure where the idea came about that being strict or firm equals being cruel.  I’m not advocating for you to spank your child. In fact I don’t think you should and I know that you can parent quite effectively without ever laying a punishing hand on them. It’s important for parents to learn how to set limits with assertiveness and to follow through as matter of factly as possible. 

I spend much of my time with adults in corporate settings, many of whom struggle greatly with assertive communication skills. I understand why that is, if we don’t see it modeled or are not taught it as children, why would we be able to do it as adults? What many adults do is either sit back passively until they are so angry that  they react aggressively. Neither is healthy for work or personal relationships.  Why not model for your children assertive and firm communication skills that will carry them nicely through their adulthood? 

The other big mistake that I see parents make regarding positive parenting is the over compliment or the excessive "good job."  This is not actually positive parenting but rather excessive and unnecessary complimenting. Yes, it’s important to catch your child being good and yes, it’s important to acknowledge and compliment achievements. However, if you compliment them incessantly, you are ruining the compliment.  They stop believing you and start to feel insecure about their achievements. Ironic that what seems to be a good idea is actually not very beneficial. 

There is an overload of parenting advice out there and I don’t want to add to the confusion so here’s the bottom line; treat your child the way you would like to be treated.  Be honest, be kind, be firm, be loving, follow through on your word, and compliment when appropriate. Try to limit yelling, don’t name call or criticize their character, focus on behavior and do so clearly and consistently. That is the basis of positive parenting, and it works. 

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Dr. Lisa Kaplin is a life coach and psychologist at www.smartwomeninspiredlives.com

You can reach her at Lisa@smartwomeninspiredlives.com