Do you find yourself struggling with hyperactive, oppositional, or aggressive kids? Or maybe they're just struggling to stay out of trouble and follow the rules. Working with such kids, whether as a parent, teacher, or counselor, can seem quite hopeless at times. It doesn't help that it's that time of the year where the holidays are over, the cold weather limits outdoor play, and summer seems ages away, so kids tend to get restless and act out more.
It's so easy to fall into a punishment cycle with kids. The kid acts out, you punish them, they act out even more in reaction, you punish them harder, and so on. The kid starts to feel attacked, victimized, like a 'bad kid'. You start to feel mean, like a prison warden. It’s a lose-lose situation!
What if you could break the cycle and turn it into a win-win situation by tweaking your parenting style?
"Positive parenting" techniques play on concepts found in positive psychology, encouraging the replacement of negative energy in the household/classroom/etc. with positive energy.
The goal of positive parenting is to minimize the following:
- Feeding negative energy - enabling and perpetuating anger
- Rewarding bad behavior with attention - letting children get a rise out of you (which is often exactly what they want!)
- Yelling - losing control and creating a hostile environment
- Labeling - directly or indirectly making kids feel bad, stupid, annoying
- Emotion-driven punishment - overreacting due to frustration and resentment
- Tension in the environment - an unhappy home or classroom, full of resentment on all sides
- Over-punishing - punishing/pointing out every small misstep a child makes
And maximize these parenting responses:
- Reinforcement of positive behaviors - show children they can receive attention for something other than what they did wrong
- Strength-identification - help children see what they're good at and what makes them special
- Modeling of appropriate behaviors - teaching frustration tolerance and unconditional love
- Empowerment - showing children they can be trusted to make smart choices themselves
- Collaboration - working together to determine the rules and the consequences, as well as teaching the reason for the rules
- Fair, logical consequences - consequences are expected based on pre-determined rules, set jointly, and the parent is just the (calm) enforcer
The great thing about the positive parenting approach is that it changes the atmosphere in the home/classroom/etc. Everyone involved (the family, classmates) reaps the benefits of the shift in positive energy. Parents and teachers who use these techniques find themselves feeling less angry, less guilty, and more in control. Plus, the positive approach gives them a much-needed in-the-moment reminder of the good in each child, no matter how frustrating their behavior! A side benefit is that by observing modeled alternatives to anger/yelling, children can also learn frustration tolerance.
Given the benefits, positive parenting is definitely worth trying, but it can be quite challenging to make the shift!