According to a Canadian survey, nearly 30% of infants and young children have an identifiable emotional, social, or intellectual problem that could have been prevented through positive parenting.
Positive parenting involves all aspects of healthy child development. Based on decades of research, it enhances the physical, social, and mental health of children by addressing major skill areas that inform future well-being. Parents who use this approach have children who are healthier and happier, as well as more cooperative, connected, and confident.
The relationship between emotional experiences as children, and physical and mental health as adults, is powerful and life-long. Childhood traumas give birth to high-risk behaviors, disorders, diseases, and unspeakable pain and suffering. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to do to our children what was done to us-repeat the “bad stuff”-because that’s how we learned to parent. As a result, parents find themselves caught in a downward spiral.
Here’s the good news: Raising children gives parents the opportunity to take the high road. They can heal themselves by choosing to not repeat the “bad stuff” and choosing instead to change negative intergenerational family patterns. This heroic work requires that parents be aware of and learn to manage their emotions and behaviors. It also requires parents to be responsive to the needs of their children. Empathy-putting yourself in your child’s shoes and recalling what childhood was like for you-can become your motivation to change intergenerational patterns. Treating children with respect and tuning in to their thoughts and feelings can make a huge difference.
It started for me when I was very young. As a childhood victim of anger and abuse, I swore that I would never subject my children to the same treatment. Many other parents have made the same vow, resolving not to repeat harmful actions that caused them fear, anger, and suffering. They consciously explore ways to be not reactive, but pro-active in raising healthy kids. Starting with those good intentions, they learn to improve communication and other skills. This allows them to move into an upward spiral.
Positive parents learn to focus on the “good stuff”-respect, warmth, nurturance, empathy, and win-win attitudes. They discover that when they focus on the behaviors they want from their children, those behaviors increase. At the same time, the behaviors that they don’t want fall away and disappear. It’s the Law of Attraction: What you focus on expands.
There are lots of ways of looking at things. When parents change their thoughts and beliefs, they can actually change their worlds and their children’s worlds. When you change your mind, you change your life.
Invest in Kids/Canada has created three main “How To’s” for positive parenting: Comfort, Play & Teach(TM). Tried and true, each is a simple way of relating more positively to children:
o Comfort. Love/comfort is the primary necessity of babies and children. There are many shades of comfort/love: caring, nurturing, touch, affection, understanding, compassion, and warmth. When you comfort your children, meet their needs, and show respect and empathy, they feel secure, valued, and content.
o Play. The “work” of children is play, and moms and dads are their favorite playmates. This enriching activity has far-reaching benefits-fun, silliness, spontaneity, creativity, connection, and more. Important things happen beneath the surface when children play.
o Teach. Parents help their children learn about life by teaching. Talking about and commenting on situations helps kids solve problems, understand new things, and make sense of the world.
I would add to the list:
o Flex and Yield. Structure and routine are very important, but rigidity can lead to unwanted struggles. It’s important to be flexible when time and circumstances dictate. When parents are spontaneous in addressing challenges and opportunities that may suddenly appear, life is less stressful. Flexibility is essential for psychological health and for a happy family.
Positive parenting has nothing to do with being “perfect.” No one is perfect! Trying to be perfect-perfectionism-is a self-defeating behavior that dooms people to frustration, anxiety, depression, and hiding mistakes. They never feel good enough. No matter how hard they work, they are never satisfied.
Furthermore, perfectionism rigidifies behavior, making parents unable to respond adequately when flexibility is needed. Unfortunately, everyone around a perfectionist becomes self-critical and suffers from low self-esteem. And sadly, the pursuit of perfection seems to be increasing as media culture evolves. This puts even more families at risk. As people realize that perfectionism is not a good thing, and as they learn how to release its hold, negative interactions will decrease and positive interactions will increase.
Positive parenting information can support and guide you on the high road and give you tools, tips, and techniques to help you shape great kids. The many benefits of positive parenting include good feelings and good times on a daily basis, a sense of well-being, and life-long loving connections, extending even into future generations.
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