Parenting comes with mistakes and missteps. Positive parenting isn’t about being perfect or always being cheerful. It’s about what parents do every day — challenges included — and keeps the big picture in mind. What makes a parent great is recognizing when things haven’t gone right and responding with love to repair the relationship. That’s positive parenting in action.
Here are nine key elements that power a positive approach to parenting:
Try to imagine your child’s point of view, especially during tough moments.
We all want to keep our cool! Sometimes it helps to remember that your child’s perspective is very different from yours. She really is devastated that she can’t wear sandals when it’s snowing. Say to yourself, “She is small and still learning,” or “’She’s only 2.”
Watch the video:
Learn more about understanding your child’s point of view:
See Things Through Their Eyes
Young children have very big feelings and very little self-control. They’re driven by emotions, not by logic. Knowing that can help you stay calm and respond more positively to their emotional behavior.
How Do I Handle My Child's Behavior?
Instead of thinking, How do I fix this?, try thinking about what your child is feeling and why.
Watch and learn more
Notice and celebrate your child’s strengths, abilities and capacity to learn and develop.
Each child is unique, growing and learning at his own pace. Maybe your daughter is a bold explorer who gets into everything, or your son hangs back until he gets to know someone. Make a conscious effort to really see your child. The number one thing every child needs is someone who is crazy about them.
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Learn more about celebrating what makes your child special:
What Makes Your Child Unique?
Every child is different. What do you admire about your little one? Noticing your child’s strengths and skills and uniqueness makes your bond even stronger. And telling them about it builds their self-esteem.
Delight in moments of connection with your child.
It’s easy to get distracted by the day-to-day grind of parenting: dishes, laundry, naps and transitions from one activity to the next. Remember to pause and make eye contact while buckling him into his car seat. Offer big smiles when she wants to show you something, and offer close cuddles while you read a book. This is the magic we can find when we make a little space in the everyday grind for love and connection.
Respond with interest and sensitivity to your child’s cues.
Every child communicates her needs differently. Taking the time to watch and learn your child’s cues and communications teaches them that they’re important and cherished. Your baby may let you know she needs a break by turning away. Your toddler may let you know the mall has too much stimulation for him by having a tantrum in the food court. Responding as sensitively as you possibly can in these moments ensures your little one gets what they need from you.
Provide consistent, age-based guidelines, limits, and boundaries.
Parenting is a combination of nurture and structure. All children need guidance on how to behave. Maintaining predictable routines and setting kind, firm limits really helps. Your child is more likely to cooperate with your guidance if you crouch down at their level, make eye contact and put your hand on their shoulder before telling them it’s time for a diaper change.
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Recognize and regulate your own feelings and behaviors before responding to your child.
This sounds like common sense, but it is way harder to pull off than many of us thought. Young children are naturally driven by their strong emotions. We do better as parents (and role models!) when we take deep breaths and calm ourselves first before responding to their behavior.
Parents have big feelings, too:
Five Ways to Manage Your Own Big Feelings
One of the hardest things about being a parent is always having to be the grown-up in the relationship. Holding it together during high-stress moments is one of most important skills we can develop as parents. Here are some tricks of the trade.
Parenting During the Stress of COVID-19
Being the parent of a young child can be stressful under any circumstances, but our current reality makes it even harder. Here is some advice for parents with babies, toddlers and preschoolers in these challenging times.
Know that parenting can be stressful and missteps are part of raising a child.
We can’t be calm, cool and collected all the time. There will always be moments when we lose our tempers. Apologizing when you’re wrong and setting things right is part of building a relationship and helps children learn how to do this as they grow older.
Ever wished for a parenting do-over? Watch the video:
Read more about communication, forgiveness and keeping the peace:
Keeping the Peace, Reducing Stress
Read about the frustrations of a single mom who didn’t know how to deal with her daughter’s tantrums — “The more stressed I got, the more stressed she got. If I yelled, she yelled.” — and the process they worked out to make things better.
Work toward balancing your needs and your child’s needs.
Don’t forget about you! It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the demands of parenting that you can forget to take care of yourself. Plan for breaks throughout the day; even two minutes of deep breathing can help. Pay attention to your needs for socializing, sleep, exercise and nutrition, too.
Learn about taking care of yourself so you can take care of your children:
A Message to Moms
Being a mom is challenging — the toughest job you’ll ever love — but you don’t need to be supermom. To do your best for your little ones, it’s important to make time to take care of yourself, too.
Dear Dads: You're Doing Fine
Now’s a good time to think about the important role you play in your child’s life and have a game plan for dealing with stress and uncertainty.
Reach out for help, support or additional information on parenting when you need it.
Every parent eventually runs into a challenging child-rearing issue. Children need a lot from their adults, and parents are pulled in many different directions. Don’t shy away from asking for help from friends, family or professionals. All parents need and deserve support.
Get help, answers to questions, and find programs and resources near you:
Contact the Birth to Five Helpline
Parenting isn’t easy. You’re going to have questions. Sometimes you just need someone to listen. The Birth to Five Helpline is a free service available to all Arizona families and caregivers of young children. Call or text 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) or send a message online.
Find No-Cost Programs in Your Area
Across Arizona, First Things First supports a variety of parenting and early childhood programs for families with young children from birth to age 5. Find programs near you.
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Positive Parenting is presented in partnership with ZERO TO THREE, a national nonprofit working to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. ZERO TO THREE’s approach to supporting parents is based on the belief that parents are the true experts on their children, and that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to raising children. Learn more
This definition of positive parenting was developed by a ZERO TO THREE committee of staff, board members and fellows. Written by Kathy Kinsner, Sarah S. MacLaughlin and Rebecca Parlakian. © ZERO TO THREE 2018.