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Friday, January 6, 2012

Keeping Your Faith in Positive Parenting

Mom and son

When things are going smoothly, it's easy to say "Yes! Positive parenting really works!" You feel confident in your decision to raise your child this way and confident in your abilities as a parent.

But what about when things aren't going smoothly? What about when your child is acting up despite your positive guidance? That's not supposed to happen, is it?

Positive parenting is not a magic fix. It doesn't guarantee that there won't be conflicts, misbehavior, and difficult times. Inevitably, no matter how great you model, how gentle your guidance, and how connected your relationship, there will arise times of conflict and disconnect. It may be tempting during these times to give up and resort to more punitive or authoritarian parenting. You may say to yourself, "This clearly isn't working! I need to try something else!" It is in these troublesome times that your values and principles are really put to the test.
A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn. ~Author Unknown
As much as I wholeheartedly believe in this philosophy, we aren't the perfect family. I'm not a perfect positive parent. I have had my doubts as well. I have faltered. There have been times during conflict when I've wanted to resort to punitive parenting again. It's so easy to take away a privilege or send a kid to his room. Sometimes it's not so easy to figure out what the need behind the behavior is and address it. Sometimes it's not so easy to repair the rift.

But I want to encourage you (and me) to stay the course.  Have faith that your relationship will prevail above all. Know that this bend is not the end, that if you repair the disconnects, offer unconditional love, guide with gentleness and respect, and keep confidence in yourself and in your child, everything will work out for the good.

Keep the big picture in mind. Remember that we aren't raising cookie-cutter children, but compassionate and capable adults. Keep in mind why you chose this path. Remember that, in the end, all we have are relationships, so do what you can to stay connected, because we know our true influence comes through that connection.

I always find it encouraging to hear from parents who have raised children with positive parenting. Here is what some of these parents have to say:
There are three adults walking around who were raised on the philosophy of positive parenting (my three children 37, 29, 27). My relationship with them today is as it was when they were growing up - respectful, loving, trusting, secure and fun. Another payoff is to not only watch the relationships they have with others but also to watch the relationship they have with their self. Their level of self awareness is strong. But the best outcome of PP - to watch them use positive parenting instinctively with my grandchildren. There is no greater reward or peace of mind. I could go on and on about the benefits..
As a high school teacher, I can always tell which of my students have been raised with PP and which haven't. The ONLY kids who get in fights are the ones who haven't been PP'd. Those who have been PP'd are far more apt to take responsibility for their actions, they are happier on a more consistent basis (you know, they're teenagers, so they all have their angst from time to time), they have an easier time communicating with adults, and they just have an inner-confidence that shines through in every move they make.
My daughter is 17 and I have always used positive parenting. She is confident, loving, content, compassionate, loyal,  and honest. She has excelled in sports and academics as the words" I can't" don't exist. She is an excellent "winner" but an even better "loser" when it comes to competition. She has been such a pleasure from day one and I'm proud to be called her mom.  She also knows that I will take on the world for her and vice versa. 
I have a nearly sixteen year old daughter who has come through her difficult initial adolescent years with us only having had one big issue that was resolved through being open and discursive. Not seeing her thoughts and feelings as a problem, but a reality... in fact a huge reality as often teenagers are feeling intense feelings for the very first time! She is now one of the most beautiful people I know, she will hear her friends problems and even ask for help when she needs if she is upset by something going on. I am one of the luckiest mums in the world to have her emerge and grow into my friend who will even offer me a hug when I seem down as she has empathy and recognizes me as a human being. She holds herself to account for her schoolwork, her behavior and it is very very rare we have to assert boundaries. I am so proud of her and in some way, of us as her parents as we have always been mindful that we do not "have a child" We were helping an adult to grow.
The biggest impact I see with my 18 year old is that despite his challenging oppositional behavior we have remained connected, and thus I have maintained influence in his still developing self. As long as I can still influence him with wisdom, love, and knowledge, he can keep growing toward the light.

5 comments:

  1. I really, truly, just don't get what positive parenting is. I've read for hours on this site, and can't comprehend it. I want to raise my children in this way....but I don't get how you can correct or guide behavior without it being construed as punishment.

    For example, my three year old son just lurves to hit his sister, or push her down, or pull on her legs/arms, etc. Even if I don't yell at him (which I don't), he still gets reinforcement from making her cry. This seems to be enough to make him want to continue this behavior. So- since I "can't" send him to his room, or tell him that we don't want to play with him if he needs to do that, or sit him on the couch...what can I do? I've tried to tell him that is not kind, and she may not want to play with him if he continues (but goodness, she is only 18 months and won't stop going to him).
    Same with using toys to hit/smack. If I am not allowed to take them away from him, then how do I get him to stop? Telling him that we don't hit people with pants, or toys doesn't work. He does it anyway.
    He is very energetic and we try to stay super busy so as to keep the kids distracted and focused on other things, but they are going to have down time at some point. Seriously, I just don't get it. I want to, but I don't. Please explain...

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    1. Simply complex,
      sorry for my slowness in response. We have had a virus running through our house for a week and its been hectic, to say the least. I am on my phone now, but I will come back and explain more soon.

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  2. This article really helped me. I'm new in the PP journey, and to me it sometimes seems way too idealistic. My biggest question: does it work? To hear from parents who have done it for years is SO uplifting! Please continue to share stories like this to give us young, starting moms confidence and real goals. :)

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    1. Maggie,
      i am glad you found this helpful. I always like to hear from parents who have done this. :)

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  3. Simply Complex,

    I wrote out a very long and detailed comment to you and posted it here, but I don't know what happened to it!! :-/

    In a nutshell, have you read my newest article, The Right Way to Parent? That may help.

    Don't overthink what can be construed as punishment. I did that, and it drove me batty. Instead, focus on problem solving with your child, modeling, and teaching appropriate behaviors.

    For example, you say he likes to hit the baby but you "can't" send him to his room. If you did send him to his room, what would that teach him? Would it teach him how to handle his feelings of jealousy and anger? Would he be sitting in there feeling bad for hitting his sister, or would he be in there building more resentment that he got in trouble because of her? My guess is the latter. Instead, when he hits, take him away from her (have you read the calm down corner post?) and tell him you see he's upset. He may not hurt anyone, but you will help him through his feelings. Until you get to the reason behind the behavior (probably jealousy), he'll just keep finding ways to try and express those unpleasant feelings.

    One way to handle this is to make special time with just him. Dr. Laura at Ahaparenting.com (check out her site) recommends to play a game where you chase him for a few minutes every day saying "I need my ____ fix! Give me those hugs. Let him get away and chase him again. The point is to get him giggling, which releases negative feelings, and to show him how much you still love him.

    Give him options on what to do when he's mad. "You may not hit the baby, but you can come and shake the calm down jar or clap your hands really loud. He needs to know what he CAN do.

    As for the toys, if he hits her with a toy, it is perfectly reasonable to take that toy. The key is *how* you take it. You want to let him know you're taking the toy away for everyone's safety, and not as a punishment to "get back at him." You might say "Let's put this toy up until you're ready to play it with it. When you're ready to not hit anyone with the toy, you may have it back. Then move on to another activity. If he gets mad about it, empathize with his upset. "I know you're feeling mad. I'll help you with those feelings. Do you need to clap your hands or jump up and down?"

    It's a lot to wrap your head around at first, but it will click eventually and will all seem too easy. :) Best of luck.

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