Positive parenting is a construct that we Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors seek to educate and to coach our parents as to the dynamics of such parenting.  Parents come with multiple complaints of how their little ones are oppositional and defiant. With a nutrition background of 17 years, connections with a local Nature-path, and training in counseling-I take an eclectic approach with my parents. Since nutrition can indeed contribute to impulse control, depression, and anxiety issues, then one of my first line of action strategies is to educate clients regarding foods that will increase dopamine and serotonin if increased, and foods that will decrease impulse issues if avoided.

Along with this information we then teach the parent of the many life skills that their child needs to know prior to their 18th year. This process is sometimes humbling as parents find that parenting involves an active parent instead of a passive parent. Parents learn the parenting styles and how each contributes to a child’s self image and willingness to respect and to abide with the parent in peace. They also learn how to address and communicate strong emotions; so as to model this with their own children.

A parent who is deemed negative, will lose the respect and the obedience of their child. This parent is quick to point out all of the failures, lack of successes, poor behavior, and may also state that this child is doomed to being lazy, or doomed to become a delinquent. This parent is known for punishment and consequences and less for affirmation and validation. Without modeling the appropriate skills and behavior this parent expects the child to submit without argument; after all-they have received strict parenting and know that to disobey will bring them much negative results. Often this parent isolates their child and seems frustrated as they run out of things to take from the child.  They will often appease the child with material items and sugar foods especially if the child is acting out in public…just to hush them. “What else can I do? He/she just does not listen!” this parent will retort.

Understanding parents and children’s frustration is a must. I know that Parents are doing all that they know  to do, basically borrowing from their own parent’s modeling of parenthood…therefore, I search to find what they are doing that is correct first and then will begin educating this parent of what their negativity is creating. Reinforcement of negative behaviors is often one of the several culprits that I target.  The education of communication, social skills, and boundaries are then reviewed. Also, a list of what behaviors that means something to this parent is sought. With this list then we can begin creating a positive means for reinforcing the positive behaviors as well as to cultivate a positive parenting style is my focus.  Parents become a yes parent but with discernment and boundaries in place.

One thing is absolutely a must. Parents must affirm and build their children. They must cheer and advocate. They must build and educate. Parents must let their children know that they are loved no matter what, and that the parent is beside them with support. Parents need to find the child’s strengths and help that child to develop their strengths towards a goal of their future. Parents need to find their child’s fears and weakness, and teach them through modeling-how to overcome, practice, and have a positive perspective.  Often the parent must first learn how to do these things as the counselor models these skills and uplifts that parent.

Parents find that the internet and other social and technical devices are competing with them. At first parents may have thought that these are easy baby sitters as life becomes busy; but these devices are replacing the construct of the family’s importance; replacing the nucleus of society, replacing the notion that parents are important, and driving a most harmful construct that the rich and powerful ideology that government and education are far better role models for society.  With the text savvy children today; and the lack of boundaries and controls-parents are often several steps behind what their children are being exposed too.  Instead of thinking that their children are not being exposed to such toxic and confusing influences; parents must step it up.

First, children need boundaries for their cell phone and all other apparatus’s that the children can access. Some basic strategies are as follows:

  • No text or calls when engaged in family gatherings, meals, during bed time.
  • No phone or gadgets that can access the internet and like are allowed in the bedroom. Children need at least 9 hours of sleep yet often report only receiving 4-6. In addition-too much privacy with these devices are detrimental for the cognition, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical health of our children.
  • All screens need to be plugged in overnight in ONE designated place in the public view of the home and parents need to check that these remain untouched during the evening.
  • The contract must stipulate the rules of responsible use and time limits.
  • “You Know Kids” software is helpful to MONITOR the use of these devices so that parents will be in the know of what and where their children going.

Second: Like Arrows video is a good video for parents and children; also Jim Fuller is author of some informative books regarding text and internet dangers and aids. You may access these on Focus on the Family website.

Positive parenting also must be able to teach their child how to use discernment in every decision. This must also be modeled as the parent educates the child of how to utilize knowledge and use wisdom. This too must be demonstrated as the counselor provides the tools for the parent to use.  Parents must not think for their children and therefore it is best for the child to know how to think as they face trials, temptations, and new situations. Children must understand that if they are wise and if they consider multiple facets of a situation, then they will most likely make judicious choices. As they do and succeed, the parent then praises the child but instead of saying, “Great job!” The parent say, “I see how you used the lessons learned when…” .and/or  “how you have chosen to instead try…..which is very good since this means that your learned from that consequence! Great thinking!” Parents must allow natural consequences to occur when the child makes a bad choice, and instead of complaining; Instead, ASK…”What are 3 other options that could have resulted in a better choice?” Listen. Then, ask the child what may be some good ways to settle the consequence… With this approach then a parent is helping the children to think.

When parents find their children making bad choices or if the child speaks of something that they saw or heard which is inappropriate-then keep that door open! Talk about it without shock-stay calm-and ask questions so as to help the child derive a better perspective and solution.

Middle aged children do not know who they are and are practicing adulthood while still wanting to stay close to their parents yet believe this to be un-cool.  They are confused as to how to make decisions yet they want to break free. They are forming opinions of their own and therefore parents are often quoted saying, “my children are aliens” at this time. They fear their children’s poor choices and poor peers…and often hover and become more protective-yet parents need a balance of relaxing their grip and instead of dictating-they become more aware of their own guidance and leadership as they MODEL the life skills that they need their children to learn. Such skills would include conflict resolution, discernment, integrity, and patience-to name a few. Instead of telling the child what to do or offering advice that may not be solicited; the parent may could ask, “Is this where I should leave you alone or would you want to ask me questions or me to ask you questions?”

Another must is: The child wants to be listened to and be validated as serious. Regardless of what the parent thinks of the conflict that their child faces; listen.  But, what about discipline? Well, time out and spankings at this age (9-12) are not effective and therefore a balance of rewards and consequences are a must. Such consequences could be an honest and transparent parent as a simple statement is made, “That is totally inappropriate.” Some questions could be,” Do you understand how inappropriate that this was? What could have been the consequence of this?” Sometimes parents are pressed to tell the child of the punishment but I would advise the parent to switch this up a bit. Some of the consequences should have already been addressed in the contract and therefore, that rendering is appropriate as the parent shows the contract to the child. At other times, the parent could ask the child for what they think could be an appropriate punishment for the behavior? At all times, both parents need to consult with each other and be on the same page. If the parents are not sure of their consequence then feel free to advise the child that you need time to research and to think over the issue and that the parent will return with the punishment that is decided tomorrow.  Short term grounding, removing minutes from phone or internet are often common punishments. Are these effective? All children are different and therefore each will require a tailored made rule and consequence that best fit each child. Children are NOT the same. They learn differently.

Parents do well to self reflect through their own dilemmas in front of their children, and keep it honest.

Children at this age often are struggling with an overwhelming lack of confidence or self image and need encouragement. They need goals. Do not down play their emotions. Do not interrupt them. Do not talk about them in front of others or be sarcastic. These children are in a bubble concept where the world is all about them so start there-with them then go to the subject.  Have direct eye contact as you speak. An example of communicating more effectively with them might be like this: “This has to do with you today so I need you to please listen to what I am expecting from you today.” Then list your brief statement of what is needed. Asking them to repeat what you said is also a good way to insure that they did hear you.

Heal and Hope Counseling Services can assist parents to cultivate a positive parent approach.  Should you need parenting, divorce recovery, marriage, A&D, Behavioral, Grief and Loss, Trauma, or other assistance, then call us: 423-303-0472, or email: healhopecounseling@yahoo.com, until then-be safe and think positive!