5. Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is about being responsive and recognising what your child needs at a given time and providing that in an effective way.

A reoccurring theme in the positive parenting literature is that a warm, yet firm, parenting style is linked to numerous positive child outcomes.

While both parents have an important role in helping children grow and thrive, a father’s relationship with his children is especially important in fostering resilience. When children experience positive and supportive parenting, they are far more likely to thrive.

Within ‘Positive Parenting’, the Fathering Fundamental:

  • A positive mindset
  • Resilience
  • Self-esteem
  • Optimism

A positive mindset

Having a positive mindset can improve your ability to cope with work and family stresses. Accepting circumstances that you can’t change and making the most of the opportunities that are presented to you will enhance your life and improve your relationships with others.

Resilience

Resilience is our ability to cope with change and challenges and to bounce back in difficult times.

Adapted from STARS- Straight talking about self-esteem, Erin Erceg, Clare Roberts Curtin University 2003

The three important areas of resilience:

  • Skills to cope – Having skills to solve problems, manage emotions, think through situations, and decide on the best action.
  • Support – Having support from at least one caring adult, friend or other good role models in our children’s lives.
  • Self-esteem – Children feeling good about themselves and their ability to take on challenges and try new things.

Top tips:

  • Help your child learn to identify and begin to manage their own emotions.
  • Talk to your child about how to develop strategies for dealing with difficult situations.
  • Support your child to develop a positive sense of who they are and how they feel about themselves.
  • Support your child in building good relationships with their peers.
  • Provide opportunities for your child to build confidence through taking on challenges.
  • Help your child to find solutions to problems rather than giving them the answers. Ask questions like, “ What could you do?” and “What do you think?”
  • Support your child’s growing need for independence. Start with the basics like caring for their own belongings, making their own bed, chores e.g. feeding pets.

Self-esteem

Self-esteem is the way we feel about ourselves. We compare how we see ourselves, and how we believe others see us, with how we would like to be.

  • Healthy self-esteem is about accepting yourself as you are and feeling comfortable with yourself.
  • Low self-esteem is about wishing you were different or wishing you were someone else.

The self-esteem equation

  • We compare how we see ourselves in all areas of our life with what is important to us.
  • When there is a good balance between how we see ourselves and the importance we place on this particular area, we feel good about ourselves.

Top tips for building your child’s self-esteem:

  • Young children learn self-esteem through what they can do and what their parents think of them.
  • Love unconditionally. Make sure your child knows your love for them does not depend on their grades, performance, achievements, or any other fact.
  • Help your children to think about their abilities and what they are capable of in a realistic way e.g. you throw really well for someone your age.
  • When you feel good about your child and the things they do, mention it to him or her. Children remember the positive statements we say to them.
  • Encourage your children to ‘have-a-go’ and let them know that failing is okay and part of learning.
  • Set aside time to listen to your children and show them that you value what they have to say.
  • Keep giving sincere messages that build self-esteem to your teenagers, even if they say they don’t believe you. These messages matter.

More tips for self-esteem:

  • Spend uninterrupted time together every day.
  • Tell them how special they are.
  • Ask caring questions. Ask your children pointed questions about what’s going on in their lives and how they feel about these things.
  • Love what they love. You may not be into the same things they are but by taking a genuine interest in what they like, you show them they are special to you.
  • Ask for their help and seek their opinions so they feel needed, included and valued in the family.
  • Tell them something that you really like about them, or something you liked that they did that day, every evening when they go to bed. (Thanks for helping clean the shed today, you were such a hard worker).

Building their confidence

  • Teach your children how to do things for themselves and not to just rely on you or others.
  • Don’t overuse praise – encouragement works better (children need coaches, not fans).
  • Maintaining their confidence when they fail or face setbacks is crucial. Try to be specific and constructive in the feedback you give them in how to learn and improve from the experience.
  • Discuss failure as part of any journey and the key to learning.
  • Encourage them – that if they have tried their best, they have done enough.
  • Create a family celebration for milestones and successes, e.g. a special meal, with speeches.
  • Establish a ‘no put down’ rule.
  • During discipline, show them you believe in them, e.g. “this isn’t like you” or “you’re better than that”

Optimism

What is optimism?

Optimism is about thinking positively. Being able to look on the bright side helps all of us to get on top of challenges and manage life’s difficulties.  Specifically, optimistic people believe that negative events are temporary, limited in scope (instead of pervading every aspect of a person’s life), and manageable3.

Teaching your children to be optimistic early helps them to cope better with life’s difficult events. Research shows that combining  a positive attitude with a small dose of realism helps them to build resilience and reach their goals in life.

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light,” said Albus Dumbledore-  (Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)

Top tips

  • The importance of gratitude. Teach your children to be grateful for whatever they have, and only then aspire for more. Regularly ask your children – “Tell me something that made you happy today?”
  • Tell them setbacks are okay. It is just a part of life that can be overcome and what is important, is that they never give up.
  • Give credit for effort, not result. We should highlight the importance of the effort a child takes, rather than only focus on results (be it positive or negative).
  • Teach your child it’s okay to fail sometimes. Help your children to see mistakes as part of learning. If we all feared mistakes, we would never challenge ourselves.
  • Help them experience success. Ask your children to think of something they want to do and help them accomplish it.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill

Positive discipline

Positive discipline is a discipline model used by schools, and in parenting, that focuses on the positive points of behaviour based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviours. You can teach and reinforce the good behaviours while weaning out the bad behaviours without hurting children verbally or physically.

Every child is on a journey towards being able to manage themselves by the time they reach adulthood. They are learning to manage their own emotions, behaviours, relationships, learning, belongings and even their own schedules.

When your children are young, they need a lot of your support to manage these things with them. As they grow up and go to school, your children will be expected to start to take more responsibility for their own self-management. As with all learning, some will be better at it than others and some will need more support, they will all make mistakes.

Just as children are learning to do their schoolwork, they are also learning social and emotional skills, and just as they will make mistakes in their schoolwork, they will make mistakes with their emotions, behaviours, and relationships.

References

  1. The Fathering Project, Review of the Australian Evidence of the Impact of Fathering (2015)
  2. Martin, K, Wood, L (2013). The Fathering Project; Projected Social and Economic Benefits. The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia.
  3. Seligman, MEP. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life. New York: Random House; 2011.