You can maintain authority and structure without compromising empathy, communication, or the honest expression of feelings.

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Your child comes home with their report card. When you open it, you see three As and a B minus, the latter in a subject you think they could work harder in. When you talk with your child about it, you zero in on the lower grade and how to raise it. But you don’t discuss the As at all.

What your child might take away from this conversation is that they get more attention from you when they do not try as hard in school. You want them to keep working hard, and you may not understand why it seems like you’re not getting through to them.

Positive parenting strategies tend to de-emphasize criticism on lower grades and unwanted behaviors and instead place more focus on praising top grades and good behavior.

You could still talk with your child about low grades and behavior issues, plus work with them and their teachers on strategies for improving. But you would keep your main focus on the areas where they are succeeding and praise them for that success.

Harsh punishment and criticism can compromise your parental authority and potentially cause your child to withdraw from you. Here’s how to effectively emphasize rules and expectations while keeping communication open and encouraging your child’s emotional expression.

Positive parenting is an approach to child-rearing that is rooted in empathy.

Key aspects of positive parenting include:

  • validating your child’s feelings and experiences
  • encouraging and praising good behavior
  • avoiding harsh punishments for unwanted or unacceptable behaviors
  • including your child in talking through problems and finding solutions

Parenting styles

While there are many approaches to parenting, these four parenting styles tend to be the most distinct:

  • Authoritative. It is defined by open communication, clear rules and limits, parental affection, and the inclusion of children in problem-solving. The authoritative parenting style is most associated with positive parenting.
  • Authoritarian. This parenting style is often defined by rigid rules. punishment over praise, value placed on the parent’s authority, and limited family communication.
  • Permissive. This style is characterized by passive parents who may act more like friends than authority figures, as well as a lack of expectations, rules, or consequences.
  • Uninvolved. Parents may be too busy, distracted, unmotivated, or emotionally indifferent toward involvement in their child’s life, sometimes to the point of child negligence.

When your kids experience behavioral issues, you may be tempted to threaten harsh punishments to “keep them in line.”

This strategy may backfire, causing more negative behavior and creating emotional distance at a time when you and your child need closeness and understanding. When kids act out, they’re often having a hard time — not trying to give you a hard time — and need your parental support.

Here are 7 positive parenting strategies to consider when your child needs help with improving behavioral concerns.

1. Set rules and limits and enforce them consistently

Rules and limits tend to give kids a healthy sense of structure and parental authority, rather than causing them to feel restricted.

The more consistently you enforce limits and consequences, the more likely your child is to follow the rules you’ve set out.

Providing this type of structure can also help your child learn better and improve their academic performance.

2. Don’t yell

Yelling at your child when you’re upset with their behavior may increase the likelihood of your child developing behavioral issues or symptoms of depression as a teenager, one 2014 study found.

Yelling can create a cycle:

  1. Your child’s attitude or behavior makes you upset.
  2. You yell at them.
  3. The yelling makes your child feel more angry and rebellious.

If you find that yelling is your primary means of disciplining your child, you may want to try briefly removing yourself from the situation when you feel yourself becoming upset.

When you’ve calmed down, you can talk with your child. It helps to address their feelings as well as your own. Kids often benefit from hearing that you felt angry about their behavior and that you were able to address it without yelling.

Then, you can try working with your child directly to resolve the conflict without raised voices.

3. Validate your child’s feelings

When you acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings, you show them that all of their feelings — positive and negative — are OK and that you will support them through whatever they feel.

In turn, this support can help your child develop strong social-emotional skills and help them relate to others.

4. Praise, don’t punish

Try focusing on praising your child’s positive behaviors instead of criticizing or punishing them for mistakes or poor behavior.

Children often seek validation from your attention, and offering praise is a form of validation. Praising good behavior encourages your child to repeat those positive behaviors to receive attention and validation from you.

If you are constantly critical of your child or punishing them, they may still seek your attention by repeating behaviors you dislike.

Praising, rather than punishing, can also improve your parent-child relationship. One 2017 study suggests that parents should try praising kids four times more often than correcting them in order to improve behavioral concerns.

5. Spend one-on-one time with your child

It’s important to carve out at least 10 minutes each day to play with your child without distractions, like screens or other side conversations. Try to do an activity you both enjoy, like a craft or playing a sport.

Children crave and seek undivided, positive attention from parents, and this is a way to ensure they are getting the best of you. Spending quality time focused on your child may also nurture them socially and academically.

6. Show your child affection regularly

According to a 2014 study, demonstrating affection and providing comfort to your child often makes them want to spend more time with you, which can improve the quality of your relationship.

7. Work with your child to solve problems

Data from a 2014 study of adolescents’ internet use suggests that children with supportive parents relied on the internet less and were more likely to use it for school than as a leisure activity.

Specifically, kids were less likely to use the internet when parents discussed media content and encouraged critical thinking about the material they found online.

As the parent, you want to be your child’s best primary source. If your child comes to you with a problem or question — whether academic, social, or emotional — try working with them one-on-one to help solve it, and offer concern and compassion for what they are going through.

Positive parenting does not mean a lack of parental boundaries. Rather, it refers to the way you connect emotionally with your child by offering more positive interactions and structure than:

  • corrections
  • criticism
  • punishment
  • letting your child run the show

Positive parenting is empathetic parenting with an emphasis on communicating openly, honestly, and consistently with your children — but it is not without authority.

This approach to parenting can help course-correct when kids start to experience behavioral concerns.

Kids raised using a positive parenting model may have an easier time:

  • respecting rules and limits by parents
  • with academics and social situations
  • being less likely to seek negative influences elsewhere
  • regarding parents as both authority figures and a source of comfort and concern for their well-being

Positive parenting resources

Many popular resources emphasize positive parenting for behavioral issues. Here are some that can be found online and in media.

On Instagram, you can check out:

Some books you might want to read include:

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