POSITIVE PARENTING – Charms & Challenges

Dr. Jitendra Nagpal 

Most parents would report that giving birth to a new life, raising an infant, helping the child see the world, assisting him/her with the task of growing up and seeing them as fully grown adults is a journey in self growth. While being parents can be a great experience, it is fraught with its own challenges.

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood

Parenting Styles

It has been researched that specific parenting practices are less important than broad patterns of parenting in predicting child well-being. The most popular concept of parenting style was given by Diana Baumrind.

According to her, Parenting style is meant to describe normal variations in parenting. She assumes that normal parenting revolves around issues of control. Although parents may differ in how they try to control or socialize their children and the extent to which they do so, it is assumed that the primary role of all parents is to influence, teach, and control their children.

There are four types of parenting styles:
1. Indulgent,
2. Authoritarian,
3. Authoritative, and
4. Uninvolved (Maccoby & Martin, 1983).

Indulgent Parents

Indulgent parents are sometimes also referred as to as permissive parents or nondirective parents. These parents are more responsive than they are demanding. Such parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind (1991), they are non-traditional and quite lenient in their approach and surely avoid confrontation. Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, and often take on the status of a friend more than that of a parent. One example of indulgent style parenting would be when parents let their children watch television as they feel that children should enjoy their childhood, even if the child has to finish her homework.

Children and adolescents from indulgent homes are more likely to be involved in problem behaviour but they have higher self-esteem, better social skills, and lower levels of depression. Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school. Child may become aggressive and uncaring. The children might develop an inability to deal with authority as they basically haven’t been taught to respect authority in their own homes.

Authoritarian Parents

Authoritarian parents are highly demanding and directive, but not responsive. “They are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (Baumrind, 1991). Thus, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment for children. These parents provide well-ordered and structured environments with clearly stated rules. However, they fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. If we take the same example as given above, an authoritarian parent would deal with the situation by communicating in this manner with their child, “Turn off the TV right NOW, and sit down to do your homework, otherwise…”

Children and adolescents from these families tend to perform moderately well in school and are usually uninvolved in problem behaviour. However, they have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression. This style of parenting generally leads to children who are obedient and proficient, but are observed to be moody and irritable. Also, they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem. Children who are raised in this type of environment might have difficulty making up their OWN minds later in life since they’ve always been told what to do; they’ve never had to (been able to) figure things out for themselves.

Authoritative Parents
Authoritative parents are both demanding and responsive which means that they do establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow but at the same time, when children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Thus, this parenting style is more democratic than authoritarian parenting style. Continuing with the above mentioned example, authoritative parents would tell their children to do their homework first and will promise them to show the recorded version of the programme once they are done with their homework.

Children and adolescents whose parents are authoritative are more socially and instrumentally competent than those whose parents are non authoritative.

This parenting style tends to result in children who are happy, capable and successful and thus children may become content, confident, responsible and independent.

Uninvolved Parents
Uninvolved parents make very few demands; have low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfil the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children. In the same example, such parents would let the child do what he/she wants and may tell them directly or indirectly not to bother them.

Children and adolescents whose parents are uninvolved perform poorly in all domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers. Children may become hostile, insecure and rebellious.

Reason for Different Parenting Styles
A parent’s behaviour of being nurturing, soothing, caring, teaching, and disciplining are not only learnt from the outside environment, but are directly embedded into the psyche based on their own experiences with their parents. The blueprint from the own family of origin is already set in and this blueprint is the background of the parenting style that a parent will adopt subsequently.

It has been observed that there could be three approaches towards parenting:

Some parents have an unconscious approach to parenting. Here the parents play out the old blueprint again, without much thought as to whether it is an effective style. These parents automatically accept the parenting style with which they are handled without really questioning its efficacy.

Other parents have a more conscious approach to parenting. They begin with the blueprint they are given, but also question some of its practices. They are not comfortable with changing the blueprint totally as it produces anxiety in them. However, they are willing to examine specific practices if they are experiencing significant discomfort with a strategy. For example, parents may come from an extremely authoritarian parenting style background and they accept the basic premise of that style that parents should exert total authority and control over their children. At the same time, they may decide that the use of corporal punishment as a disciplinary strategy is an ineffective practice, and so they come up with alternative disciplinary tactics of time out.

There is a third group of parents who want to know all they can about how to parent, regardless of whether they think they have a good beginning blueprint or not. These parents consciously do research on a variety of subjects including child and adolescent development, discipline, sibling rivalry, education, temperament, and all aspects of parenting. They also clearly define their values and goals for themselves and their children so that they formulate a parenting style that is in keeping with these values.

The Challenge of New Age Parenting
It is hard not to agree that we are living in a society in which people have become more individualistic and self-concerned. It is often stated that the ‘me’ generation has declined in their morals, manners, values and standards of personal behaviour. Children in particular, increasingly think only of themselves and seem less able to cope with discipline, disappointment and difficulty.

New age parenting requires decision about how we want our children to behave. Children will learn parents’ own principles of behaviour, parental value-system and the behaviours which are consistent with it. Parenting strategies will not only vary from parent to parent but also from culture and culture, nation and nations. The direction the individual child takes will be dictated by the expectations of his community and society.

It is important to remember that it is not necessary to work out exactly how the child should behave in every imaginable situation. Parents own feelings on a range of issues will affect the priorities which they pass on to their children. For example if parents value the principle of non-violence, this will affect their ‘messages’ on a range of issues from playground fights and acceptable kinds of punishment, to the sports they encourage and even the television viewing they permit.

Once a child reaches adolescence, parents have to accept that the time for teaching principles of how to behave is gone. The best that parents can hope is that the teenagers will agree to seek their help in applying these principles to their new self and experiences. During the adolescent years, the question now is not whether the child knows how to behave but whether he/she agrees with parental view of how people should behave.

Parenting Teenagers

While parenting teenagers following things should be kept in mind:

· Build on the relationship on a daily basis: Having a good relationship takes time and this why it is important to work on it on a daily basis. Be willing to listen to their concerns without over-reacting or playing down their comments– this keeps the door open for them to tell you their problems.

· Take an active interest in what is important to them and you will have a good baseline to work from.

· Set reasonable expectations: Rules work best if you can work these out together with your teenager so that she feels she has some choice. Don’t decide on rules in the middle of a crisis, especially if your teenager is in trouble for doing something wrong.

· Think about your own reasons for setting limits and consequences, e.g. are they reasonable or is it just because you were brought up that way?

· Explaining the rationale and logic behind the expectations is generally more effective than expecting unquestioned obedience.

· Negotiating: Negotiating improves communication between parent and teenager. A stubborn insistence on having your own way has the opposite effect.

· No Nagging: “Your grades are bad again.”, “Watch where you’re going.”, “Late again!” “Can’t you do anything right?” Persistent negative comments like these can nip away at a child’s self-worth. Some teenagers exhibit more than their fair share of negative behaviour, but constantly reminding them produces more negative behaviour. It is better to purposely pick out some redeeming qualities and concentrate on the positives.

· Establish Rules with Defined Consequences: For example, a family rule might be that we have an 8:00 p.m. curfew on a weekend night. When the rule is established, a consequence should be affixed–like being grounded from friends for the next two weekends. Then, when the curfew is broken, the punishment is easy to administer because the consequence was understood up front.

· Sometimes the best solution is to offer your teenager guidance, state your opinion, and then back off and let the consequence teach your teenager.

· Use each consequence as a teachable moment, not an opportunity to gloat. Avoid sentences that begin with “I told you so…” But to be sure that your child learns these little lessons of life, talk through each situation.

The Power of Positive Parenting

Positive parenting has the essential core goal of meeting the child’s basic needs.

Some of the strategies which are in tune with the philosophy of positive parenting are given below:

1. Providing unconditional love and unconditional acceptance to the child even when they are naughty.
2. Providing acceptance to the child – which means separating child from his or her behaviour. It is the behaviour which is bad and not the child himself/herself.
3. Giving ample respect and Dignity to the child- Respect means treating the child as a’real’ person. Thus ruling out the thinking that ‘we think we know better just because we’re older’. Good parent child relationships are about listening to what the child actually has to say and about responding in a respectful manner. Treating the child like a person has the effect of indirectly telling the child that appropriate behaviour is expected of him/her.
4. Providing structure- Helping children in understanding how things work and what to expect helps them to feel secure. However, an important part of raising responsible children is also allowing them to take on a degree of responsibility. Responsibility seen through the lens of positive parenting is about teaching the child to take responsibility for his or her own life in a much broader sense. It’s about teaching the child that the world is open and there are always a range of choices along with consequences attached to it. Thus, the principle is “Don’t just correct or punish wrong behaviour. Reinforce right behaviour.”
5. Nurturing child’s self-esteem. Parental words and actions have a tremendous affect on a child’s developing self-esteem. Praising the child’s accomplishments, will make him or her feel proud; letting the child do things independently will make him or her feel capable and strong. By contrast, belittling comments or comparing the child unfavourably with another will make him or her feel worthless.
6. Catching the child being good. The more effective parenting approach is to make a point of finding something to praise every day. Being generous with rewards – love, hugs, and compliments can work wonders and are often reward enough by themselves.
7. Making time for children- Children who do not get the attention they want from their parents, often act out or misbehave because they are assured of being noticed that way.
8. Modelling the desired traits- Young children learn a great deal about how to act by watching the parents. The younger they are, the more cues they take from them.
9. Awareness of own needs and limitations as an effective parent- It is essential that parents recognize their abilities and attempt to work on their weaknesses. Having realistic expectations from self, spouse, and children is a must for positive parenting. Parents don’t have to have all the answers. Attempts can be made to make parenting a manageable job. Parents should focus on the areas that need the most attention rather than trying to address everything all at once. It is helpful if parents recognize that they are burnt out and take time out from parenting to do things that will make them happy as a person (or as a couple). Parent focusing on his/her need does not make him/her selfish. It simply means that they care about their own well-being, which is another important value to model for their children.


The “3 Fs” of Effective Parenting

Consequences should be clearly stated.
The punishment should fit the crime.
Use a friendly but firm communication style

While parenting is a source of great pleasure and self- fulfilment, it is a complex process which has more responsibilities than merely giving birth to a new life. Helping children to grow up and become well adjusted individuals requires nurturing of their social emotional development also. Positive parenting has an undisputable role in impacting and ensuring the development of a well rounded personality.