'Positive parenting' sounds like a big ask, and none of us can be perfect all of the time. But there are experts who have worked with thousands of families and they have the evidence to show that their simple tips work with most families, most of the time.
The positive parenting program, known as Triple P, is a parenting program that offers 5 key steps to effective positive parenting:
- create a safe, interesting environment
- have a positive learning environment
- use assertive discipline
- have realistic expectations
- take care of yourself as a parent
Safe and interesting
As parents, you take care to put knives and medicines out of a young child’s reach, you put them into age-appropriate safe seats in the car and you have child-proof locks around pools. But what makes an environment ‘interesting’ for a young child?
Children don’t need expensive toys, but you can encourage imaginative play by providing dress up clothes, boxes for making cubby houses and craft materials to keep children active and creative. Busy children are less likely to become bored and misbehave.
All children need their parents’ attention — and a little positive attention can go a long way. Pay attention to what your child is doing, and give specific positive feedback such as ‘You worked at that puzzle for ages. I’m proud that you stuck to it’. Children need kindness and affection too. An arm around the shoulder, a quick cuddle, saying ‘I love you’ makes them feel wanted, included and secure.
Consistent, predictable discipline
Assertive discipline means being prepared. It means you set the ground rules and you follow through with an age-appropriate consequence if rules are broken, such as taking away a toy if the child is playing with it roughly. It may also mean that you ignore some little things and ‘catch your child doing the right thing’, showing you’re delighted when they are kind, fair or helpful.
Nobody’s perfect and we all make mistakes. Tailor what you expect to each child’s individual development and capacity. Try to put yourself in a 3 year old’s shoes and remember, we all have bad days and we hope to be forgiven and given a chance to try again.
Take care of yourself
Being a parent can be very demanding. You need time for yourself, time to be with adults, or on your own; time to do what you enjoy, so you come back refreshed and calm. If you have a partner, work as a team if you can; a responsibility shared feels much lighter. If not, you will need to find other ways. Learn more about nurturing key relationships.
You’re entitled to ask for help
When everything builds up and you feel emotionally overwhelmed, ask your partner, friends, family and local support groups for parents for help. Talking over problems with a more experienced parent who ‘seems to have their act together’, can make your own views clearer and show a way forward. Involving children in reasonable chores gets things done and makes everyone feel useful and responsible.
Developing friendships outside the family and becoming connected to the community broadens your support network. Talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse about where to get help. Triple P runs courses online and through local organisations throughout Australia.
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Last reviewed: January 2019