Mom uses positive parenting to speak with young daughter.

Positive Parenting: Big Ideas, Tips & Scripts

Dear Parents,

I am so glad you’re here! Over the years I have served a number of children and families in trying times, and today I’m going to share with you my favorite positive parenting tips and scripts. But first, a shout out to the expert women who have inspired me and deserve the credit for much of what you are about to read—Dr. Becky Kennedy, Dr. Aliza Pressman, Dr. Siggie Cohen, Dr. Laura Markham, and Mrs. Amy McCready.

Let’s start with 10 Big Ideas:

1. A child’s primary emotional goal is to achieve belonging & significance—to be a part of the family, capable, and autonomous!

2. There is always a reason underlying behavior—often seeking connection through attention or power!

3.Furthermore, under every behavior is a feeling. And, under every feeling is a need.

4. Your child is not their behavior! You have a good kid having a hard time!

5. Misbehavior may be the message of a discouraged child. If a child’s need for attention is not met in positive ways they may resort to power. If their power-seeking efforts are met with punishment, they may likely want revenge. If punishment is intensified and the child feels they can never win, they may give up on their sense of significance and belonging.

6. All feelings are ok; all behaviors are not. Yet, all behavior is communication.

7. How your child makes you feel may be exactly how they are feeling!

8. Your job isn’t to end an outburst; it is to stay calm with your child during it. Kids don’t need our help feeling better; they need our help making sense of things. 

9. You cannot control your child. You can control your response to their actions and scaffold their environment. A dysregulated adult is unable to support a dysregulated child.

10. Punishment can hurt, model force, and send your child the message they are bad or incapable. Discipline means to teach, like disciples are learners.

Now for Tips and Scripts:

Connect! Commit to 15 minutes of uninterrupted, one-on-one quality time with each of your children engaged in child-directed play daily. Be sure to be consistent, emotionally available, and reliable.

Open communication! Ask your child a variety of specific, open-ended questions with curiosity. Instead of: “How was your day?” Try: “What do you wish you did more of today?” or “What have you been learning in science class?”

Encourage! Praise is focused on outcomes whereas encouragement is focused on positive choices, effort, and character traits. Instead of “Good boy!” Try: “Thank you for helping!” Build self-esteem with a phrase like: “How did you think to make that, do that, solve that, etc.?”

Empower! Kids who impose control on the outside often feel out of control on the inside. So, offer choices that allow them to feel in control. Do this when something has to get done no matter the approach. You can vary timing or order, task or type. Try: “Would you like to complete your homework before or after a snack?”

Build responsibility! Try: “What else do we need to do before we leave, go to bed, etc?” or “What is your plan for your homework, project, etc?” Try: “Is that a good or bad choice? What’s the good choice here? I know you can make a better choice.”

Coach! Implement positive opposites by telling your child what to-do instead of what not-to-do. Instead of: “No, stop hitting or jumping on the couch.” Try: “Please keep your hands to yourself or feet on the ground.”

Name it to tame it! See your child by reflecting emotions underlying behaviors or situations. Try: “You seem overwhelmed right now.” Or simply, “You weren’t expecting that to happen.”

Be curious, not furious! Share your calm; don’t join their chaos! Turn to the 3 R’s: first aim to Regulate the body with breathing until your child regains a state of calm or receptivity, next Relate to your child by empathizing and validating their feelings, finally Reason by problem solving more effective ways to handle the situation next time.

Set compassionate limits! Try: “I won’t let you [x]. Of course, you are frustrated [y] happened. Let’s do [z] to express your frustration safely.” Or “Two things are true. I’m in charge of the decision and I’m deciding no. You are in charge of your feelings and you are allowed to be mad.”

Be kind to yourself! Parenting is hard work. Schedule in time for your own self-care. Taking a well-deserved break or doing something you enjoy models balance and healthy coping for your kids too.

You just learned a lot of concepts and tools! Maybe this is new and overwhelming to you; maybe this is reassuring or inspiring. Either way, if this spoke to you, know that it is okay and even best to start small. It’s not one size fits all. Clarifying your own philosophy of discipline and establishing household routines that work for your family will help you parent with greater confidence and consistency. Which tip or script are you willing try in your home today?