The goal of positive parenting is to build a deep, lifelong connection with your child. It's the idea that while our primary role as a parent may end when our children move out, we're still a guiding presence in their lives. I don't want to parent my children once they've stepped out on their own, but I do want to be there as a source of wisdom, support and guidance when needed.
Being a positive parent is about nurturing, empowering and guiding while being nonviolent. You may be asking yourself, "Am I a positive parent?" I know I want to be. There are several key components to positive parenting.
A positive parent:
> Guides, leads and teaches.
> Is caring, empowering, consistent and sensitive to a child's needs.
> Provides regular open communication, emotional security and affection.
> Recognizes the positive.
> Respects the child's developmental stage.
> Sets boundaries and rewards accomplishments.
> Shows empathy for the child's feelings and supports the child's best interests.
According to author L.R. Knost, "respecting children teaches them that even the smallest, most powerless, most vulnerable person deserves respect, and that is a lesson our world desperately needs to learn."
Here are some ways being a positive parent can create a lifelong connection with your child:
> Teach them how to do age-appropriate tasks.
When I ask my kids to do something around the house, and their response is, "I don't know how," I hear a teaching opportunity. It's hard to slow down sometimes, but when you take the time to help them learn how to do something new, it builds their confidence. When you teach them, they're also learning how to make good choices. When we don't teach, they become reliant on us or others to do things for them.
> Give them autonomy (within reason, of course).
Let's talk about parenting toddlers. If you aren't there yet, just hang on and get ready for some exciting years. Between the ages of 2 and 5, both my kids pushed for independence and autonomy. They wanted to be the king or queen of their own world. But aren't we the same? We don't want other people running our lives. Look for opportunities to give your child autonomy. Put them in charge of a household chore, let them choose dinner one night, or let them choose their clothes. There's nothing like going to Lowe's when your daughter is in her entire ladybug outfit — been there recently and have the pictures to remember it. Giving them autonomy promotes creativity, empowerment and self-determination.
> Reward positive behavior.
I've often heard it said, "What gets recognized, gets repeated." My son just wrapped up a great baseball season, and he aced a test in third grade. We rewarded both of those with a trip to a local baseball-card store and let him choose a box of cards (he's totally into baseball cards right now). We rewarded him for excelling in school and on the ballfield. He had bad games and had some weeks where he didn't do well on quizzes. We didn't punish him for those times. We just encouraged him to do the best he could and understand that sometimes you have bad days. But he knows what it takes to get rewarded, and he'll work toward that again.
> Be a positive role model.
Your children are listening and watching. Remember, more is caught than taught. They see how we treat others, our work ethic and our kindness, or lack thereof. Suppose your goal is to raise them to be adults who positively contribute to society and care about their neighbors. In that case, you have to model that behavior now.
> Make positive family experiences a priority.
Our kids don't need extravagance. They need us. They need us to create memories with them. I can't begin to count the number of times my daughter brings up something seemingly small we did as a family. To her, it was impactful — whether that's taking a neighborhood walk as a family, getting ice cream after school or doing something for someone else. When we prioritize creating positive memories, we are building a lifelong connection with them.
Parenting is challenging, but connecting with your child doesn't have to be. Be caring, teach, lead, communicate and provide. Take steps today to build a lifelong connection with your child.
Mitchell Qualls is a content creator and the operations director at family advocacy nonprofit First Things First. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.