What positive parenting means to me
by Rachel Parkinson
Hello, my name is Rachel and I have a feral child. Having a spirited child with bag of personality (and sometimes tantrums, stubbornness and NO NO NO) comes with challenges but is ultimately the most wonderful and rewarding experience I’ve ever had. When I became a mother, attachment parenting was something I never knew about or didn’t even have to think about; it was just inate and something I practised naturally, learned intuitively from my lovely mum who always treated us as equals and with the utmost respect, even and especially when the inevitable challenges of three teenage girls in one house happened. Here’s what I’ve learned in my (admittedly, short!) three years of channeling positive parenting in our family life.
1) Consequence not punishment.
There is a very clear distinction between the two but sometimes the lines can get blurred. Children need to know that there are consequences to their actions in preparation for adult life, but on the same level, punishment creates a hierarchy in the family and can make it less likely for your child to come to you in their hour of need, if they have done anything that will be punishment-worthy. Punishments create fear, consequences create understanding. For example, my little one was repeatedly hitting me with a toy a while back. The consequence for that was the toy had to be removed out of the way, to keep both of us happy and safe. Whereas a punishment would have been time out, loss of privileges etc. After a consequence I always like to explain why the consequence has happened as a natural result of the action.
2) Stop forcing SORRY.
This is something that I’ve had to teach myself because it seems natural. If your child hits another, teaching them to say sorry is good manners and teaches empathy, right? Wrong. I read that children under the age of 3 cannot feel ‘sorry’, and are just saying it, parrot-fashion to please the parent and get our of trouble! Additionally, ‘sorry’ can be seen as a get-out clause for all bad behaviour – eg. ‘I can take these sweets / bite my sibling / throw my toys because I can just say sorry and nothing will happen!’ Instead, if they do something apology-worthy, take them to one side and explain how the other person may be feeling – this sows the seeds of empathy for future years. Equally, if you do something to them (for example you left their toy at home by accident) then you say sorry to them. It’s all for me about treating children as equals and reinforcing their validity.
3) ‘My body is my own and I decide what to do with it’.
We were having a playdate with a friend yesterday, and she told me that her toddler’s nursery taught consent lessons using that phrase. How awesome is that! To me, at toddler / childhood age, this means letting them choose whatever they want to wear, if they don’t want kisses or hugs off anyone, they do not have to give them, and of course the PANTS rule. Letting them know that their feelings around physical contact and clothing are valid and theirs and theirs only, teaches safety as the most important thing, but also makes them more likely to confide in you should they encounter any, more frightening situations in the future.
4 ) Ignore the naysayers.
You will always get people offering unsolicited ‘advice’ ranging from the trying-to-be-helpful (‘just let them cry for a bit, they need to learn to self-soothe’) to the downright harmful (‘I got smacked and it never did me any harm…’ – insert eye roll here). Be confident in your own abilities as a parent and know you are doing the best thing to raise a happy, safe and mentally well-balanced future adult.
5) Looking after yourself IS positive parenting.
You’ve all heard the phrase happy mum happy baby? Or maybe you can’t pour from an empty cup? Sounds cliche but it’s true. Parenting without losing your head (and we all have times where we’ve done that regardless of good intentions) is hard, and stressful, and you need to take time out EVERY DAY to look after yourself. Even if it’s half an hour of the day, letting the dishes pile up and having a bath with a cup of tea and some chocolate (my personal favourite!
6) Go with your instinct.
We hadn’t planned on cosleeping at all, but ended up cosleeping for three years because it’s what my son needed to make him feel safe, and therefore it was better for us as a family because we GOT. SOME. SLEEP. We all knew it was the best choice for us as a family, so we went with it, and he naturally chose to go in his own bed when he turned three. Which leads me to…
7) Don’t expect from a baby, child or toddler what you wouldn’t expect from a grown up.
I always ask myself; would I want to do this? And if the answer is no, I don’t force my child to do it either. This is included but not limited to: sleeping alone, eating what you are told to, going where you are told to, being asked to share your possessions with strangers, and most importantly of all, keeping emotions locked away.
8) Children’s feelings are just as valid as ours.
The outlets they may use to express them (tantrums, door slamming, arguing back) is the only way their little minds know how to process these scary and sometimes new emotions. As adults, we are their safe space. I like to meet tantrums with the opposite behaviour – calm voices, cuddles if wanted, and when the tantrum is over, a discussion about how they were feeling and why they possibly felt like that.
Do you have any positive parenting tips? Let us know below or on our social media pages!