“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation in the way we raise our children.” – Marianne Williamson

More and more parents are recognising the need to bring about a change in the manner we raise our children. The conventional concept of “disciplining” needs to be challenged if we wish to bring about this change.

It is now well accepted that physical discipline is not only less effective than other methods, it is also more harmful than has often been understood.

Corporal punishment has revealed through decades of studies to lead to antisocial behaviour and aggression in children. Parents can also hurt their children by humiliating them or labelling and criticising them in a negative way.

What is positive parenting?

Positive parenting can be described as the belief or a way of living to bring up better children. It cannot be described as some specific method or a defined set of rules. It is simply guidance provided to the children that helps them learn to be considerate and responsible. The temptation to be disciplinary or punitive is strongly avoided when following this way of life.

Positive parenting is also known as positive discipline or gentle guidance or loving guidance.

The concept of positive parenting is based on the grounds that children should be treated with respect. Inciting fear, terror, shame or embarrassment will only make them worse individuals. On the other hand guidance provided with loving encouragement will make them into better human beings.

Why opt for positive parenting?

The greatest benefit that one can mention for positive parenting is the fact that it helps develop a secure attachment between the parent and the child. This sense of security will result in healthy child development.

If you consider the science of brain development, it’s surprising to discover that brain development does not complete till the age of 20 years. The first three to six years of life are crucial for your child’s brain development. Only the survival portion of the brain is fully active at birth which contributes to a child’s basic instincts. By the age of 4 executive functions come online. These functions are ineffective before that age and positive parenting can greatly increase this efficiency. After the age of six years a more autonomous self regulation starts to develop which matures gradually till the age of 20 years.

The brain has a tendency to lose connections unless they are reinforced and utilised. The state of fear or stress makes us lose connections to the executive centre and this is what positive parenting aims to avoid.

Thus it can be concluded that children are not biologically programmed from birth to understand our rules. Many times defiance might not be the contributing factor for their misbehaviour. Their cognitive ability plays a role too.

So punishments might not be able to teach our children the lessons we wish for them to learn.

How did the positive parenting program start?

The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention funded a program that started in the University of Queensland, Australia. The parenting system was called “Triple P program”. Nine counties were given this program and they showed a 35% reduction in emergency room visits and hospitalisations, 44% decrease in out-of-home placements and 28% reduction in substantiated cases of abuse.

This program has evolved over the past 35 years. It focuses on children under 12 years of age and their families. This program follows a community wide preventive approach.

The problem with our society is that we try to copy others in an effort to become better parents. Parents struggle with strategies that don’t work or work on some children and not on others.

Triple P works on multiple levels and sends the message across through media and communication strategies like TV, web, newspaper and radio. The goal is to inform the parents about brief individual consultations, group sessions or even intensive parenting and family interventions.

The essence of this program was that children function best when they are given calm and consistent feedback and assertive discipline. This should be based on reasonable expectations. There should be significantly more encouragement and positive feedback than negative criticism. “The main mistake parents make is forgetting the importance of catching kids doing the right thing,” says Sanders, founder of Triple P program.

How effective is positive parenting?

Triple P is one of the several evidence based programs that has been able to demonstrate how society can contribute in reducing behaviours that put our children at risk. Many practitioners have employed this program with thousands of families with remarkable results. Stephanie Romney, director of the Parent Training Institute at the San Francisco Department of Public Health mentions parents being amazed about how a little amount of praise improves their relationship with misbehaving children.

The Triple P program leaves parents with multiple strategies and leaves it open for them to opt for their favoured one although the community approach can come with some limitations.

Positive parenting is not only about shunning corporal punishment. It deals with changing a way of life that incorporates appreciation to nurture the good qualities in your child. It is a much more disseminated approach which is also why it has shown greater results than any other parenting program implemented so far.

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