by Andie Vasquez
You are a parent, or about to become one, and you are still swimming through the multitudes of parenting advice not sure how you want to raise your kids. You want kind, brave kids who do the right thing and are grateful for what they have. You want kids that listen and obey, but you don’t want to crush them or destroy their spirit. How do you teach your kids to be well behaved without inadvertently harming them? It’s a hard balance. Are you being too firm? Or perhaps you are afraid you are being too lenient? I too struggled with these uncertainties.
Before I had babies, I had this grand idea of how I would raise my children and how magically perfect they would be. But all those ideas quickly shattered after I actually had children. I found a lot of anger deep inside me and being in public drove my anxiety through the roof. I was terrified of a stranger in public commenting on my child and had no clue how to react if they did. The parenting style I had modeled for me in my childhood, fueled my rage and made my anxieties larger. I hated the way it made me feel, and the way it made my child react. But I couldn’t let them run free. The uncertainty of what I was doing was giving me severe panic attacks and being so on edge meant any little thing they did might push me over the edge into another rage or attack. I knew I had to do something. I knew what I was doing was harmful to me and the more I learned, was also harmful to my kids. So I set out to find a solution. First thing I had to do was deal with this unknown rage that came out of nowhere and without warning. I learned it was not uncommon in mothers to experience this and not know what to do with it. I had to get help with the anxiety that was running rampant in my mind. Being so focused on fending off the dark corners of my mind, I was unable to focus on my children. I learned the rage and the anxiety were cohorts, feeding off of each other making the other bigger and stronger.
Then, I had to find a parenting style that was healthy for me, even forced me to improve myself, was effective, and caused no mental or physical damage to my children. I happened upon a method called Positive Parenting in my searching. Its psychological backing fascinated me, so I started to study it.
Positive Parenting was first conceived in the early 1900s. It was drawn from the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikers. Adler is most known for his work on Inferiority Complex, and is still cited and referred to even in modern psychology. Many people since have built upon the base he formed 100 years ago. Dreikers took Adlers work and applied it directly to classroom interactions and formed a method for teachers to use. Positive Parenting has taken these ideas and method and brought them into the home.
There are multiple resources out there for Positive Parenting; Websites, Facebook Groups, and Forums. I suggest the book Positive Parenting: an Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes. She also has pages on the major social media platforms you can follow for daily tips and encouragement. See link below:
So let’s define what Positive Parenting is and dispel the misconceptions first off. Some see it as a distant, lazy approach to parenting that just lets children do as they please. However, one of the major tenants of this style is that spoiling and coddling children causes misbehavior and entitlement. In fact, it demands both more parental involvement and child independence. It encourages a parent to be both compassionate and firm with their children. This forces an adult to control their own emotions and remain level headed with their children, which may sound simple on paper, but is far more difficult in reality.
What Adler and Dreikers proposed was that children were not bad by default and therefore didn’t need to have the bad trained out of them. Children, at their core, were good, there are no “bad children”. In their time, this was a revolutionary concept and not very popular. In today’s society even, this is one of the biggest objections with this parenting method. If you go back to one of the biggest opponents of Positive Parenting, you will see it is from the religious community because they believe that children are born sinful, whereas Adler stated children are born good. The difference comes from raising kids from opposite points of view. Religious groups that teach children are born sinful and from the start do things to be manipulative and deceptive, are teaching you to train the bad out of a child with sometimes hard discipline. Positive Parenting teaches that children are born good that have bad behaviors sometimes, but instead teach you to cultivate the goodness in them. What Positive Parenting is encouraging is proactive parenting as opposed to reactive parenting. Teaching good behaviors before the child acts out instead of reacting to the bad behavior when it happens. Even parents who intend the best, often parent reactively. Today, many people agree with Adler, however in the early 1900s it was rare and uncommon, so Adler and Driekers were working against the flow in their ideas.
But they stuck with it, suggesting that children act out because their needs were not met. In the classroom setting Dreikers was applying this to, he proposed that the kid who was always acting up and disrupting class wasn’t bad, he was perhaps starving for attention and getting it in any way he could, even if it meant he was receiving negative attention in the form of scolding from his teacher. If that child had his need for connection fulfilled, he wouldn’t act out. In the home setting Positive Parenting says that once a child’s basic needs are met, (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) there are two further needs each human has. These two needs are Belonging and Significance.
There are three main principles Positive Parenting follows that fall under the idea that kids are good and misbehave due to needs that aren’t met. Let’s discuss those in Part 2 coming to you on Thursday.