by Andie Vasquez
In Part 1, we discussed the 2 needs (if you haven’t read Part 1 check it out here: https://positivelybalancedllc.com/2020/02/25/positive-parenting-part-1-the-2-needs/)
Now let’s break down the principles. 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.
A child’s primary goal is to achieve Belonging and Significance. Belonging means they feel emotionally connected to the important people in their life. And Significance means they have a place and a purpose within their home. Both of these needs require more thought and attention from the parent.
A child’s sense of belonging is driven by how he fits into the family dynamic and how secure he is in that role. This means that huge dynamic changes can completely upset that security and trigger bad behaviors. Have you come across a child that just seemed to explode, become suddenly difficult, or defiant only to learn that their parents were separating or their life long pet had died? It may seem impossible, but if you recognize that this is just their lashing out at something massive they feel tiny and out of control in the face of, you can better resolve the issue.
In every day life though, how do you give your child this sense of Belonging? One of the suggestions of Positive Parenting proponents is to give each child in your home 10 minutes of exclusive one on one time. So if you have 3 children, each one gets 10 minutes, which total is 30 minutes of your day. Now what you do with that time is up to you and the child. Are you helping them build a house of Legos, or are they helping you bake? It can be anything that involves you, giving your child undivided attention, and filling their need for belonging. Another
thing that fills this need is to also be reassuring and confirming to your child that they are loved and play an important role in your family.
Fulfilling a child’s need for significance may be a little more difficult in that in involves you stepping back and letting your kid do potentially difficult things on their own. Making them feel like they have a place and purpose in the home means you are giving them choices in their daily lives and responsibilities within the home.
This particular aspect aligns perfectly with the Montessori teaching method. Maria Montessori also believed children deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. In the book The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies, she details how she gets her kids engaged in the daily tasks. I think the biggest point to be made is that even small children are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. Montessori says that children learn by doing, so by washing the dishes and vacuuming, they are learning. She also said that the child should lead the learning by being able to choose what they learned. If they could choose, the knowledge they gained, would be more easily retained. In the Montessori Toddler, which brings the teaching method into home life, she expands this to allowing children to choose things in their daily lives. It is described as freedom within limits. Positive Parenting gives this same suggestion. The child will feel more significant when able to make decisions on their own. This also leads the child to be more confident in their decision making, teaches them to make a choice and how to handle the consequence of that choice.
An easy example of freedom within limits is with clothes. You, as the parent, put weather appropriate clothes in your child’s closet or dresser, and then from those weather appropriate clothes, your child can choose what they want to wear.
An example of handling the consequences of their choices would be with meals. You give your child a choice for breakfast, either have cereal right now, or wait a minute for a fried egg and toast. One child chooses cereal, and they receive it. The other child chooses an egg and toast, but when they receive it, the first child changes his mind and wants his siblings food. You wouldn’t let him swap plates with his sibling, nor would you give in and fry up another egg for him. He chose to have cereal for breakfast, and so he got to eat cereal for breakfast.
Another way to give your child control over their lives would be a choice with the same outcome. For instance, at bedtime, you can let them choose whether they want to go to bed in their pink pajamas or their blue pajamas. Either way, they are going to bed, but they got to control how they went to bed.
Fulfilling the need for Significance can include giving your child age appropriate tasks to help around the house. Even if it doesn’t end up as perfectly clean as you may have been able to make it. This lets them learn all kinds of things such as how to be cautious, balance, or dexterity. It also makes them feel vital and important to the functionality of the family. This might sound insane for someone who has a stubborn teenager that hates doing chores, but giving them responsibilities is important for them. They probably don’t realize it just yet though. So you should let your 4 year old sweep the kitchen and feed the cat. Don’t stop giving your 14 year old responsibilities, but perhaps encourage them or do the chore with them for a few days and talk with them about it while you’re working.
Another way to fill this significant need is to let your kids decide where you eat dinner. Handing them the reigns for the evening can fill up that bucket and remind them what a big part of the family they are. They need to feel important, and vital, they need to feel significant.
Humans all have a need for belonging and significance. As a parent, we are responsible for making sure our children’s needs are met, and if we do, our children’s behaviour will change and they will be learning. How those needs are met will be unique to each family, so you can tweak to the methods that fit your dynamic.
All behavior is goal oriented, behaviors are NOT random. Misbehaviors are merely symptoms of a deeper root problem that needs to be addressed. Often we try to dampen the symptoms, but without finding the cause, the problem goes unresolved.
You may be scratching your head wondering where this new behavior came from, but it isn’t spontaneous, it has a cause. The challenge sometimes is figuring out what that is. Small kids especially, are more than likely not able to articulate why they are acting out. Even bigger kids have trouble with this, so don’t expect eloquence from your kids when discussing the reasons for their actions. Youth have big emotions and often don’t have the tools to process them. These emotions swell up and come out in sometimes shocking manners. You, as the adult though, have the ability to cultivate an environment for children to learn how to process these big emotions. For this, I highly suggest the book The Whole Brained Child by Tina Payne Bryson & Daniel J. Siegel. The authors are a neuroscientist and parenting expert that explain how the brain reacts and changes in different scenarios. What interested me the most was how they explained what happens to the brain during one of these bad behavior situations. They explained that different parts of the mind are responsible for different functions. You have one part responsible for logic, one for memories, a separate one for emotion, etc. When you are upset, your brain enters a panic state and locks off the logic and reason part of the brain. This is why you cant reason with a child mid tantrum. They literally can’t access that part of their mind at that moment. You have to first soothe the child until their brain unlocks the other parts of itself and after they are calm you can begin teaching them how to do that on their own. At this point you can also discuss what triggered the bad actions and more importantly, why that specific thing triggered bad actions. That way you are able to teach them a more healthy way to respond the next time that specific thing happens. Sometimes this will be something totally out of theirs, or your, control, like how they didn’t get to play soccer because it was raining and it made them angry. Its vital for them to learn how to safely and healthily manage these feelings. A child needs to know it’s good to have emotions, even angry or sad ones, but what you do with those emotions can be good or it can be bad. Teaching them from a young age good ways to channel their feelings will prepare them for a strong future. But they won’t always get it right, so be overly gracious with them. We, as adults don’t always get it right, and we need to give ourselves and others that graciousness as well.
This is something I still have to work on. Knowing how to process and handle powerful emotions and difficult situations is a strong life skill kids will need well past childhood. Teaching them when they are young gives them an advantage in life.
A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.
“Discouraged” implies that the child’s needs for Belonging and Significance are not being met. Because of this, Positive Parenting encourages you to see a misbehaving child as crying for help.
A misbehaving child is NOT a bad child
A misbehaving child is NOT a defiant child
A misbehaving child is NOT an uncontrollable child
A child that is being defiant may not feel like they have any control over anything that is happening to them but isn’t able to articulate his feelings or process them and acting out is the only way to show how he feels. In some instances fixing this may be simple by giving the kid more control over their lives. You could accomplish this by giving them a when then scenario. Give them a situation such as, when you pick up your room, then we can go outside. They are given a clear goal and the power to do it at their own pace. You aren’t breathing down their necks demanding they pick up, you are giving them more freedom, but also expecting them to get the job done. In others, it may not be so simple if the thing the kid is fighting against is also out of your control. This is a time that learning to properly channel your emotions in a healthy way is important. In this kind of situation, they may need more of that connection and loving than anything. Instead of just telling them to pick up, get down on the floor with them and help them pick up their room. Taking the time together to chat about what he is feeling, why he is feeling it, and how to manage that feeling.
This reiterates that children are not bad, and when they act poorly, there is a reason we need to address. By resolving the root problem, we also resolve the poor actions. This can be a challenge sometimes, and leave you frustrated and bewildered when you aren’t sure what to do. But I hope I’ve given you some helpful ideas to use.
These are the main principles of Positive Parenting to give you an idea of what this whole style of child rearing is about. Even in explaining this though, I’ve also included some additional resources and styles I also use in our home. No one source of information will give you everything you need. Neither will one school of thought fit every aspect of your life. This is why I very strongly advise anyone to read many different books and articles on different parenting types, even the ones you don’t think you’ll like. Read as much as you can and ask for advice from those who have experienced parenting already.
If there was one thing every parent should be mindful of, that every parenting expert would probably agree on is to remember you are being watched. One of the things I’ve seen in children, particularly in my own, is that kids are big imitators. Montessori noticed this as well, in encouraging you to allow the child to do what you are doing. Seigel & Bryson made a point of this in their books The Whole Brained Child and No Drama Discipline as well. This is why I say these aren’t lazy parenting forms. Whether you think so or not, your kid is watching you and soaking up every moment of it. Your kid will mimic your behaviors no matter what you try to say to them. The best way to teach your kid to manage their anger is by modeling for them how you manage your anger. If you want your kids to love reading, let them see you reading and read with them. Your child will learn how to do household chores by watching you do household
chores. Especially the ones you don’t necessarily enjoy doing. These are wonderful opportunities for them to learn what to do when they are faced with a task they have to do but don’t want to. Keeping this in mind will motivate you to properly manage your own emotions and tone of voice. First you must face your own problems in order to teach your children how to face theirs. It’s less what you allow and more what you display. For instance, you may not allow your kids to yell at you, but are you displaying a calm voice to them? The old adage is “actions speak louder than words” and it is certainly true in parenting.
In my parenting journey, the books that have influenced me the most, I’ve already mentioned; Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide by Rebecca Eanes, The Montessori Toddler by Simone Davies, The Whole Brained Child and No Drama Discipline By Daniel J. Seigel & Tina Payne Bryson.
I chose to adopt positive parenting into my parenting strategy because it was good for my mental health, good for my children’s mental health, cultivates a strong parent child bond, is effective, and is sustainable in the long term of raising strong adults. By acting up front to cultivate good in my children, I’m not presented with as many unnerving unbearable kid situations that would send my heart pounding. Even when they do happen, because no matter what you do, you will end up in stressful kid related situations, I’m much better equipped to handle them. By teaching my children to manage their emotions and minds, I’ve also been learning how to better manage mine. By employing the Montessori method in my home, I’m confident I’m giving my kids a strong platform of learning to stand on. By employing No Drama Discipline, I’m certain I’m not inhibiting my children’s brain development. With Positive Parenting, I am not training the bad out of my kids, I’m building the good in them. I’m raising them to be smart, strong, good adults, and Positive Parenting is the style I have chosen to accomplish that.