Being a parent comes with great responsibility. It’s our duty and privilege to shape the next generation to be healthy and thriving. It’s not easy, but it’s doable. And there are positive parenting things we can do for our little ones now that will help prepare them to make good decisions, feel confident, and avoid creating bad habits like substance abuse in the future.
A study by the University of Otago in New Zealand has found that positive parenting can have numerous positive benefits for children. A team led by Professor Joe Boden analyzed data from the Christchurch Health and Development Study, which has followed the lives of more than 1000 people born in Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1977.
Before we go too deep here, let’s answer the question, “What is positive parenting?”
Positive parenting focuses on encouragement and support rather than punishment to teach appropriate behavior. Psychology Today links positive parenting to “higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance abuse, better mental health, greater social competence, and more positive self-concepts.”
Professor Boden’s team found that adolescents living in a more positive environment:
Had lower alcohol and substance abuse rates.
Experienced fewer mental health issues and less general stress.
Were less likely to experience unemployment.
The Christchurch Study provided extensive information about the participants’ lives, including:
Their exposure to violence and substance issues.
How they perceived their parents’ parenting style.
Alcohol use and abuse scores at specific ages.
The impact of parenting style on alcoholism.
The team was especially interested in the correlation between positive parenting and a lesser risk of alcoholism. The study shows that parenting style could be far more impactful in people’s tendency toward alcohol or other substances than having access to it.
Several studies have shown that positive parenting has even more far-reaching effects.
Here are some ways that you can be a positive parent:
Build strong bonds.
Strong emotional bonds help create a safe base for kids to learn, explore, and relate to others. Experts call this “secure attachment.” Securely attached kids are more likely to handle challenges positively and learn how to manage their feelings and behaviors, and develop self-confidence. Through positive engagement with parents, kids learn to follow the rules and regulate their emotions.
Life is full of distractions from numerous priorities, extra work, and technology. When we’re emotionally and physically available to our kids, this helps them bond, develop language skills, and learn to interact socially. We need to communicate that our kids are valuable and important with our time. When we are stretched for time, we must take a moment and explain to our kids why we can’t spend the time with them that we’d like — and express that we don’t value them any less and will be more available to them soon.
Establish mutual respect.
Mutual respect is a cornerstone of positive parenting. Parents help kids understand why rules are made. When children understand the why for rules, they’re more willing to follow them. It can also help parents understand any misbehavior. Because of a stronger bond, parents are more likely to notice stressors impacting their children. Through this, parents and kids can learn to be more empathetic and better understand others.
Be a positive role model.
One huge rule of parenting is, “More is caught than taught.” We’ve all heard that phrase, but it’s the essence of parenting. If we respond to our kids in frustration and negativity, they’ll do the same to others and to us. How we respond to our kids’ challenging behaviors really does teach them how to react to others. Research shows that parental modeling impacts behaviors associated with alcohol and substance abuse.
Build higher self-esteem.
Positive parenting says there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviors. The focus is on learning for the future. Instead of yelling when a child misbehaves, a positive parent responds calmly, explaining why the behavior isn’t acceptable and what the consequences are. This process helps a child learn to make better choices down the road. Mistakes are learning opportunities for all of us.
By being positive parents, we can equip our children with the skills they need for future success. We can teach them to make wise decisions. And, we can help them avoid pitfalls along the way. If you don’t see yourself as a positive parent, it’s never too late to start.