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How to Have the Porn Talk With Your Kids

You can lay the groundwork for bigger talks in the future.

Our children are exposed to more screens than ever, beginning at a very young age. They are bombarded with digital content and exposure to ads, friends, and family members sharing who knows what. Not to mention the sneaky ways tech experts entice viewers to look at inappropriate images. (Check out PARENTING COURSE | Parenting In The Brave New Digital World here!)

The sexual curiosity of many 6 and 7-year-olds is getting awakened earlier than you ever imagined. So whether porn pops up on their screen or a friend or family member shares something, you want to be ready to have the “porn talk” with your kids.

Talking with your young child about pornography doesn’t have to be terrifying. In fact, before the teen years, you have some advantages. 

1. At this age, the parent/child relationship is often still the most important influence for your child. 

2. Young school-aged children are probably more open about what they’ve seen, done, heard, or said, especially when they feel supported by their parents. Yes, some kids lie. However, a 15-year-old’s efforts to hide something are very different from a 7-year-old’s. 

3. Parents have more control over where they go, who they spend time with, and what they do. (When kids split time between parents, this can be challenging. But, if parents work together, they can both be more aware.)

Keep these things in mind as you consider how to talk to and protect your child. Perhaps they’ve already been exposed to porn. Or maybe you have a reason to think you should talk about what porn is with them. If you find out your child has seen stuff you don’t want them to see, try not to show them you’re overwhelmed.

Remember, they’re still young. Still forming right and wrong mentally. Learning the world outside of their bubble. Your child’s life isn’t ruined. 

What Not To Do:

  1. Don’t fly off the deep end. It’s disappointing when your young child has been robbed of a certain innocence. But if they’ve seen it, they can’t “unsee” it. If you’re overly emotional, it will make it harder for them to talk to you in the future. 
  2. Don’t dive super deep into the details. The goal is to help your child do the right thing if they see inappropriate content. 
  3. Don’t solely rely on parental controls on devices. Your parent-child relationship plays the biggest role in dealing with this issue and reducing the risk of exposure. 

Language

Don’t assume your child knows what the word pornography means. It may not mean what they think it means. How does your child identify inappropriate content? 

Try asking:

  • “Have you seen pictures or videos that you don’t feel comfortable looking at with me?” 
  • “Are there sometimes pictures on your screen of people without their clothes on?” 
  • “Has anyone shown you pics of things that made you feel weird or uncomfortable?” 
  • “Have you looked at stuff you don’t think we’d want you to see?” 

The word porn may not trigger the type of awareness for kids that it would for you. They will, however, know when they’ve seen something that’s not OK to you. 

Find out what they’ve seen and where.

Look at the internet browser, YouTube history, and some of the video games they play. Gently ask questions to gather info. Ask to see what they look at with friends. 

Set the standard of what’s OK and what’s not.

A 15 or 16-year-old clearly knows what they’re doing when looking at porn. A 5 or 6-year-old is learning about the outside world. You have to set the standard for appropriate and responsible technology use. You may say, “It’s not OK for you to look at anything online that we can’t look at together. That includes people who aren’t wearing clothes or who are doing things that only adults should be doing.” 

Try, “Anytime we go to someone’s house, doesn’t everyone have their clothes on? It should be the same way when you’re looking at a screen. Everyone should be dressed.”

Clearly say what you expect.

Ask your child to tell you (and the adult in charge) if someone shows them something inappropriate. Tell them it’s important to be honest with you, even if someone asks them to keep secrets or threatens them concerning what they are doing or showing him. 

Be a safe person he or she can come to without fear of getting in trouble, and don’t be shocked by what they show you. You want to encourage them and make it easy for them to talk to you. On the other hand, let them know they will get in trouble if they see something wrong and hide it. Make sure they understand the difference.

Standards and expectations don’t work without consequences.

If your child continues to view inappropriate content and fails to meet the standards and expectations you’ve set (see above), be consistent with consequences. Maybe they lose screen time. It may mean no sweets or an earlier bedtime for several days.

If the consequences don’t work, consulting a professional may help. If your child insists on looking at porn, something else may be going on.

Often the key to steering your child is the approach. Your kids need you to be gentle and supportive. Look for ways to appreciate and reward their good decisions. This will lay the groundwork for being an ally as they move into the teen years and beyond.

Other helpful blogs: 

When to Talk to Your Kids About Sex

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents

How To Talk To Your Teen About Pornography

Boys and Porn

How to Teach Your Daughters The Importance of Consent

These 5 things can help her protect, assert, and defend herself.

I’m a dad of daughters. And like other parents, I would do anything to protect my girls. Anything. From harm and from bullies. From being taken advantage of. And from pubescent boys with only one thing on their mind (and I’m not talking about video games…). 

But I also know I can give my girls greater gifts: the skills and confidence to protect themselves. A big part of this is teaching them the importance of consent. I call it having consent conversations

Now, I know the term consent is often a buzzword, especially when sexual harassment, date rape, molestation, and other horrible abuses are in the news. And, good heavens, we need to teach our daughters to guard themselves. 

I’d like to suggest that consent conversations are more than protection from these sorts of sexual abuses, although they certainly include them.

At its core, talking to your daughter about consent is helping her identify, establish, verbalize, and guard her boundaries. What will she allow to go on around her in a given situation? At what point does she take a stand? And how does she go about taking that stand? 

Even further, consent conversations help your daughter recognize and respect others’ boundaries. As a friend’s son said very well, “Consent isn’t just about dating; it’s about respecting people.” 

Consent conversations help your daughter develop self-respect and assertiveness as well as respect for others. It keeps her safe emotionally, physically, and sexually. It gives her a vocabulary to use for upholding boundaries. And it lays the groundwork for having healthier relationships in the future. 

So, consent conversations are kind of a big deal. 

1. In a given situation with another person, what are you OK with?

And what are you not OK with? Help your daughter think through different scenarios — with friends at school, around other adults, at a friend’s house, with someone they are dating. Ask, what could happen that would be OK or not OK with you? 

2. When someone wants to do something with or around you that’s not OK, how will you respond?

Talk about when to be polite, when to be firm, and when to be forceful with her no. What are situations she needs to walk away from? And if someone keeps doing or saying something despite her objection, let her know she needs to separate herself, go somewhere safe, and call a trusted adult

3. How do you read the situation for danger signs?

Teaching your daughter how to be aware of what’s going on around is a critical skill. How are people acting around you? Can you trust those you’re with to have your back? Be sure to discuss the role alcohol and drugs play in certain situations and how they can break down awareness and inhibitions.  

4. If there’s a situation you feel you can’t escape, what’s the plan?

You don’t want to frighten your daughter, but you do want to prepare her. Teach your daughter to always have the means to get out of a situation. Know where the door and a phone are. Where’s the nearest place with other people? What’s the quickest way to get in touch with someone you trust? It might also be worth enrolling her in a self-defense course or a martial arts class (or better yet, do that together). It can boost her confidence and give her some good skills.

5. How can you tell if someone is OK or not OK with your actions? What do you do if they are not?

Consent conversations are important. We as parents are responsible for teaching our children how to protect, assert, and stand up for themselves (and others) when someone pushes the boundaries. I encourage you to start age-appropriate consent conversations this week! 

Other helpful resources:

Dad, Here Are 5 Things Your Middle School Daughter Needs from You

How Do I Get My Teen To Talk To Me?

What All Daughters Need to Hear From Their Dad

PARENTING COURSE | Ultimate Girl Dad Toolkit

Conversation Starters for Kids and Parents

Talking now can help you talk more as they grow.

Dad: “Hey bud, how was your day today?”

Son: “Fine.”

Dad: “Was it a good day?”

Son: “Yep.”

Son: “Can I go play now?”

Have you had this conversation? We have… too often. After a couple of these, it was time to regroup and rethink how we created conversation with our kids. 

To get the most engagement from your little ones, ask them questions that interest them. Ask questions that spark their imagination. If you want to know how their day is, invite them to do something with you and ask questions while doing something together. If kids feel like they are being interrogated, they will resolve to one-word answers.

Conversations with your kids can be informative and entertaining. When we engage our young children in healthy conversation, we lay the groundwork for deeper conversations as they get older. I want us to be the first people our kids go to when they need to talk about a challenging topic or have big questions about the world. 

There is so much opportunity to have fun conversations with your kids if you start with the right questions. We have learned from experience not to ask questions with one-word answers. Open-ended questions are where it’s at.

Here are some of our favorite conversation starters for kids and parents.

For check-ins and deeper conversations:

  • What is the most fascinating thing you learned today?
  • What is your favorite part about today?
  • Who did you eat lunch with? Or play on the playground with?
  • What is the oddest thing you did today?
  • What’s a new experience you had this week?
  • What is something you have recently done that you are proud of?

For mealtime or drivetime:

  • If you could only eat one fruit for the rest of your life, which would you pick and why?
  • Would you rather live in an igloo or a treehouse?
  • Would you rather be able to walk on the moon or breathe underwater?
  • What’s something new you’d like to try this year?
  • What’s your favorite memory of the last year?
  • If you could go back in time and change your name, what would you choose?
  • What do you think the clouds feel like?
  • What’s your favorite color in the rainbow?
  • What’s the best thing about being the exact age you are right now?
  • If you were deep-sea diving, which creatures would you like to see?
  • What’s your favorite thing to do when it’s raining?
  • If you could fly, where would you go?
  • If you had one superpower, what would it be?
  • Who would you like to get a letter from?
  • What do you most wonder about the future?
  • If you could hang out with anyone in history, who would it be? And what would you do?

To get the most out of any conversation starters, you have to be all in. Be willing to answer any questions you ask and have fun with the answers.

Remember, these conversation starters can help you lay the foundation for the more challenging conversations that are coming. If your kids can rely on you to answer the crazy questions, they’ll be more willing to ask the challenging ones. Have fun and be ready to laugh a lot!

Other helpful blogs:

What You Need to Know About Positive Parenting

5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness

Five Simple Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

What You Need to Know About Positive Parenting

How you parent can strengthen the bond you have with your child.

When you first learn that you’re expecting a baby, you experience tons of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. If you’re honest, one of them may include sheer terror. You’re now responsible for the growth and development of another human being. NO pressure, right?! Maybe you’re like me: You went to a bookstore where you found shelves and shelves of parenting books to get information. Maybe you Googled “how to be the best parent”… and got 654,000,000 results. 

It can be overwhelming, but guess what? You don’t need ALL those books OR over half a million google results to get it right.

Here’s a simple breakdown of some parenting styles to help you sort it all out.

Authoritative Parenting 

This parenting style utilizes punishment, but the parent explains to the child the reason for the punishment. Children learn from their mistakes, and parents provide clear boundaries and structure. Parents are nurturing, caring, and loving toward their children.

Authoritarian Parenting

This parenting style is the epitome of “My way or the highway.” Parents make all the decisions without any input from the child. The goal is obedience, so punishment is utilized. This style isn’t known for lots of affection. Parents set high expectations and enforce strict rules. 

Permissive Parenting

The focus of this parenting style is to make the child happy at all costs. Parents often give in to the desires of their children. They act more like a friend than a parent. Rules and expectations are limited or nonexistent.

Neglectful Parenting

In this parenting style, parents offer no attention to their children. They don’t respond to their child’s needs. They can be detached or uninvolved. There is no structure for the children or guidance from the parents. 

Helicopter Parenting

In this parenting style, parents hover over their children. They intervene in their child’s life inappropriately. Instead of letting them learn from experiences, parents come to the rescue to prevent their children from failure.  

Attachment Parenting

This parenting style aims to build a close bond with the young child by breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and babywearing. Because of this bond, parents are highly attentive and responsive to their child’s needs.

There’s also positive parenting…

Here’s what you need to know about Positive Parenting:

  • It’s a philosophy (mindset) that sees each child as an individual who needs to belong and have significance. Additionally, you respect and see value in your children, not as your mini-me, but for the beautiful human he or she is. 
  • Its focus is on developing a positive relationship with children by spending one-on-one, intentional, and scheduled time with them every day. 
  • It encourages parents to teach their kids how they would like them to behave instead of what they don’t want them to do. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t run in the house!” you’d emphasize that “we walk while inside the house.”
  • It helps parents get to know their children: their likes, dislikes, strengths, and growth areas. As a result, parents are realistic about each child’s capabilities and limitations. As a parent of 3 sons, it was easy for me to treat and relate to them as a collective group rather than individually. Now, I’m keenly aware of my sons as individuals.
  • It reminds parents that their kids are watching and taking their cues from them. Children more often do what we do rather than what we say. You are your child’s model for behavior. They’re always watching.

No matter what parenting style you choose, it’s essential to use one that bolsters the bond you have with your child. Additionally, your parenting style has to grow and change as your child grows and changes over time. Remember, parenting is a process of learning about yourself and your child; trust the process.

Other helpful blogs:

5 Ways Positive Parenting Created a Lifelong Connection With Your Child

How Positive Parenting Impacts a Child’s Risk of Substance Abuse

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting

What To Do When Your Spouse Is A Bad Parent

5 Ways Positive Parenting Creates a Lifelong Connection with Your Child

The steps you take now will impact your connection in the future.

The goal of positive parenting is to build a deep, lifelong connection with your child. It’s the idea that while our primary role as parents may end when our children move out, we’re still a guiding presence in their lives. I don’t want to parent my children once they’ve stepped out on their own, but I do want to be there as a source of wisdom, support, and guidance when needed. 

Being a positive parent is about nurturing, empowering, and guiding while being nonviolent. You may be asking yourself, “Am I a positive parent?” I know I want to be. 

There are several key components to positive parenting. A positive parent:

  • Guides, leads, and teaches.
  • Is caring, empowering, consistent, and sensitive to a child’s needs.
  • Provides regular open communication, emotional security, and affection.
  • Recognizes the positive.
  • Respects the child’s developmental stage.
  • Sets boundaries and rewards accomplishments.
  • Shows empathy for the child’s feelings and supports the child’s best interests.

According to author L.R. Knost, “respecting children teaches them that even the smallest, most powerless, most vulnerable person deserves respect, and that is a lesson our world desperately needs to learn.”

Here are some ways being a positive parent can create a lifelong connection with your child:

1. Teach them how to do age-appropriate tasks.

When I ask my kids to do something around the house, and they say, “I don’t know how,” I hear a teaching opportunity. It can be hard to slow down, but helping them learn how to do something new builds their confidence. When you teach them, they’re also learning how to make good choices. When we don’t teach, they become reliant on us or others to do things for them.

2. Give them autonomy (within reason, of course).

Let’s talk about parenting toddlers. If you aren’t there yet, just hang on and get ready for some exciting years. Between the ages of 2-5, both my kids pushed for independence and autonomy. They wanted to be the king or queen of their own world. Aren’t we the same? We don’t want other people running our lives. Look for opportunities to give your child autonomy. Put them in charge of a household chore, let them choose dinner one night, or let them choose their clothes. There’s nothing like going to Lowe’s when your daughter’s in her entire ladybug outfit…been there recently and have the pictures to remember it. Giving them independence promotes creativity, empowerment, and self-determination.

3. Reward positive behavior.

I’ve often heard it said, “What gets recognized, gets repeated.” My son just wrapped up a great baseball season and aced a test in third grade. We rewarded him for excelling in school and on the ballfield by going to a local baseball card store. He’s totally into baseball cards right now, so we let him choose a box of cards. He had bad games and some weeks where he didn’t do well on quizzes, but we didn’t punish him for those times. We just encouraged him to do his best and understand that sometimes bad days happen. But he knows what it takes to get rewarded, and he’ll work toward that again. 

4. Be a positive role model.

Your children are listening and watching. Remember, more is caught than taught. They see how we treat others, our work ethic, and our kindness or the lack of it. If you want to raise adults who positively contribute to society and care about their neighbors, you’ve got to model that behavior now.

5. Make positive family experiences a priority.

Our kids don’t need extravagance; they need us to create memories with them. I can’t count the number of times my daughter brings up something seemingly small we’ve done as a family. To her, it was impactful. Take a neighborhood walk together, get ice cream after school, or do something for someone else. When we prioritize creating positive memories as a parent, we’re building a lifelong connection with them.

Parenting is challenging, but connecting with your child doesn’t have to be. Be caring, teach, lead, communicate, and provide. Take steps today to build a lifelong connection with your child as a positive parent. 

Other helpful blogs:

How Positive Parenting Impacts a Child’s Risk of Substance Abuse

100 Conversation Starters To Increase Your Family’s Connectedness

Five Simple Things You Can Do To Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Child

Seven Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew (Plus a Bonus)

Knowing these things can make a HUGE difference in your parenting.

Parenting toddlers* can test your courage as a parent, adult, and otherwise mannerly person. As the parent of 5 retired toddlers, a current toddler, and an aspiring toddler, I’ve been tested quite a bit, and I’ve struggled. But, as billions of parents and I have learned, toddlers somehow make it to preschool age, sometimes despite their parents, which is comforting to know. In order to make it past that toddler stage, current and future parents of toddlers might want to know a few things.

Here are seven things your toddler wishes you knew:

1. I like screens, but I like you more. 

Screens are colorful and lively. They move and make funny noises. What’s not to like? Programmers are good at designing screens to make me happy, but they can’t make me happy like you can. I’d prefer you and the screens together. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says it’s best to look at screens with me so you can help me understand what I’m seeing. Believe it or not, I’d pick you over the screens any day. 

2. I like being with you, but one day I’ll wish you had given me unstructured playtime without you and the screens. 

The AAP says that toddlers need unstructured time alone. Entertaining myself with blocks, dollhouses, and funny gadgets helps me grow and develop. Sometimes I need you to show me how and then step back. I’ll be better for it.

3. Emotionally and mentally, I’m a toddler. 

I may talk a lot and say clever things, but I don’t know the language or possess wisdom like you do. When I yell “No!” 40 times, throw a tantrum, or act jealous when you hold another kid, remember, I’m a toddler. I may even spew out hurtful phrases like, “I hate you.” “I wish you weren’t my parent.” “You’re ugly.” 

Hear me. I’m frustrated. I’m experiencing these crazy emotions. I have no idea how to get what I want. As a baby, all I had to do was cry. Now I have words, but I don’t know how to use the millions of words out there to express myself. So it’s “by any means necessary” until you teach me and hold me accountable. Even then, it may take some time. 

It’s not OK for me to say hurtful things, but it’s a normal part of my development. Please help me to learn the right boundaries and show me some empathy. When you try to help me understand instead of getting equally frustrated, it teaches me how to express my emotions. You may not be able to stop the tantrums, but I need you to teach me through them. 

4. I know I’m cute. I’ll use it to my advantage if you let me. 

Please don’t let me use that to control the house. Boundaries are necessary for me. It isn’t cute when I hit someone, talk disrespectfully, and abuse my siblings or their things. I may not be able to speak well, but I can understand what you’re saying. Please don’t let me get in the habit of using my cuteness to be mean. 

5. I know I just said I’m a toddler. I’m also a person, and I have something to give. 

The quicker you give me things I can do to help the family, the less likely I’ll feel entitled. I can help you take spoons out of the dishwasher, pick up toys, and take clothes out of dryers. All this stuff has to be done, and I can do it. That way, you can do the stuff that only adults can do. Everybody wins. I don’t want you to do everything for me, only what you have to do. I can understand more than most adults think I can. Harvard researchers say that having responsibilities will help me be a more caring person

6. Stability and consistency help me settle into this world. 

I’m seeing so many new things, and I don’t know how to act sometimes. Predictability at home helps me not be anxious all the time. You may not realize it, but the routines of eating dinner together and talking about the good and bad in my life, reading a book to me at night, or just knowing you’ll hug me when I’m hurt helps build trust and security.

7. I don’t need a perfect parent. I need a present parent. 

You’re gonna make some mistakes with me. Who wouldn’t? I’m a lot to handle. Just because I yell out a cuss word at church that I heard you say when you were upset doesn’t mean I’ll grow up and be unruly. Not everything I do is about you. And even if it were, who cares what everyone else thinks? I’m not worried about what other parents say about their kids on social media. That’s their life. They aren’t telling the whole story anyway. 

I think the world of you. Even when I test the limits and yell something crazy, you’re the one I want to roll with, mistakes and all. Please don’t be scared — it’s harder to ruin my life than you think. 

Bonus: I love you. 

You don’t have to prove that you love me; I know you do. That’s why I keep looking back to see if you’re there when I’m testing my independence.

Your presence, consistency, and care mean more to me than your perfection, knowledge, and skill as a parent. If I say you’re mean, remember, I’m 3. What do I know? My world centers around me. I’m closer to being an infant than I am to having a fully developed mind. The tests we go through together will make us stronger. Just stick with me, and don’t stop showing me the right way. I’ll grow, develop, and mature in due time. 

*The CDC considers toddlers to be ages 1-3. Ages 4 & 5 are considered preschoolers.

Note: This message is veteran-tested and toddler approved.

Other helpful blogs:

How a Parent’s Emotions Can Affect Their Child

How to Help Children Handle Their Emotions

6 Fun Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Toddler

How To Handle Public Toddler Temper Tantrums

5 Ways Kids Can Affect Your Marriage (& What to Do About It)

Reduce the stress and increase your connection with these tips.

Me: “Ok, what’s on the calendar this week?” 

My wife: “We have two baseball games. I have to work late Tuesday. You have a PTA meeting Wednesday morning. Our friends invited us to dinner on Friday.”

Me: “Ok, I have four runs scheduled. I forgot I have a dentist’s appointment on Tuesday afternoon. I’ll move that so I can pick up the kids. Oh yeah, don’t forget we have a tournament this weekend.”

We look at each other. “Do you remember life before kids? What happened?”

Does this conversation sound familiar?

Being a parent is amazing, but it’s tough. Life changes with kids, and each stage of parenting brings new challenges. There’s a lot to balance. 

Let’s be real: kids affect your marriage. Here are a few common ways and what to do about it:

1. Self-care often takes a backseat for parents.

Self-care, what’s that? Both of my elementary-age kids have schedules, activities, homework, projects, and social lives. (Wait, when did their social lives replace mine?) It can be hard to carve out alone time, but you need it, and so does your marriage. 

So, what can I do about it? Schedule self-care just like you schedule everything else. Don’t just wait for time to run, go to the gym, do yoga, or whatever activity you prefer. Make sure your partner schedules it, too. You’re a team, and team members need to be healthy (mentally, physically, and emotionally) for the relationship to be healthy. 

2. You may disagree about parenting styles.

My wife doesn’t parent as I do, and it’s frustrating at times. Ever been there? It happens. We all enter marriage with a belief system about how to parent, and it’s often based on how we were parented. Couples talk about if they want to have kids, how many, and when. But they don’t talk about how to parent. And that can lead to frustration.

So, what can I do about it? It starts with communication. If you aren’t on the same page about parenting, talk about it and try to come to a resolution. Express what you both believe and why. Don’t accuse; instead, work toward compromise. If you both want what’s best for your child, you’ll find a solution together.

3. Date night can get put on the back burner.

Dating is crucial to a healthy marriage, and kids can affect your ability to do that. Before kids, there may have been elaborate date nights, expensive dinners, flowers, and gifts. Now, you don’t feel like there’s time to think about dating. And what do you do with the kids? You don’t have the time to not have a date night, because they keep you connected and pursuing each other. Date nights just may look different. 

So, what can I do about it? Set realistic expectations. Date nights may not be what they once were, but they can be memorable. Prioritize date nights and put them on the calendar. Try once a month and then progress to once every other week. Dream big: Make your goal once a week. Your marriage (and your kids) will thank you.

4. Your sex life may change.

Early on in parenting, your sex life often takes a backseat because babies make life interesting. But you’d expect it to bounce back once you’re past the toddler years. For many, it does, but it isn’t always consistent. And kids always find a way to interrupt. Sex can become just another item on the to-do list, and that’s no fun. Being intimate with your partner is a worthwhile priority for your marriage. 

So, what can I do about it? If you don’t want to sacrifice physical intimacy due to exhaustion, busyness, or stress, schedule sex. Yep, have an honest conversation about your sex life. Agree on how often and when. Plan how to handle potential interruptions. Scheduled sex may seem boring, but it creates anticipation and excitement.

5. Marriage satisfaction may decrease…

Kids and all the issues I mentioned above can affect your marriage by adding stress to your marriage. When stress mounts in your relationship, satisfaction decreases. You’re not alone in feeling this way. Research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that many parents with kids experience reduced satisfaction, too. 

So, what can I do about it? Here are a few ideas:

  • Have social support—parents, friends, family, and neighbors. Get help when you need it.
  • Practice self-care. Make sure you’re getting sleep, eating well, exercising, and pursuing hobbies.
  • Find and maintain balance. Balance work with play, your needs with your kids’ and partner’s needs, and time.
  • Focus on your mindset—practice gratitude and positivity. Have fun and be patient.

Yes, being a parent is challenging, but it’s so rewarding. Enjoy it, make memories, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Be intentional about having a healthy marriage, because it’s the best thing for you and your kids. 

Other helpful blogs and resources: 

Are You Setting a Good Example of Self-Care for Your Family?

My Spouse and I Disagree About Parenting

How to Have More Sex in Marriage

DOWNLOAD: 30 Days of Gratitude and Love

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.

Be available.

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.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

How To Encourage Your Child’s Strengths

Why Do Secure Relationships Matter for Children?

How Do I Make My Child Feel Secure?