Positive psychology, the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive, provides many useful tools that promote good mental health. These same tools can be used to improve parenting and provide children with the skills (namely acceptance, understanding and guidance) they need to succeed and enjoy a strong sense of well being and contentment throughout life.
It’s no secret that the way we parent can dramatically affect the well- being of both the parents and the children. Positive parenting starts with your own positive attitude about life, your family, and your place in the world. You can set the example for your children to live with purpose and clarity in order to get the most out of each opportunity; empowering them with a better sense of themselves, better control over their own lives, and more happiness.
There are several suggestions that can be applied directly to your current parenting style:
• Know what stresses your child, be sensitive to the signs that your child is becoming stressed, and help them be aware of the messages their body is sending them about becoming stressed
• Model being positive. Children learn from their parent’s perspective on life – ensure that what your children sees, hears, and watches you do is based on teaching them the values of honesty, integrity, respect and hopefulness.
• Allow your children to be individuals. Encourage them to think for themselves, learn to express and articulate their own opinions, because by valuing your children’s input and thoughts, you teach them to value their ability to contribute positively to their world.
• Promote Balance in life – it allows your child to understand moderation, self-regulation, enjoy indulgences as treats, and maintain discipline in many areas of life.
• Be an active parent: parents and children flourish when they are closely connected, share special time together, and share interests. Take the time to get to know your children as individuals and recognize them for their unique strengths and talents.
• Philanthropy: From encouraging them to donate their old toys to people in need to making it a part of your routine to donate time to worthy causes. The benefits include improving self esteem, confidence, and tolerance.
• Control and autonomy over one’s own space provides a level of confidence and self esteem that cannot be gained in other ways. Parents who allow their children to self-express with their image, identity, and room décor promote self esteem.
• Choices lead to consequences, address the behaviour separate from the person, and not all consequences need to be emotional: Help your child understand from a young age that the choices they make leads to consequences, both good and bad. But love unconditionally, expressing feeling about the choice made but always making sure your child know that you love them no matter what. And when you can keep your own emotion out of the equation and allow the consequences of your child’s actions to dictate the result of their choice, they will learn self-reliance.
Positive parenting really fits for me, because everyday I remember that I chose selfishly, willingly, and knowingly to bring my little one into this world: for me, for us, to build our family, to become a meaningful member of society. And therefore, everyday I am grateful and appreciative of him as a gift and of his own unique gifts.
Eryn Wicker (M.A., R.C.C.) is a mental health clinician with the Child and Youth Mental Health team of the Ministry of Children and family development in Chilliwack, B.C.