Keys to positive parenting

There are five key aspects of positive parenting:

1. Providing a physically and emotionally safe home environment.

How safe is your home for your children? Are there any accidents waiting to happen? More than half of accidents to children happen in the home (

Dr Eva Cox in the 1995 Boyer Lecture, titled A Truly Civil, said that our homes can be the most physically and emotionally toxic environments for our children. Is your home a “be kind zone”? Family should not be putting each other down, calling each other names, swearing or screaming at each other. You are what you teach your children (Magda Gerber).

2.  Providing a positive environment in which children can grow and learn.

Children need to be kept busy. They need to physically move their bodies every day. They need to play and interact with other children. And they learn the most in interaction with more knowledgable people in a social environment (Lev Vygotsky).

A parent I worked with a while ago was getting frustrated with her children’s behaviour. I suggested that she take them to the park when they are getting a bit crazy. She said that she didn’t want to reward them for their “bad” behaviour. I replied that it wasn’t rewarding them, it was acknowledging their biological needs. She tried it, and it worked.


Kids don’t need lots of toys though. A cardboard box can occupy them for weeks. There is a video on Vimeo titled “The adventures of a cardboard box”

Time and time again, research has shown that children learn the most in social interaction. Children who grow up in families where there is lots of talking and interaction have been found to be do better academically than children who do not have such a richness of language (Hart & Risley, 1995). If you put a child in front of a children’s television show for one hour, or alternatively spent that hour having a good old chat, the child will be better off for having spent the time with you. Don’t worry about the chores, the washing-up police are not going to knock on your door any time soon.

3.  Providing education and guidance.

Kids need boundaries and limits to be physically and emotionally safe. There are times when you need to take charge, and at the other times you can be kind.

Sometimes I think that when parents hear the word “discipline”, they automatically think they have to be mean in order to “teach the child a lesson”.

You don’t have to be mean. How do you feel when someone is mean to you?

When you think of “discipline”, do you think – payback? revenge? anger? drawing a line? hurting your child to make a point?

Now, change the word “discipline” to “education” or “guidance”.

Does that change how you might approach you child’s mis(taken)behaviour next time?

Of course, if your child is about to step in front of a car, you don’t say “Sweetie, I don’t think that’s a good idea”. No, you quickly pick him up and bring him to safety. But most issues of mis(taken)behaviour are not life and death.

You can actually take a moment to breathe and think “what is the best way to handle this so my child will actually learn something here?”.  Stop, Breathe, Think, then Do. If you react immediately to your child’s behaviour, you are likely to do what your parents did to you. How did you feel when you were a kid, and your parents hit, screamed at, called you names, rejected you?

Realistically, is your child going to learn the lesson immediately, first go? Probably not. You are going to have to guide your child many more times in order for him or her to “get it”. That’s why we need to be as consistent and predictable as we can be. What will be most effective in the long run and maintain the relationship between you and your child so that he or she is likely to listen to you next time?

4. Having realistic expectations for our children.

Children don’t have our abilities or wisdom. They are smaller and don’t have our life experience. Do you know that the part of the brain that controls logic and reasoning doesn’t kick in until about the age of four years and doesn’t finish developing until the age of 25 years? If you ask your child “what were you thinking?” chances are he wasn’t.

What’s important to our children’s development?

Love, kindness, touch, interaction, attention, sleep, a good diet, medical care when ill, routine or rhythm, communication, positive role models,  physical activity, quality time with parents, play, and a word that starts with Y and ends in U (YOU).

5. Taking care of yourself and your adult relationships.

Hand up if you take care of yourself. You’ve got to live it to give it. What small thing can you do today to take care of yourself? Every day, do one small thing that you enjoy and that satisfies your hands, warms your heart, or feeds your mind. How we feel about ourselves affects how we parent.

Diet and exercise are important to you too. Choose the salad sandwich over the chips. If you are not that keen on gyms or jogging, incidental exercise is good too, such as walking to school to pick up the children, or doing squats and stretches whilst hanging the washing on the line.

When do you take the time to focus on your adult relationships, and to talk, love, and play? Many parents tell me they feel isolated and judged in their role as parents. Who supports you whilst you have the important job of supporting your children? Where can you get support from caring and interested people?

If you are feeling blue or depressed, or having persistent difficulties in your relationships seek professional help and counselling.

These five keys to positive parenting were inspired by the Triple P programme. Triple P is a brilliant parenting programme and is backed by over 30 years of research. More information can be obtained from


Categories: Parenting Skills


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