Positive Parenting – Confessions of a Skeptic-turned-Believer
What comes to your mind when you think of “positive parenting”?
For me, “positive parenting” sounded like a bunch of fluffy theories from the West, which told parents that discipline is bad; only praise and reward are needed. Though we are pretty ‘Westernised’ in our lifestyle, much of our Asian culture and values remain strong. Moreover, haven’t we been told (and brought up with) not to “spare the rod” because it will “spoil the brat”? How can positive parenting work for us? I was truly sceptical.
But once I began to learn more about positive parenting, I was soon won over. Now, I’d wished I have learnt earlier what positive parenting really meant, when my now grown-up girls were still kids. That would have saved me a lot of parenting stress, and my children the occasional hurts from punishments they didn’t deserve.
So, what was I wrong about positive parenting?
Myth #1: Positive parenting promotes indulgence and permissiveness.
Far from promoting these traits, the Positive Parenting Programme (Triple P) recognises that indulgence and permissiveness are unhelpful. In fact, positive parenting helps fathers and mothers avoid parenting traps that often lead them to permissiveness and indulgence.
For example, a parent who refuses to let her child reach into the fridge for yet another handful of sweets may find her child throwing a tantrum. If the parent finds these tantrums too much to bear, she may relent and let her child have more goodies. Sounds familiar? Triple P teaches that this teaches the child to learn that escalation helps her get what she wants – so it makes sense for her to throw more tantrums in the future. Positive parenting warns that parents who appease their child this way are rewarding the wrong behaviour. Instead of the child learning to obey her parent, the parent has ended up learning to be permissive.
Positive parenting guides parents on the use of more effective strategies – such as time out – to help their child calm down without giving in to her wants. The child will then learn that throwing tantrums is not helpful.
Myth #2: Positive Parenting does not believe in disciplining children. It’s all about reward.
There are many ways of disciplining children. Unfortunately, many of us grew up knowing only punitive discipline methods, such as the use of canes. Our parents resorted to these methods as they, like many of us, knew no better way to help our children. While such punishments may serve to deter undesirable behaviours temporarily, it does not help the child learn what good behaviours are and why they are necessary. Research has also shown that using punitive methods to deal with children’s misbehaviour has negative outcomes.
With Positive Parenting, the child learns that his or her behaviour has consequences. Parents are advised to put in place rules for their children to abide by, along with carefully planned measures to deal with their children’s misbehaviour in a consistent manner. For example, when 2 siblings fight over a toy, a logical consequence could be to remove the object of contention for half an hour. If a teenager does not honour the given screen time limit, denying the teenager of his next screen time could be an option.
Therefore, I am convinced that all parents – current, aspiring, and even grandparents – to remain open-minded about positive parenting. The reason is simple – it works! The way we implement positive parenting in our unique culture and environment can be adapted without changing its spirit. So, although positive parenting originated in the West, its principles are applicable to our Asian context. Afterall, whether you are from the East or the West, all parents love their children and want the best for them. The principles that we find in positive parenting aim at helping parents achieve just that.
Written by: Lily Ching, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services
Sanders, M. R., Dadds, C. M., & Turner, K. M. (2013). Positive Parenting: Triple P Positive Parenting Solutions. The University of Queensland.