Positive parenting in a ‘Spare the Rod’ society (Part 3)
IN THE LAST COLUMN, I outlined the main principles of positive parenting, including effective communication, mutual respect, choosing solutions over punishment and the belief that children do better when they feel better.
Knowing the principles is the first step, implementing them is the challenge. From my own experiences, positive parenting requires a re-wiring of my own mechanisms and strategies for dealing with a three-year-old. It involves understanding my personality, how I manage my time and how I deal with stress, understanding my daughter’s personality, how she sees the world from her perspective and how she deals with stressors and complex emotions.
Conflict usually arises when parents and children have differing agendas. For example, getting ready on mornings is usually a struggle. You are trying to get dressed, prepare lunch bags and get breakfast in order to leave the house in a timely fashion. She has to go to school and I have to go to work. Little Miss, on the other hand, thinks this is the ideal time to play hide and seek, turning the bathe/get ready ritual into “time to play a game with mommy” ritual. This game is not convenient for my purposes, but in the world of a three-year-old it makes perfect sense.
I used to get frustrated, but since I recognized how competitive she is, I came up with the idea of turning getting ready into a different game. I would simply say “I bet I get ready before you” and she would take the challenge seriously, hurry to get dressed just so she could say she got ready before me. In this instance I am applying the positive parenting principle of choosing solutions over punishment and also tapping into an aspect of my daughter’s personality and channeling it in a positive direction.
Communication is also important to reducing negative emotions and stresses that can sometimes accompany parenting. Listening to your child is a skill, but bear in mind that children have many ways that they try to communicate with us to let us know that they are in need of attention, affection or just hungry. Many of these ways are usually non-verbal. For example, when I am busy working at my laptop and little Miss wants my attention she would do things that she knows would get me to look at her, even if it is to scold her. I have learned that, in those instances, it is important to recognize what the non-verbal behaviour is saying, that the child is in need of something and not see the child as deliberately trying my patience. In those instances, I try not to have anything too pressing that I couldn’t set aside for later when she is asleep. Spending time with her would enable her to feel better and consequently, to behave better. Listening to her verbal and observing her non-verbals allow me to recognize her need and, as her parent, it is my job to meet those needs and not dismiss them.
While I espouse these principles of positive parenting, I accept that there will be times where I fall short. I have found that it helps to refill my own cup through self-care and self-management, so that I am in a mental and physical place to implement the positive parenting principles. It is a struggle to go against the grain of your programming, but I would rather put in the hard work of finding positive alternatives to discipline than perpetuate the cycle of adult to child violence that is our inheritance as a Caribbean society. We should consider alternatives to rod, our children are worth the effort.
Dr Debra Providence is a mother, writer and make-believer.