What is positive parenting?
Positive parenting sounds kind of…hippie-ish. But, it’s this growing movement of responding to our children in a positive, not punitive way. The belief is not a style of parenting but a way of life. Treat people with respect, all people, even those littler or younger than you.
This idea has started to really pick up steam and quite a few books have been written about positive parenting, or positive discipline, as it is also known. Remember when I mentioned the book by Alfie Kohn, “Unconditional Parenting”? He has generally the same idea. We need to get away from punishing punitively and start teaching our children.
I’m going to take you through the thought process roadmap that I experienced in Kohn’s book. Otherwise, it’s really hard to get in the right mindset.
So, what mindset do I need to be in?
First, think of characteristics you want your child to exhibit as an adult. (Yes, actually take a minute to think about these things.) Now, I’m sure you chose things like confident, independent, responsible, understanding, helpful, globally aware, etc… Now, I want you to think of ways that you are giving your child a chance to show you these things?
If you were like me, I couldn’t really think of a whole lot. Thus, we begin. My husband and I always describe our little one (LO) as an independent, stubborn little girl. And, guess what, we see the first as good and the second as bad. Why? Being stubborn basically means that she is not going to do something she doesn’t want to do. Isn’t that a good thing when we are talking about peer pressure to drink, do drugs, go to unsupervised parties, bully? But it becomes a bad thing when she doesn’t do what we want her to do.
The biggest problem we have to face when trying to wrap our mind around this positive parenting philosophy is that even though we are the parents and adults, our children are people too. That means they have minds, emotions, and feelings of their own. And guess what? Those do not always align with our minds, emotions, and feelings. This is when we, as the parent, get angry with our child – because their world is shaky and the only thing they know how to do is throw a tantrum or misbehave.
So, in positive parenting the misbehavior is viewed as a teachable moment, not a chance to take something away from our kids. Our kids need to learn how to behave appropriately by observing and being directed. Sometimes, their misbehavior is a way to get our attention.
Why have more people not done this before?
In our American society, guided by B.F. Skinner’s Conditioning/Reinforcement Behaviorist Theories, we have been conditioned to view behavior as a reflection of a child’s worth or value. Don’t believe me? Describe a time your child was a “good” kid. I’m sure your recollection may be similar to this:
My child was such a good helper. When we went grocery shopping, she stayed seated in the cart and did not throw a fit or scream or yell. So, I bought her a treat for her good behavior. (Okay, maybe not the last part, but I know plenty of people who do that!)
That entire scenario is focused on how the child behaved. And, you know what? That’s fine, but the problem isn’t that we prioritize behavior but how we do it. Instead of viewing each behavior “good” or “bad” as a time to teach our children, we use the “bad” as a time to take away things that are important to them. Do you ever take the time to find out WHY the child exhibited that behavior?
By the way, I use quotes around “good” and “bad” because those terms are subjective. A child is “good” if they do what we, the adult or parent, want them to do. On the contrary, a child is “bad” if they do not follow what we, the adult or parent, expect them to do. But, think about this – don’t we want our kids to question? Are all adults “good”? Unfortunately, there are pedophiles, rapists, and other unacceptable adults that may come in contact with my child. And, I don’t want my child to blindly follow what someone says just because they are an adult.
And, if you think Stranger Danger really works every time, watch this video.
How does it relate to the classroom?
Now, as a teacher, how can you utilize this positive parenting philosophy? Well, think about whether or not your school has a behavior discipline policy. Is the behavior policy proactive or reactive? Do children in your class lose privileges when they step out of line? Almost every school I have been in (every single one stateside) has had a discipline policy. When a student does X, then Y consequences ensues. Y consequence usually consists of some kind of detention. You do the crime, you pay the time. But, what actually happens during that time? Is someone working with the student one-on-one to teach the student(s) what is expected, how they could avoid this situation in the future? Usually, not.
Although, rather interestingly enough, there are schools that are introducing meditation rooms for students instead of detentions. Interested? I was, too. Read more about it here at CNN.com.
So, my challenge this week is rather lofty…
Your Challenge: When you have a defiant student in class or a student misbehaving, try talking and loving instead of taking and yelling. Find out why the misbehavior occurred. IF the student is not ready to talk, wait. Let the student know that you will be checking back in with them. And then, wait for the child to come to you. If they do not come back to you, go to them with gentleness and understanding. Make sure you do not mimic or minimize the reasons your student gives. You’re an adult and are better able to control your emotions. Remember that you are going to use this experience as a time to teach what is appropriate and what is not. You are not using this experience as a chance to dole out a punishment.
Please feel free to comment with a response to your challenge.
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