Positive Parenting has lately become quite the buzzword, garnering much attention. Especially applied to the Indian context, it would be fair to acknowledge that the role and responsibility of caring for children goes beyond parents, to include other family members. This means grandparents, siblings and other relatives, all of whom share a consistent relationship with a child and is involved in their upbringing. This network of people plays a key role in shaping the child’s life and future.
Research affirms that positive parenting during childhood is related to various aspects of healthy child development, with profound impact on the well-being of children, their academic success, overall social-emotional health, and happiness. The impact continues to leave its impression beyond childhood into adulthood.
A clearer definition of positive parenting includes being responsive and sensitive to the child’s needs, while providing consistent and unconditional love, respect, care, attention and safeguarding the best interest of the child via all means in a non-violent, non-threatening, conducive and secure environment.
Let’s break this the definition down to everyday actionables for all adult caregivers:
- Talk, talk, talk: Caregivers are often found to talk ‘at’ their child and not ‘with’ them, the former being more one-way and instructional. It is extremely important to find exclusive, distraction-free time every day to share about your day, feelings and experiences, and create a warm space for the child to open up and express, as you listen attentively.
- Schedule ‘Us’ time: Create a sustainable routine for engaging and playing with your child. Routines provide predictability, which in turn would help the child prep and look forward to spending time with you. Along with your child taking the lead, you can pre-plan how you want to spend your time together and what would you want to do: play a game, make a card or a painting, or step out for a walk.
- Praise and appreciate: Boost your child’s self-confidence and let them know that you are involved and observant by acknowledging and praising them. Instead of providing material rewards, use verbal praises to appreciate their effort and initiative. Placing greater value on the task and their engagement, than on the outcome, is key. Don’t hesitate in telling children how much you appreciate their hard work, consistency at a task, persistence to get it right or their confidence to try something new.
- Connecting before correcting: While trying to discipline children, it is good to maintain patience, kindness and empathy, along with being firm. Help the child feel supported and understood by listening to them, acknowledging their intent and desires but also being strong about what might be unacceptable. Provide them with alternative favorable choices and create boundaries on what cannot be done. For example, let your child know that you understand their desire to play more or you know how they do not have taste for a certain dish, but there may not be an alternative option available at the time. Giving choices the following day, however, is encouraged.
- Welcome to help: Children, no matter how young, have a natural propensity to look at their adults and copy their actions or want to become a part of what they are doing. Involving children in small, age-appropriate tasks, assigning safe responsibilities suited to their age and development, can help boost their self-esteem and confidence, as they feel valuable. As you encourage and appreciate, children develop a sense of ownership of the task and responsibility to hold it in routine. So, loop your child into daily household chores and let them take up the responsibility of pairing the socks or washing the vegetables, laying the table or sorting the laundry. You will watch your little task-masters bud with higher esteem, confidence, responsibility and learning in no time.
- You’re their hero: Your children look up to you as role-models and hold whatever you do as the most appropriate and the only way of doing things. You’re their hero and with that level of influence comes great responsibility. It, therefore, becomes vital to reflect on your daily actions and interactions to ensure your conscious/subconscious biases/apprehensions/attitudes do not get implicitly transferred to your children. Make it a practice to take a conscious pause before your actions/reactions/interactions. Structure your routine to build in some positive actions for self, society, family, which your children can feel inspired and learn from. You can also build a room for positive interactions, talking to children about what they may see in popular media or among other significant adults, challenging the biases and unfavorable actions/interactions.
- ‘Me’ time: As a consistent routine, take time out on a daily basis as a favor and responsibility not only to yourself but also as a practice your children can learn from -- to value and care for oneself. When children see you value ‘you’, they learn to value themselves, which is an extremely essential life-skill. Besides, taking time out for yourself can improve your overall mental well-being and the quality of your social-familial interactions. It bears a domino effect on your child learning by-example how to manage their daily life, situations, mood and struggles by taking some time off, dissociating from situations to help process and manage feelings in better and healthier ways.
Sukhna Sawhney is Lead for Early Childhood Education (ECE) - Content and Curriculum, Rocket Learning