The New School House of Love: The Power of Positive Parenting

A new trend in positive discipline is changing the way moms and dads approach parenting.

In the old days, adults used to say regularly that children should be “seen and not heard.” The implication is that a child’s input wasn’t valid; adulthood was the only platform from which the conversation mattered.

This attitude might seem monstrous to us now, but there are still traces of the old disciplinary models at work in our culture today. When we say to our young boys that they need to “man up” or our kids should do something “because we say so,” we are showing them that they need to stuff whatever they are feeling and follow orders.

If we are talking straight, we all can admit to losing our cool with our kids, but if we regularly go negative on them, it can actually exacerbate conflict and escalate power struggles. We risk our kids not feeling safe coming to us when something goes wrong because they are afraid we will yell or judge.

Some parents are attempting to adopt a new method, whereby they take a deep breath, discuss the consequences of not following directions, and letting their child come to a conclusion. Now this seems like a tall order for most children who just want what they want, and it’s not expeditious to have a lengthy conversation about each time we have to leave the park or get ready for bed.

However, the goal here is to:

  • Remain neutral and lay out the facts.
  • Empower the child to make a choice.
  • Maintain good boundaries, meaning stay firm about what the options are.
  • Avoid burning out the word “No” by overusing it.

So what does that look like? Here are a few common parenting scenarios and what positive discipline looks like.

Scenario A: Your child hits another child on the playground. The other mother gets involved; you are really embarrassed. Traditional discipline would use negatives: “We do not hit other people!” or punishment: “Time out!”

Positive discipline says, “I need you to be kind to other kids on the playground,” which stresses a directive, rather than a warning or a restriction. You might also employ empathy in the form of a question: “How do you feel when someone hits you?” giving the child a chance to identify with the person he or she just slighted.

Scenario B: It’s time to leave a play date and your daughter wants to take a toy that doesn’t belong to her. To parent this situation, provide alternatives, “Maybe at the next play date, she can bring it to our house;” admit it’s disappointing and reinforce resect for others’ property.

Scenario C: Putting on clothes first thing in the morning commences daily howling, stomping around, being late out the door, and forgetting things. Positive discipline parents set the alarm for five minutes early and read a single book before even getting out of bed. It’s usually not the task that produces the tantrum– it’s the transition. So looking closely at the context of the regular meltdown can give you clues how to avoid it altogether.

You may still get the melt down just the same, but the difference is, you stay level, and illustrate what problem solving and compromise look like. We start to build these concepts into children’s vocabulary and they will eventually start to put them into action.

Reasonably, not every moment can be a teachable moment, but the idea is to try and open up opportunities for our kids to think critically and about their choices. We try to explain in age-appropriate terms why we are asking them to do these things. We give them a meta-view of what’s happening so they can understand their roles. The beautiful part of all this is that kids naturally want love, acceptance, forgiveness, and togetherness and if we see it as process, they will also. This new school of thought says that if we model inclusion and conflict-resolution instead of confrontation, that’s an effective way to help our kids get stronger.

The proof is in the pudding: parents who adapt this philosophy claim that their teens are collaborators, that they feel confident having difficult conversations with their peers and their parents, and they know how to respect boundaries. One smart mother said, “If you have a few different plans in your tool kit, and you maintain your flexibility, your child will learn to flow like that too.”



About Susie Almaneih

Susie Almaneih spent several years during her young adulthood teaching children dance at her church group, as well as other cultural-based activities. Susie now spends as much time as she can giving back to the families in her community. Over the years, this love for community has evolved into a deeper love for delivering positive and creative content and awareness to families of all ages.

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