Positive Parenting is an approach to parenting that emphasises the importance of communication and seeks to avoid power struggles. Parent educator Jailan Heidar writes about this approach for Passionate Parenting:
The question I get asked a lot is when do I start practicing positive parenting with my child? Most of the parents I meet in my workshops are there because they’ve already started experiencing challenging situations with their little ones that they’d like to find solutions for. I often hear comments like, “Oh I wish I had done that earlier!”, or “That’s very easy, I could have done that!‘ and parents wondering when and how they could have started on the path of positive parenting with their child.
I’ve just had my own little boy 5 months ago and have also found myself thinking a lot about including my positive parenting practices with him every day. I’ve found that it’s incredibly valuable to start getting myself in the habit early on even if it seems too early. Here are some of the tips I often advise parents to start practicing with their babies and which I am also getting myself into the daily habit of using.
Give your child space to be independent: we often fall into the trap of continuously entertaining babies and then wonder why as toddlers they can’t seem to play on their own. Like everything else these skills develop early on in life and your baby will actually benefit from some independent play time. It’s OK to leave your baby on her playmat with some toys or a baby mobile to learn to play on her own and self-explore. Make sure you keep her within eyesight so that she is reassured and that you respond to her if she starts fussing. Sometimes all she might need is simply a different toy. If she’s still fussing sometimes the solution can be no toys at all and just quiet self-exploration. This is a great time for her to discover how her hands and feet taste and how her body works together! Being able to happily and contently self-entertain is a wonderful, lifelong skill you are helping your child develop.
Set up an appropriate environment early on: One of the most frequent questions I get from parents is how they can avoid saying ‘No’. One of the simple yet effective things you can do is to minimize the situations where you will have to use ‘No’. Start by setting up a baby-friendly environment: remove any interesting objects that your baby shouldn’t be touching (grandma’s old vase), offer an easy alternative by keeping your baby’s toys and other household items she can play with within her reach and use redirection instead of saying ‘No’ to redirect her to a more appropriate activity. For example “The phone is not for playing. Here, you can use your toy phone instead”. As your baby grows older you can start bringing back items as she starts developing more impulse control.
Talk to your baby: It can be difficult to talk to a baby who doesn’t yet talk back or doesn’t yet understand your every word but it’s important to get into that habit early on. Babies develop their receptive language skills long before they can express themselves verbally, so it’s a good chance for you to start talking to your baby from birth. Use simple words for daily recurring events like changing her diaper, bath time or feeding. Instead of distracting her, try saying “we’re almost done” if she gets fussy while getting her dressed, and then talk about which hands, feet etc. are left. Letting her know that you’re “all done” before taking her out of the bath can help you avoid having a screaming baby who thought she still had a few more minutes left in the bath. With repetition, she’ll learn that the words are associated to the event and she’ll know what to expect. This can help you both deal with challenging situations in a non-stressful way. As she grows older, you’ll both develop good communication together based on experiences when she knows you notice, acknowledge, and respond to her signals and she will learn to wait for your response and communicate back.
Set routines and rules early on: Routines and rules don’t mean being strict – it’s simply another way of letting baby know what to expect from you and her surroundings. One of the simplest routines is having a ‘wake-feed-play-repeat’ layout for the day which adjusts itself as your baby grows. Parents of toddlers often have problems with bedtime routine so setting one for your baby can be helpful for both of you as she grows older. Try having a ‘dinner-bath-story-bedtime’ routine. Its understandable that there will occasionally be night when you’ll need to skip one step. In our home we decided to always try to have storytime right before bed, so even if our little boy doesn’t have a bath or we are out he still gets his story while in his sleeping bag and then goes to bed. As your baby grows older you can adapt, change and add things to your routine that suit you both. Maybe your baby will need more time to play in the bath to help her go to bed easily or maybe she’ll want five stories read to her instead. These are things you can explore together as she grows.
Knowing what to expect of your baby My husband found that being aware of baby’s developmental stages and knowing in advance what baby will go through was very helpful for him. Knowing what your baby is developmentally capable of can help you respond to your baby more positively when things get stressful, as well as avoid comparisons with other children’s development. Knowing what your child is capable of can also help you have realistic expectations of her with issues like self-soothing, sleeping through the night and separation anxiety. Staying one step ahead of her development as she grows older will help you deal more calmly with common issues like toddler tantrums, night terrors and potty training, instead of feeling anxious about it.
Take care of yourself: This is one of the most overlooked aspects of being a parent yet it’s one of the most important! If you aren’t rested enough, are feeling anxious or are still dealing with the baby blues it can be extremely difficult to even think about being positive when things are stressful with your baby. Taking care of yourself is crucial for both of you. Try to communicate with your partner about your feelings and needs. Let go of the feeling that everything needs to be perfect – we are not Super-moms. It’s OK if the dishes aren’t done for the day or the laundry piles up a bit, if that means getting some rest. If you can afford it, consider hiring some help so you don’t have to think about what needs to get done around the house and you can just focus on yourself and your baby. Do take the help of family members or friends when offered, if it will help you relax. It’s also important for your child to learn that Mama is a person with needs of her own as well and sometimes needs time for herself.I hope these tips help you feel more relaxed about including positive parenting practices in your day with your little one.