The term “positive parenting” seems to be a well worn cliché nowadays. We may resent being told to be positive, as it may imply that we are doing something wrong if we are not smiley happy parents all the time. As a mom who suffers from depression and is raising a child with special needs, believe me: I am definitely not a perky Pollyanna who feels parenthood is always the ultimate joy-fest. There is great joy in parenting but there is also a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. It is one of the hardest jobs out there. Positive parenting isn’t about fake smiles or saccharine sayings. It is about staying in the ring so you can have the emotional energy and stamina to keep giving to your kids.
So let’s get real and talk about what positive parenting really means and why it is important. Positive parenting is a way to survive. If you want to stay reasonably sane and keep getting out of your bed each morning, you have to adopt a philosophy which helps you get through the day. Sometimes this requires a bit of an attitude adjustment.
I am going to tell you ways you can achieve this which have helped me over the years.
1. Know that your child really isn’t out to get you. I know that on some days it may seem that way. If you have a child who has behavioral problems it may seem that they understand all of your buttons and how to push them. But children who exhibit behavior problems aren’t really thinking about you, they are thinking of getting their own needs met. Some of their needs may seem extreme, perhaps for needing attention, and their ways of getting it may be entirely inappropriate. But to think that they have it in for you only fosters resentment and anger on your part.
Think instead: My child is having problems today. How can I help him or her get his or her needs met in an appropriate way?
2. Stop thinking that the world is against you and your child. It sure may seem that way on some days. Your child has a behavioral problem in a public place and you get “the look” from strangers. You may hear complaints about your child from teachers or other parents. It becomes really hard to think that the whole world is not against you. But it is not true. The other folks may just not understand. And the thing is they don’t have to. You can’t expect everyone else on the planet to know about ADHD or autism or any other type of special need. Other people simply see behavior and they make their judgments, inaccurate as they may be. It is up to you to explain and educate as you are able.
Think instead: They don’t understand. It is not other people’s job to know everything about ADHD. I can help educate others if and when I feel it will help my child.
3. Banish the words “always” and “never” from your vocabulary. When we talk about our child and particularly when we have a rough day, we may use descriptors which make us feel hopeless. Here is an example, “My son is never going to succeed in school. He is always screwing up.” Words such as this are not helpful to your child or you. Nobody is one way all of the time. When you use words such as always and never, you set up a no-win situation where you have already made up your mind about your child’s future. If you begin to believe your own words you won’t allow yourself to see opportunities where your child is actually doing well.