Positive Parenting Tips for the Under-Five Set

Overly strict parenting typically results in either rebellious, angry children or children who don’t develop a healthy ability to speak for themselves. Overly permissive parents risk raising children who have no healthy boundaries or lack appropriate social skills. 

In both cases, children are not receiving the kind of guidance they need to develop an intrinsic sense of worth and the ability to exercise self-discipline.

Positive parenting is, quite simply, respectful, consistent guidance without punishment that empowers children to make healthy, socially acceptable choices and develop executive functioning skills for life. 

Parenting experts tell us that one of the reasons children misbehave is that they feel powerless and discouraged. When parents use their larger size, louder voices and greater authority to overpower or shame a child, the child’s misbehavior may end temporarily, but this form of parenting can damage a child’s sense of self-worth in the long run.

So, what does positive parenting look like for children ages 2-5?

Get down on the floor and play daily. Children who feel connected to their parents want to please them. Play is a child’s natural way of exploring, expressing and connecting. Join your child in her world every day!

Set limits consistently, firmly but softly. Setting limits and reinforcing expectations is necessary, but do so with empathy for how your child is feeling. Here are some tips:

  • Get down on her level and lovingly look her in the eye: “You are feeling frustrated, I understand, but hands are not for hitting.”
  • Take her hand lovingly or hug her while you redirect: “You don’t want to stop playing. It’s hard to stop when you are having fun, I know.”
  • Make empathetic eye contact: “You are so frustrated right now.”
  • Place your hand on her back softly: “I need you to really listen, please.” 

Focus on the strength of your relationship, not the power of your authority. Remember, children who feel connected and loved are more likely to respond to redirection and rules. Don’t allow power struggles to develop, because it will only damage the connection between you and your child. Firm and consistent limits can be observed with love and empathy.

Avoid the word “no” while setting limits. Find ways to use the affirmative to encourage your child. “Yes, I understand you don’t want to stop playing with your blocks right now … The clock tells us it is time to clean up and leave so we can get to school on time … You can clean up these blocks all by yourself … Yes, it’s hard to stop doing something we are enjoying, but I know you can do it!”

The way you talk to your child will become your child’s inner voice. If you speak harshly to your child, she will be harsh with herself. If you are respectful and kind while firm about setting limits, she will learn to set firm but loving limits for herself.

With these positive parenting tips in mind, you set up your children to speak up for themselves while respecting healthy boundaries with others — empowering them to better navigate the world around them.

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