Before I started blogging, I didn’t have a clue about all these emerging parenting trends. Empathetic parenting, helicopter parenting, positive parenting… So I had to read and read and read to catch up with the modern lingo.
(if you’re still at that stage where you aren’t quite sure what I’m talking about, here’s a website that explains it: Positive Parents)
Along the way, I also had to decide what makes sense in parenting and what doesn’t. Here is what I believe about Positive Parenting:
Positive Parenting has a lot going for it
It focuses on connecting with your child and demonstrating love and affection. These are great things, and I wish more parents focused on them. Positive parenting is all about parents respecting children, and children respecting parents. Again, good. It creates a great home environment that is peaceful and loving. Hurray! I’m all about peaceful and loving home environments.
Here is where positive parenting drops the ball.
Positive parenting doesn’t prepare children for real life.
There are a couple reasons for this.
First of all, positive parenting is anti-punishment.
Now, I’m aware that punishment has become a taboo word nowadays. Better to use a word like discipline, or consequences.
There are a lot of alternatives to punishment being used nowadays. Distraction and redirection are big (but see here why they don’t work!).
Here is the reality: The world works on punishment.
If you don’t do your homework, you fail the class. If you’re late to work, you get fired. If you break the law, you go to jail.
I went to school with and worked alongside far too many people who didn’t have a good grasp of actions and consequences. Don’t let your children be one of those people. It will hurt them for the rest of their lives.
Children need to know that negative actions have negative consequences. They aren’t born knowing everything they are and aren’t supposed to do. It’s your job as a parent to teach them that. And it feels unfair punishing a young child before they are able to understand exactly why they’re not supposed to do that action, but here is the reality: I would rather my child experience some discomfort because I don’t let her play in the street than refuse to punish and let her get hit by a car.
Whether we like it or not, the world operates on a punishment-based system.
And for those of you who are Christians and who are really disliking what I’m saying right now, let me quickly point out who set that system up:
I’m not about to argue with his parenting techniques.
[more on this subject in my post on punishment]
Secondly, respect in a family should not be administered equally.
Yep. You heard me. There should be more respect from the children towards the parents than from the parents towards the children.
Why would I say that?
Because in order to have a functioning system, the follower needs to have more respect for the leader. Without a disproportionate amount of respect, you end up with an equal playing field. And that gets into the area of permissive parenting, which I keep reading positive parents insisting they are NOT.
Children are not just little adults. They don’t have the same needs that adults do. I’m not against respecting children – not by any means. But I believe that respect looks different in children and adults. Children respect adults by listening to them and obeying them. Adults respect children by meeting their needs.
One of children’s primary (and often overlooked) needs is guidance. Now, I’m not saying that positive parenting doesn’t incorporate guidance. It does, and I am aware of that.
But guidance based on conversation and empathy often falls short.
Because children aren’t born knowing exactly what they need.
You’ve seen it. Your child is grumpy and whiny and weepy. It’s two hours past bedtime. What do they need? SLEEP! Do they think that’s what they need? Of course not. They have no idea why they feel icky. They just do. But at the same time, they also want to play with their brand new hot wheels track. As a good parent, what should you do? Put that child to bed! You know what’s best for them.
Communication between parents and children is a GOOD THING. Definitely. But at the end of the day, your determination of what is right for your child holds more validity than their determination.
Lastly, here is another thought trend in positive parenting that I can’t get behind.
I see this all over Pinterest – the idea that when children misbehave, they’re really just trying to communicate with the parents about their unmet needs.
First of all, this isn’t always true. Like I said before, children aren’t born knowing what they should and shouldn’t do. They have to figure it out along the way. And they like to figure this out by doing the action, and waiting to see how you react. If you want to call that communication, okay. I call it curiosity.
Your job then is to react in such a way that your child knows in the future whether or not to repeat that behavior.
But what about when they continue to do that behavior even after they know they aren’t supposed to? That isn’t a communication issue anymore. That’s a heart issue, and it needs to be dealt with, not just communicated about.
People do wrong things. This is a fact of life, and it isn’t exclusively just adults. Did you gossip about that woman at the office because you were trying to communicate your unmet emotional needs? No. You messed up. Because you’re human, and humans do wrong things sometimes.
Children also do wrong things sometimes, not always as a form of communication.
The job of a parent is to guide children into right thinking so that they do less wrong things and more right things. Sometimes this may involve punishing them. Sometimes it may feel like you’re disrespecting them. Sometimes communication isn’t enough.
Positive parenting has a lot going for it, but I don’t believe it adequately prepares children for real life. I think there is a lot to learn from the positive parenting movement – open communication, natural consequences, playing with children – but take it with a grain of salt.
As a Christian, I believe that God is the best father, and the best example of parenting we can look to. Humans are fallible, but God is not.
Here are two great articles from fellow bloggers about how to let God guide your parenting.
The Handbook that Works for Every Child from Uplifting Mayhem
How to Use the Bible as Your Parenting Manual from Intoxicated On Life