Write me: rebecca@positive-parents.org
Photo credit: Creative Child Magazine

Raising humans is a complex task, yet many parents hone in on one element alone – discipline. Becoming so intently focused on managing behavior narrows our picture significantly, and we lose sight, and therefore the intentions, of the many other elements that effect how our children grow.

Among these other elements are the home atmosphere and family culture we provide, our values and beliefs and how we live them out in front of our kids, the relationships we have with others in and outside of the home, the way we manage our own emotions and behavior, how we communicate both verbally and nonverbally, and the beliefs we hold about raising children and the thoughts that play over and over in our minds about our worth and theirs.

I have addressed all of this in my book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, because I believe we need to broaden our view of parenting if we want to raise whole-hearted humans.

I’m not the first person to liken parenting to gardening, but I think it’s a very good analogy to make this point. To grow healthy plants, they need to be in the proper environment. They need water, air, and sun. Pulling the weeds in the garden helps to showcase the beauty of the growing plants and allows more space for them to grow.

What would happen to the plants if the gardener pulled the weeds consistently but failed to provide sunlight, water, air, or the right environment? There may be no weeds, but the plants themselves will also wither away.

And so it is with children. Correcting misbehavior is like pulling the weeds. The purpose is to allow room for the child to grow healthy and strong in character and to showcase the beauty within him, but if we aren’t providing the other elements, he, too, will wither in spirit. The plant’s potential will never be realized without tender care and the proper nutrients, and the same is true for a child.

How to Grow a Human:

Provide the Right Environment

1. Safe for Play:
Set up a “yes” environment by properly child-proofing common areas so that your child can freely and safely explore. Keep it simple, organized, and clutter-free. Intentionally choose play things that are engaging and provide the right amount of challenge. Provide open ended toys and materials so the child can freely create and pretend, and also include sensory items like play dough, paint, and sensory bins.

2. Emotionally Safe:
In an emotionally safe environment, children are both free to express their emotions while being taught how to express them emotionally and are free from emotional assault by parents, siblings, or others by means of shaming, teasing, put-downs, etc. Set firm boundaries on how siblings are allowed to treat each other and don’t wave off teasing and name calling as “normal sibling behavior.”

3. Physically Safe:
Physical discipline is not only unnecessary but often damaging. If you need alternatives, click here.

4. Family Culture:
The home environment should be calm and inviting, so constant tension or stress needs to be addressed and resolved. Create and keep meaningful family traditions and rituals and use positive communication skills.

Give Them the Sun

Your example is their guiding light. The way you manage your emotions, handle disappointment and failure, maintain composure during difficult situations, choose joy, see the positive, and act toward them and others teaches them more than all the lectures they’ll ever hear.

Affirmation is Like Rain

Best-selling author, L. R. says, “Words of recognition and appreciation to a child are like sunshine and rain to a flower.”

  1. Speak words of life to them. Express your belief often that they have an amazing future, and that they are good, kind, and capable.
  2. Thank them when they are helpful. Catch them being good and verbalize your appreciation for that.
  3. Acknowledge their heart. Show them you know they have good intentions, even if they made a mistake in judgement.
  4. Praise them genuinely and specifically.
  5. Let them hear you say nice things about them to others.

Unconditional Love is a Breath of Fresh Air

Children need close attachment with us. They need to feel connected. Threatening to withdraw warmth, attention, or presence in the name of discipline causes them to enter a state of unrest. Even though our love is always unconditional, kids don’t perceive it that way if we withdraw from them.
When we can provide rest – a state of knowing they are safe in our love and attachment and that nothing can separate them from our love – they are free to grow. Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, “All growth emanates from a place of rest” and that “children must never work for our love; they must rest in it.” See his full video on this here.

Let’s widen our lens and look at the big picture of parenting so that we can grow a happier, healthier generation of humans.

This post was originally published at Creative Child Magazine.

Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide

Positive Parenting is more than a parenting book. It’s a guide to human connection. Rebecca provides a roadmap for creating happy, deeply connected families where children and parents alike are able to rise to their fullest potential.”  –Amy McCready, author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic

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Rebecca Eanes, is the founder of positive-parents.org and creator of Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond. She is the author of 3 books. Her newest book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, will be released on June 7, 2016 and is available for pre-order now. The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting and a co-authored book, Positive Parenting in Action: The How-To Guide to Putting Positive Parenting Principles in Action in Early Childhood are both best-sellers in their categories on Amazon. She is the grateful mother to 2 boys.