The Magic of Positive Parenting (and How to Start)

mom and daughter

We all want to be awesome parents. Before we had kids, we pictured ourselves holding our little ones, giant smiles on our faces and theirs. We expected great things: parenting with ease and eschewing all the mistakes, all the tantrums, all the yelling we saw our friends and family experiencing. We would do better, obviously. What could be so hard?

Certainly the desire to parent well is in us. But when every day is a land mine of whining and cheerios strewn across the floor, how DO we parent well? How do we find our way back to those calm, happy parents in our pre-kid dreams? Should we just be letting those pipe dreams go, already?

No, absolutely not. Hold on to those dreams with both hands and a whole heart. We CAN parent well, and we can be happy about. Maybe not every single second, but there's always room for improvement. Let's take a look at four popular positive parenting strategies and see if we can work a little magic back into this parenting gig.

mom and son

Positive Parenting

Belonging and significance. The positive parenting method, developed by Alfred Adler a century ago, is based on these two tenets. According to parenting expert Amy McCready, Adler's philosophy was this: "Children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect." If a child feels he belongs in his family, he will act out less. If she feels she is significant, she will act out less. Misbehavior, then, is your kid telling you something is missing because, after all, a child will get attention one way or another. (Don't we know it!)

How it Works

Begin with your preschooler's very next misdemeanor. What is underneath the tantrum or the spaghetti thrown on the floor? Maybe the guy just needs a nap and not a lecture, or maybe a hug and some close time since you've been working a lot lately. There IS some underlying motive for your little one's behavior. Sure, it's a pain to Sherlock it out, but you will see longer term results, and you will be building a connection instead of a reaction. Once you've weathered the storm, work on developing belonging and significance with your child. Does my preschooler feel like part of the family? Are we doing things together or am I off in my iphone world? Does my kid feel significant? Is he helping with household chores, even at two years old? Does he feel like he matters? These twin tenets of belonging and significance will make a difference in how your little guy feels about himself, which will make your job a whole lot easier.

Attachment Parenting

AP, developed by Dr. Sears in the 90's, is the philosophy of keeping babies into children close to their parents, both physically and emotionally. He advocates for baby wearing, breastfeeding, and keeping baby close for sleeping (even bedsharing). The benefit of attachment parenting is all that closeness will give you a keener intuition of your kiddo's needs, allowing you to meet those needs sooner and hopefully avoid bigtime misbehavior.

How it Works

Well, begin with a look at how close you are keeping your kids. Are they getting lots of snuggles and talk time with you? Do they feel close to you or are you experiencing lots of leg-hanging and whining? You don't have to invite the whole family into your bed at night (unless you want to!), but make an effort to connect physically as well as emotionally with your little ones as often as possible. Listen to their crying and fussing with an open ear. What are they getting at? If your two-year-old cries at night while you're putting her to bed, what is she trying to tell you? Maybe she just needs one more story and a little extra snuggling before she feels confident to go to sleep. Small investments of time and energy can pay big, magical dividends.

Elephant Parenting

Inadvertently creating yet another style of parenting, Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar relates her upbringing in India to that of adult elephants caring for their young: plenty of nurturing, protection, and encouragement while their little ones are still tiny (according to Lisa Beach of It is a philosophy that says kids will grow soon enough and need not be pushed into independence before they are ready. Benefits to you? You can let go of all those age-based expectations and just let your kids be kids.

How to Start

Little loves not talking by a certain age? They will; choose not to worry. Not ready to be away from you yet? They will get there. Hold them close, encourage encourage encourage them, and when you step on the 37th Lego your 4-year-old left on the floor, draw him over to your side and get down on the floor to pick it up together.

Slow Parenting

An approach often linked to journalist Carl Honore, the Slow Parenting philosophy is described by Lisa Beach this way: "This approach de-emphasizes electronics and overscheduling in favor of simplistic toys that encourage creativity, playing outside and in nature, spending time with friends and family, and allowing kids the freedom to pursue their own interests." You're familiar with Slow Food; Slow Parenting is basically the same idea, only kids, not meals.

How to Start

Took a hard look at your calendar, your living room floor, your devices, and start cutting back the excess. Our world has gotten so fast-paced, so driven. Childhood, especially youngest childhood, is not and should not be a race. You have permission to slow down and savor it. Your kids will relax; you will, too.

mom and toddler boy

All four of these parenting styles focus on staying positive, tuning in to your kids, and following your intuition. Try one of these philosophies to add a little magic to your parenting!