Making the decision to have a child is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
Over ten years ago, I first started working with preschool children as an assistant teacher. I was 21 and had no experience. Truth be told, I thought looking after 2-year-olds was all about finger painting and playdough. I’d given little thought to the idea that it would mean managing a group of 15 little people, get them to eat, play and coexist together, while following instruction when needed AND exploring the world in order to blossom & grow. Was I in for a shock…
I stumbled on Positive Discipline early on. During my first year teaching preschoolers -which was supposed to be a one-year temp job until I found an IT position- I came across upon what is known as the classic “difficult child”. This is the kid who makes teachers wonder whether they’ll get a quiet day if he stays home! He was into tantrums, biting, hitting, throwing things… you name it. Every. Single. Day. I was at my wit’s end -and even panicking- as a young 21 year-old at her first job. I felt I needed something different to deal with this situation, so I signed up for a Positive Discipline course.
Of course, I went in hoping the instructor would solve all my problems by giving me a model answer for every situation, just like parents do when they come to me now. Instead she gave me an understanding of why and how to discipline positively. The results of learning those positive techniques were transforming and, dare I say it, life-changing. Within four weeks – which honestly, felt like forever- that little boy went from being a Tazmanian devil to a cooperative and calmer child. It wasn’t just about compliance… He started making friends, playing & talking more. He became a happier child overall. This set me on a path and a career where my goal is spreading these amazing positive parenting strategies, that I’ve personally seen succeed, to other parents.
As an expat mom of a 3-year-old boy and a little baby girl in Munich, I know what it’s like to be raising your child with no or limited family support. When you feel like you can’t manage, who do we turn to for advice? When your toddler doesn’t listen, how should you react? All parents face these questions but it’s exceptionally difficult when your support system is miles away or in a different time zone.
Positive Parenting can help you in those moments when you’re asking “what do I do?”.
What is Positive Parenting?
Many people assume Positive Parenting means letting your child do whatever he/she wants: to not have rules or enforce them, to plead with children or just not let them do what they don’t want to do. In truth, that is not what Positive Parenting is.
Positive Parenting is a parenting style that balances both being kind and respectful with your child and being firm and setting limits. Rewards, punishments, threats, and bribes are substituted with more respectful, communicative and age-appropriate methods that teach children socially acceptable behavior. Children are taught accountability and how to be effective members of their community. Positive Parenting is about being considerate and respectful to everyone involved which means taking your needs as a parent into consideration as well as your child.
Let’s make something clear: we are not talking about perfect parenting. It’s about making sure you have the understanding, resources and your Positive Parenting toolbox to reach into when you do want to do something. To not ask “what do I do?” but to ask “which solution is right for my family at this moment?”.
Does it really make a difference? We turned out “fine”!
Why should we make such an effort to include Positive Parenting methods? Isn’t it only a trend? The short answer is NO. Positive Parenting is more than a trend and YES, we need to implement it. Research on the long-term effects of different parenting methods have proven Positive Parenting helps young children become more confident, independent and have better self-esteem. They tend to be more socially responsible children and adults. They are more likely to do better academically and have better peer and romantic relationships as adults than those being raised in a very strict or a completely permissive parenting environment.
So, what now?
Positive Parenting is about striking the balance between being strict and compromise. It’s about knowing when to let go and be flexible and when to stand your ground and insist on the rules. This is a continuous challenge for parents and, yes, it also means a lot of work. The key to making things easier for you is to be a proactive parent rather than a reactive parent. Finding out what your child is and isn’t capable of at different phases of life is an important first step to set realistic expectations. Next, is finding age-appropriate Positive Parenting strategies and understanding when, how and why they can work. With these two points, you’ll be able to find out what works best for your family, yourself and your child and adapt as your child gets older or as situations change.
Finally, remember that Positive Parenting is not perfect parenting. It’s a continuous journey for all of us. Some days are easier or harder than others. Some days it may seem like you, as a parent, are doing everything right but your toddler still has a tantrum. That’s OK! It doesn’t mean you’re failing. It just means today was an off day or week or moment. Always remember to give yourself a break and think about what you can learn from that situation to make it better.
For the Little Munich Black Book community, I’ve put together a series to get you started on understanding key points of your child’s development and some must have Positive Parenting tools to start you off on your parenting journey. Look out for the second article of this series soon!
Jailan Heidar MSc. is a mama and parent educator. Although her passport says Egyptian, with a childhood in Egypt, half Swedish siblings and living in Europe since she was 22, she feels like a cultural melting pot! Mom to two little ones who keep her on her toes practicing what she teaches, she’s waiting for the day when she and her hubby can share their travel, foodie and cinema-going love with their kids (she’s only been twice in the last 3 years!). These days her moment of zen is doing yoga when she can and enjoying a hot chocolate after her little munchkins are asleep.
Photo credits: feature image by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash, school items photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash flying toddler photo by Thiago Cerqueira on Unsplash & cuddle photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash