Michelle Carlson is a professional parenting coach based in Los Angeles. Yes–that’s a real thing!
I found her on Instagram (@peaceandparenting) and was pretty impressed/interested/amazed at her posts. I soon learned she was teaching under the umbrella of Positive Parenting. I did a post about it recently on BabyCenter, but I got a lot of requests to dive deeper so I thought I would publish the full Q&A with Michelle here.
Here’s a side note from Michelle: “Positive Parenting I believe has become a “catch all” phrase for a bigger umbrella of Positive/Connective/Peaceful Parenting. So when I am answering these questions I am thinking of them all in the same light.”
In your opinion, what are the main tenants of positive parenting?
Positive Parenting relies on the connection between the parent and child to encourage kids to follow a parents lead and direction. It does not use punitive measures to “get” kids to behave. Consequences, bribes, threats and enticements are resisted giving way for more positive and moral intrinsic motivation. Parents model desired behaviors, empathize with feelings of upset, spend quality one on one time with their children each day, set kind loving and appropriate limits when necessary, understand how to regulate their own emotions so they can come calmly to parenting and love their kids unconditionally. Meaning when a child makes a misstep that misstep is treated as such…a mistake, something that parents view as normal and appropriate, something that does not enrage them to take punitive measures.
What are the origins of positive parenting?
I think it’s hard to say exactly where the idea of Positive/Connective/Peaceful Parenting came from, but there are many early promoters of this approach. Patty Wipfler of Hand in Hand Parenting, Dr. Laura Markham of Aha Parenting, Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzel, Pam Leo, Alfie Kohn just to name a few. I studied the Hand in Hand approach with Patty and she began her work over 40 years ago.
Why choose positive parenting?
Positive Parenting creates a venue that nurtures a strong bond between parent and child enabling families to find harmony. A house filled with love and kindness promotes loving individuals who ultimately become well-adjusted society members. It is not, however, permissive parenting. Positive parents set kind limits and let kids know what behaviors are expected. Children in these households are more apt to take direction from their parents because the connection is deep and the child knows their parent is on their side, does things out of love and is supportive. We want kids to choose the right thing to do because they know right from wrong not because they fear being punished. Studies show that kids who are punished will likely behave but when the “punishments” or “rewards” are taken away the “good” behavior also goes to the way side. Additionally, studies show kids who are punished tend to lie for fear of punishments.
What reading do you recommend on the topic?
Listen by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Shore
Peaceful Parent Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham
Parenting From the Inside Out by Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzel M Ed.
Unconditional Parenting Alfie Kohn
How is positive parenting different from what most parents do?
Conventional Parenting is rooted in the ideas of punishments and consequences often times threats and bribes. These things will work for some kids but what are the long term affects? Will kids resent adults who manipulate to get what they want? Perhaps children will learn to be manipulators or to gravitate towards those who are manipulative because that is what they have been conditioned to follow? I think the biggest travesty that I have seen is at some point kids no longer listen to their parents and disregard the punishments or disregard their parents. What is it we would like to teach the next generation? How do we want our grandchildren treated? I believe kindness, respect and morality are the backbone to a harmonious society, the only way to really teach those things is by modeling.
What would you say to parents who have older kids and want to start using Positive Parenting methods? Is it possible?
I have had clients begin this method with 10,12 and even 13-year-olds. You’d be surprised at how quickly kids notice and adjust. I began when my oldest was in Kindergarten and youngest in preschool. It’s never too late. We have relationships with our kids forever. Also my dad learned this method at 65 and uses it with my sister and I now after years of punishments.
What do you think, moms and dads?? What are some tenants you would implement? What pieces of this style baffle you?