Building Resilience: Positive Parenting during a Pandemic
Positive Parenting during a Pandemic
Handling challenging behaviors with positive parenting strategies will help you manage your child’s behavior while keeping them in a safe, supportive environment. This brief article has information about nine key elements of positive parenting. This website has information about development and positive parenting ideas for different age ranges.
Some positive parenting tips include:
- Provide frequent praise for specific things that your child is doing well. Catch them being good! Being specific in your praise lets them know what behavior you appreciate and motivates them to do more of it. Examples include, “I really like that you shared your sandwich with your brother,” or “Thank you for putting away all of your toys when I told you to,” or “You are such a hard worker for finishing all of your homework today!”
- Remember that the word discipline really means to guide, though we often think it means to punish. We must explicitly teach young children (show them and tell them) what we want from them. For example, it’s better to tell young kids, “Put your feet back on the floor,” instead of, “Stop standing on the couch.” Young toddlers often benefit from redirection and distraction when they are getting frustrated or into things that are off limits. Read more about discipline with toddlers.
- Consider the reason behind your child’s misbehavior when you can. Did she not understand what was expected? Is he hungry? Are they tired? Did his feelings get hurt? Did she feel that we treated her unfairly? There are times when we can identify, and potentially address, the underlying causes of challenging behavior. In addition, we can empathize with the feelings behind their actions even as we set limits or redirect inappropriate behavior.
- When children are struggling emotionally and behaviorally, one option is to do a “Time In.” This involves acknowledging they are struggling, letting them know you’re there if and when they want to cuddle or talk, setting a behavioral limit if needed (“You can’t hit, but you can snuggle under your blanket or do some jumping jacks until you feel better”), and staying nearby while they (safely) vent their distress. Your quiet connection and presence can offer the support they need as they work through their emotions. Then, you can help them regroup and move on when they are calmer.
- Model the behavior you want. You are the most important person to your child and she will imitate things that you do. If you want her to learn to be gentle with the dog, model that behavior, help her do it, and praise her when she does it on her own. If you want him to talk respectfully to others, model talking respectfully yourself.
- Effective discipline is both firm and loving. According to the Circle of Security parenting model, children need parents and caregivers to be “bigger, stronger, wiser, and kind.”
- Remember that you can use natural consequences. For example, if a child repeatedly throws a toy, a natural consequence might be losing access to that toy for the next hour before getting another chance with it. Refusing to cooperate with bath-time might mean missing a chance to watch the half-hour of television that was supposed to happen next because you ran out of time. It’s helpful to let children know what the consequence will be if their behavior continues so they have fair warning!
- When children are angry, crying, or scared, they are in the emotional part of their brain. For children to be receptive to being taught or reasoned with, they need access to the more rational part of the brain. This is not easily accessible when they are experiencing strong feelings. In those moments when emotions are running high, focus on connection, comfort, and reassurance. This can be done with affectionate touch, a soft tone of voice, or other activities that you know are soothing, like rocking to music together. When your child is calm, those are moments when you can talk about behavior, problem-solve what to do differently next time or explain the reason for a rule.
- If your child is engaging in an unsafe behavior, it is important to immediately stop and remove the child from the danger. Let them know why the behavior is not okay or safe in a firm, controlled voice. If necessary, and if your child is at least 24 months old, you can use a short Time-Out to teach that aggressive or unsafe behavior is not acceptable. Three minutes of Time-Out is long enough, but you can start with one or two minutes if you’re teaching your child about Time-Out. The CDC offers tips about how to implement Time-Out effectively.
Many of us were spanked sometimes as children, but leaders in psychological thought now agree that spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical punishment can hurt children and do not help them behave well over the long run. In fact, spanking even results in changes in brain development and lower IQ scores. Physical punishment also takes away from children feeling safe and reduces the likelihood that they will come to you for help with problems.
Note: Mental health is always important, but during times of crisis it is paramount. The following guidelines are designed to support you in finding ways to cope, understanding how to practice self-care, and nurturing your connection with your child. Building Resilience: Parenting During a Pandemic is a joint effort between Louisiana Children's Museum and Tulane Institute of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health.
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