Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting

by | Oct 9, 2020 | Parenting | 0 comments

Always learning.

Hi! Dr. Waipa here. This past weekend was the National Conference for the American Academy of Pediatrics, but rather than being held live in sunny San Diego, it was virtual. Still, it was a tremendous event with amazing speakers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Paul Offit, and Dr. Ibram X. Kendi! I was for sure fan-girling listening to them speak. Attending conferences and completing designated learning activities are one way that we doctors keep up with the many changes in medicine. Not only is it required to maintain our license and board certification, but itʻs an important opportunity to stay at the top of our game and not just be content thinking we already know enough. No such thing.

The hot topics at this year’s conference were, of course, all things COVID19, political advocacy for children, and the impact of racism on child health. There were tons of totally mind-blowing topics, and we’re anxious to share all the things we learned with you. One of the sessions I was really drawn to was “Positive Parenting Strategies,” and I’ll share some of the strategies here that made the most sense to me, just more tools to add to your parenting toolbox.

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What is positive parenting?

You’ve probably heard this term a lot without knowing specifically what it is (at least I didn’t). Basically, the positive parenting approach emphasizes the importance of the child-parent relationship and encourages parental behaviors so children can easily love, trust, explore, and learn.

Positive parenting emphasizes:

  • trying to understand your child’s point of view
  • being interested and sensitive to your child’s cues
  • recognizing you won’t be perfect and missteps are normal
  • celebrating your child’s strengths, abilities, and capacity to learn
  • setting limits and providing age-appropriate guidelines
  • finding joy in moments of connection with your child
  • working toward balancing your child’s needs with your own needs
  • regulating your own feelings before responding to your child’s behavior
  • seeking help when you need it

Being curious.

Lately, my two year old daughter Wren has been doing something different. Whenever she’s done something she knows is wrong or whenever she doesn’t want to do something I ask her to, she makes immediate puppy-dog eye contact, juts out her bottom lip, and says “Mommy, Wrenny wants to sleep.” You might just think she’s tired, but oh no, she could’ve just woken up from a nap and still responds this way. It’s been a pattern I’ve noticed and am curious about.

The speakers suggest trying to put yourself in your child’s shoes and see what they might be getting at with their different behaviors. Certain actions can clue you in to when your child is hungry, sleepy, frustrated, or even happy. One method they recommend is trying to put the child’s experience into words: “Mommy wants you to do something but you don’t want to do it right now.” Another is speaking through the child’s feelings: “Mommy is hugging you and that makes you feel better.” 

I don’t quite know the answer to Wren’s sudden sleep habit, but I’m thinking she’s trying to get some snuggles instead of being scolded. It’s kind of fun being curious about the behavior instead of just frustrated/irritated by it (which also happens).

Research also shows that when parents are able and willing to imagine their child’s thoughts and feelings, their children develop better security and attachment, have better language and play abilities at 2 years old, and have better understanding of other’s thoughts and feelings at age 4! Those are some awesome skills that we’d love our children to have, and all we have to do is be curious and imaginative.


One statistic that was impactful: the duration of time that infants and mothers spent in “shared pleasure” (you know those moments when you just can’t get enough of that baby smile and stare and play and babble with them … the best!!) is related to improved social-emotional outcomes at age 2!! Isn’t that fascinating? The relationship and connection and closeness you establish with your child when they’re just an infant help shape their ability to socialize and manage their emotions when they’re a toddler.

Try to find moments, even if they’re brief, to positively connect with your child every day. It can be hard in our busy and multi-tasking lives and harder when your child is older than an infant and a bit more independent, but every moment of connection strengthens your relationship.

Limit-setting is loving.

There are developmentally appropriate expectations at each age, and when you’re more aware of what your child’s capabilities are you’re more likely to have positive experiences with them.


  • 18 month old pushes a stool across the living room to climb up and open a cabinet: He’s an eager learner and is copying you; he knows there are lots of things to explore in there!
  • Wren has a tantrum when I won’t give her my phone: It can take a while for children to learn to accept that they can’t always have what they want. Tantrums are normal and not harmful, and it’s another opportunity for her to learn how to regulate her emotions (eventually).
  • 2 year old not following directions: Kids at this age definitely understand what you’re saying but might have a harder time stopping their bodies from doing what they want to do instead, especially if they’re in the middle of another activity.

At Keānuenue Pediatrics, as a part of every well-child visit, we make sure to talk to you about what’s developmentally normal for your child now and what will likely change by the next time we see you. We talk about sleep regression at 4 months, whining and fussing at 6 months, stranger and separation anxiety at 9 months, temper tantrums starting at 12 months, and expected regression with big changes (new siblings, new school, etc). By setting these expectations, you’ll know what to anticipate and be able to start strategizing for how you can handle what’s coming (keeping in mind, of course, that your child is unique and may not always do what we expect)!

Some limit-setting strategies:

  • Be loving and empathetic: “Stop standing up on the chair!!” –> It’s dangerous to stand on the chair, I’m afraid you’ll fall. Do you want to show me how you can hop on the floor like a bunny?
  • Provide choices within limits: “No, you can’t have my phone!” –> You can’t use mommy’s phone right now, but we can read a book or play with playdoh. Which do you want to do?
  • Use first/then: “Put your toys away or we’re not going anywhere!!” –> I know you want to go outside, but let’s put your toys away first, then we can go outside and play.

Parental self-care is important.

I will echo Dr. Honda’s mantras here. Parenting is hard and stressful, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Here are some strategies to regulate your own emotions, which can help kids learn how to do the same:

  • Know your triggers (for me, it’s whining… can. not. take. it). Just being aware of your triggers gives you a better chance of controlling your response.
  • Take a break. Call it a mommy or daddy moment, but it’s not life or death to intervene, then maybe just take a moment to think through how you want to respond after you take a deep breath.
  • Taking time away is not selfish, it’s not abandoning your child, it’s actually protecting your relationship.

The zero to three web site has a great mindfulness resource page that also discusses how you can teach your child mindfulness exercises to help regulate any “big” emotions. You can find it here.