The idea of Positive Parenting is gaining momentum worldwide, with the focus on training and learning rather than punishing.
By Shaira Mohan
There’s a couple I know who I admire greatly for their unique parenting style. For two people who are constantly on the opposite sides of the net when it comes to parenting decisions and opinions both big and small, theirs is a unit that brings them miraculously closer together post the altercations and their children more balanced and mired with positive influences than ever before. I call it the Great Parenting Miracle.
It can’t be anything less than a miracle, surely. A coveted achievement that can only come one’s way following a litany of gruelling, hair-greying experiences sprinkled across years of being in the business of parenting. A miracle ardently sought by newbie parents like us who are still learning to walk the parenting line.
“His positivity deflects my proclivity to crawl down the negativity hole in the face of a crisis. Admittedly, he’s our hero.” This was the mother’s response when I asked her how they managed to stay sane and power through it all. Positivity is their magic potion.
I’ve had the positivity halo shine inconspicuously bright over my head these past few days too when my house help decided to abandon me and my six-month-old baby to fend for ourselves without any prior notice. For someone who has lived abroad for several years now and is perfectly at peace with a DIY life, I held this bull by the horns too and swore that this was going to be a piece of cake, to anyone who asked how I would manage with the husband away at work for the most part of the day. I had to swallow just a sliver of some humble pie, however, as while I knew I was doing a decent job, the exhaustion and lack of sleep at the end of the day couldn’t be ignored.
The reality is that not everyone can dare to dream about the luxury of help. Women from the lowest echelons of society are the real warriors who run a house, reproduce a cricket team worth of babies in most cases, cook, clean and even work on the fields—all without so much as a frown on their faces. Or they are just too “comfortably numb” to show it.
Yamunabai, a 60-year-old Village Health Worker (VHW) in the village of Ghodegaon echoes a similar situation of women in her village. Seemingly one to always view the glass as half full, she paints an unexpectedly optimistic picture. She explains with half a smile that earlier women did not have equal rights and many including herself were subject to ill-treatment by their in-laws stemming from, more often than not, the issue of dowry or gender-biases. But now, women are being given more liberties and when it comes to tending to their offspring, she proclaims proudly that there is no greater joy and fulfillment. “When it comes to parenting and bringing up families and children, we women are sturdier, happier and more successful than you might think,” she says in jest with a short laugh.
Attitude, as they say, is half the battle won. If these lesser privileged women can keep it together through all they endure, surely our constant negativity in the confines of our air-conditioned rooms would be perceived as adult tantrums by the likes of Yamunabai.
The idea of Positive Parenting is gaining momentum worldwide and also bequeaths a flavour of its concept to discipline. The main premise of Positive Parenting is training and learning rather than punishing. Based on the parenting and disciplining philosophies of Viennese psychiatrists Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and more recently championed and refined by Dr Jane Nelson (California-based Marriage and Family Therapist and Author), the concept of Positive Parenting emphasises on mutual respect and learning for the future rather than punishing for the past, which has been proven to show better results in a child’s emotional, academic, mental growth as well as behaviour.
A friend emulates this style of parenting and swears by it. Although punishment is an effective tool to dish out on occasion when the lesson to be drilled is that the terrible thing done by the child should not be repeated and she does use it as a form of “Parenting on the offence”, she finds that sitting her child down instead, explaining their fault and the reason why it is wrong calmly, gently but firmly and redirecting her towards a different hobby has been helpful.
I compared this with the contrasting parenting style of another acquaintance who is of the strong opinion that punishment is paramount. “We have always invested in some time-out time because it instills the fear of not repeating the mischievous behaviour.” She also revealed how this approach had resulted, more often than not, in acting out, tantrums and repeat offences that carried on well into the “terrible teens”.
An open, two-way corridor to dialogue and discussion is key, according to experts. Time-in instead of time-out allows parent-child bonding to enhance by doing an activity together like reading, colouring or solving a puzzle. Perhaps the most important revelation of all is that parents need to introspect too. Depressed, stressed and argumentative parents will pass on the same vices to their wards.
As I prepare to embark upon the different stages of this journey, I hope to be able to inculcate positive parenting and steer course correction through the inroads of positive communication.
In the words of Helen Keller, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow”. Or at least for a while, the shadow appears to be diminished.