3-Step Positive Parenting System: Respond instead of Reacting to Your Child

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I once had a day where my patience was tested. After attending her first “puppy class,” our puppy was famished, practically leaping for her meal. As I set down her bowl, my son, unaware of the situation, charged into the room with his noisy truck, startling the puppy and causing her to eat hastily.

Despite seeing the puppy’s reaction, he persisted. I repeatedly asked him to stop, but it wasn’t until I raised my voice close to his ear that he halted. The immediate effect was a startled, upset child questioning why I had yelled. Reflecting on my actions, I recognized my short fuse was due to my own stress and fatigue, not his behavior.

Even with my background in child development, I stumbled. It’s a stark reminder that striving for perfection in parenting is futile. What I needed was a straightforward, reliable strategy to employ even on my toughest days—a method that encompassed positive discipline principles, supported by science, and easy enough to share with my partner for consistent parenting.

A 3-Step Guide to Positive Parenting: Choose to Respond with A.C.T. (Acknowledge, Connect, Teach) Over Reacting

Step One: Acknowledge Your Child’s Emotions

The initial step towards positive discipline involves empathizing with your child’s experiences by acknowledging their feelings.

Acknowledging a child’s emotions is fundamental in positive parenting.

How to Practice Acknowledgment: Meet your child at eye level and inquire about their feelings. For younger kids, you might need to help them identify their emotions. Initially, focus on understanding their feelings without immediately addressing the behavior.

For instance, “I see you’re trying to engage the puppy with your truck. Do you want to play with her?”

Listening and empathizing, such as saying “that sounds difficult” or “I’ve felt that way too,” validates their feelings, fostering empathy and pro-social behavior.

Step Two: Connect Physically to Ease Their Emotions

After acknowledging their feelings, physical connection provides an emotional outlet, enhancing cooperation and reinforcing your acceptance of them, despite their heightened emotions.

Practical Ways to Connect: A comforting touch or a hug can convey your support, normalizing their feelings and offering reassurance.

This dual action of acknowledging and connecting lays the groundwork for emotional intelligence by teaching healthy emotional expression.

Step Three: Teach Positive Behaviors and Emotional Expression

With your child feeling recognized and connected, now is the moment to guide them towards positive behavior for future instances.

This approach, rooted in the original educational intent of “discipline,” empowers children towards self-motivation rather than relying on external control, which is less effective.

Teaching Strategies: Through negotiation, reasoning, and setting limits, you can guide your child in understanding the impact of their actions and exploring alternative behaviors.

For example, discussing the consequences of scaring the puppy while eating helps them understand the importance of maintaining calmness during meal times.

Integrating A.C.T. in Real Situations: The A.C.T. method may blend seamlessly in real-life scenarios, where acknowledging your child’s anger, connecting by stopping harmful actions, and teaching healthier expressions of emotion can occur almost concurrently.

Employing A.C.T. not only builds your child’s social and emotional skills but also boosts your confidence in handling parenting challenges, reducing the dwell time on difficult interactions and fostering a proactive rather than reactive parenting approach.