January 12th


parent and child

In recent years, research has shown the power of positivity in parenting. But did you know that this much-talked-about approach can also benefit your co-parenting relationship? In this article, we’ll dispel some of the common myths about positive parenting, and discuss ways to repurpose the strategies that work so well with your child by applying them with your parenting partner.

The Gist

Positive parenting is an approach to caring for children that can have many useful applications for co-parents as well. This parenting philosophy leads with warmth and affection, respects children as individuals, and shows empathy for their feelings. It promotes positive reinforcement and correcting misbehavior by teaching better choices and life skills, rather than punishing or inducing fear. It also encourages parents to accept that they can only control their own selves and recognize the role their attitude plays in their children’s behavior. Research supports that these techniques prime the brain for learning even in stressful conditions and foster stronger relationships. You can reap the benefits in your co-parenting by shifting your mindset to the positive. Show interest in your co-parent’s opinions, try to accept his/her feelings without judgment and express your gratitude for things you appreciate about him/her.

Positive Parenting Defined

Positive parenting has become a common buzzword in recent years, and for good reason! Research supports that utilizing positive parenting strategies benefits the long-term well-being of children, their parents, and their entire family unit. However, some of the information circulating about these techniques is confusing and at times downright inaccurate. Let’s talk about what positive parenting is, and what it isn’t.

Simply defined, positive parenting coaches children into self-regulation and other life skills through an empathetic approach that prioritizes the parent-child relationship and respects the child's humanity. Rather than using intimidation, threats, or rewards to motivate a child to behave, caregivers who parent in this way take a proactive, loving stance.

They aim to respond to their child’s needs and accept their emotions to prevent negative behaviors from happening in the first place, and when they do, they focus on teaching skills to make better choices and guiding their children without shame.

Parent and child playing in the park
    Positive parenting is:
  • Responsive to the child’s needs
  • Enjoying one-on-one time and delighting in the child’s presence
  • Empathetic/Accepting and validating the child’s feelings
  • Reinforcing positive behavior through encouragement
  • Using a collaborative problem-solving approach in challenging situations
  • Offering logical consequences for misbehavior that teach a child to make better choices
  • Focusing on what the parent can control, namely their own attitude and actions
    Positive parenting is NOT:
  • All about the child, all the time, with the parent catering to the child always
  • Letting kids get away with whatever they want
  • Protecting kids from negative emotions or failure
  • Ignoring whenever kids do something wrong
  • Being a “perfect” parent and never making mistakes or losing your cool

The Benefits of Positive Parenting

Experts don’t just recommend positive parenting because it “feels” or “looks” good (although both of those things may often be true); they recommend it because it works. Research supports that positive parenting is linked to better cognitive, social, and emotional development and fewer behavioral problems.

Kids whose parents utilize these techniques tend to have higher self-esteem, confidence, and social and problem-solving skills, all of which equip them to be more successful in life. And perhaps most importantly, they often share stronger relationships with their parents into adulthood and hold a more favorable view of the world.

Studies have also found that positive parenting may reduce the impact of stress on the brain and can mitigate the impacts of traumatic or challenging events… including parental separation and divorce.
Recommended Reference

The Benefits of Positive Parenting for Co-Parents

So what does this mean for you as a co-parent? Well, the answer is… everything! Positive parenting can be a life-changing tool for you, your co-parent, and your child.

It coaches you to take ownership of your attitude, lead with empathy, acknowledge the good things, and use a collaborative, judgment-free stance when conflict occurs. All of these components foster better relationships, not only with your child but with other adults, including your co-parent! Here`s Why

Responsive to needs
It’s not your role to respond to your co-parent’s needs in the same way you would your child’s, or in the same way you would if you were still together. However, sometimes trying to determine the underlying need behind someone’s behavior can give you clues as to how to handle it productively. Let’s say your parenting partner is short and easily aggravated each time you speak and you think the behavior is directed towards you. However, in actuality, your co-parent’s job has hit peak season, requiring extra hours of work and causing stress which impacts his/her tone with you. This could be clarified by being curious and asking questions to stem a conversation about what’s truly going on in your co-parent’s life, For example, you could say “How is work going?” or “How are things at the job?” This approach may lead you to a better understanding.
Enjoying one-on-one time and delighting in their presence
Your relationship with your co-parent has likely undergone many changes since you separated. Perhaps you both choose to do things together and/or as a family, or perhaps your contact is minimal. But if you can share even brief moments of connection on a personal, adult level (not just related to your child), you may notice your feelings toward each other soften and communication improve. Even if you only see each other briefly, or only interact through phone or email, try adopting a positive tone and asking questions or engaging in conversation that shows your interest and appreciation for your co-parent as an individual.
Empathy for feelings
All people need to feel seen and heard. While you may not always like or agree with your co-parent’s emotional responses, you can still respect them. Show that you care by being open to communication about his/her feelings, listening without trying to change them, and reflecting back on what he/she tells you. These tactics can diffuse tense situations and foster a mutual sense of empathy towards each other that will improve your relationship. You’ll also be modeling healthy behavior for your child!
Reinforcing Positive Behavior through Encouragement
We get more of what we give attention to. If you focus your energy on finding and acknowledging positive behaviors, you’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll see more of them. Catch your co-parent doing something good and give genuine verbal praise. Express your appreciation for the qualities/traits that you like about him/her. You can start small if you need to! In addition to shaping their actions, this reinforcement will create positive energy between you that can change the tone of your interactions.
Focus on what you can control (i.e., your own attitude)
You won’t be able to control your co-parent’s behavior any more than you can control your child’s. You can hope to be proactive and use effective strategies to get what you want from them both, but in the end, you don’t have the power to force them to do anything. However, you CAN control your own attitude and actions. Shift your focus to what you are doing and set goals for yourself to achieve what you want, in your co-parenting relationship or otherwise. Your positivity may end up rubbing off on your parenting partner, but even if it doesn’t, it will improve your overall mood.

Your dynamic with your co-parent will be different from your dynamic with your child, in countless ways. Most likely, with its charged feelings and complex history, it will be unique from any other relationship in your life. But in the end, we are all human beings, and all human beings do best when treated with respect, warmth, and positivity.

Positive parenting offers that to your child, and it can offer that to your co-parent as well. Give it a try and let us know how it transforms your life!

Where you can stay informed on what's happening in the world of co-parenting and learn more about what we do.

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC

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