By NICOLE M. YOUNG
Another year has flown by, leaving me wondering where the time went. As I think about my family’s milestones and memories over the past year, I’m reminded of how often I get consumed by work, my family’s hectic schedule, and the never-ending list of household chores. It’s easy for my family to go through the motions of our daily routines — get up, go to school or work, come home, eat, do homework or work, go to bed, repeat, repeat, repeat — and even be in the same room without really noticing and appreciating each other. It takes deliberate and constant effort to be a positive parent (and partner), and the new year is a good time for a fresh start.
This January, Santa Cruz County is celebrating Positive Parenting Awareness Month for the seventh year in a row, and several other counties in California are joining in — Inyo, Napa, Mendocino, Sonoma and possibly more! Positive Parenting Awareness Month is a time to recognize the vital role that “parents” — including birth, foster and adoptive parents, grandparents and other relatives or family friends — play in raising happy, healthy, thriving children. It’s a chance to encourage all types of families to seek and accept support from friends, family members, neighbors and local resources, such as the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. And it’s a time to let go of past parenting mistakes or regrets and start the new year with new tools in the “parenting toolbox.”
We encourage everyone to use and share these tips to renew, refresh and recharge their commitment to positive parenting not just in January, but every day of the year.
What is positive parenting? It’s an approach to raising children that strengthens family relationships, increases parents’ confidence and promotes children’s healthy development. Research shows that the quality of parenting and caregiving throughout a child’s life is one of the most powerful predictors of their future social, emotional and physical health and well-being.
There isn’t one “right” way to be a parent, but there are many parenting programs and strategies that have helped families across the world. One program in Santa Cruz County is Triple P, which is based on these five principles of positive parenting:
Principle 1: Provide a safe, interesting environment. This gives children and teens the opportunity to play, explore, discover and experiment. This is how they learn and develop important life skills, such as communicating with others, solving problems, and being independent. The amount of supervision and limit-setting will change as children get older, but even teens (and young adults) need to know they have people in their lives who will keep them physically and emotionally safe.
Principle 2: Create a positive learning environment. Help children and teens feel safe and confident to explore and learn new skills by noticing their efforts, giving positive attention and descriptive praise, and modeling healthy, appropriate behaviors. These tips might seem too simple or obvious to mention, but many times it’s the smallest efforts that make the biggest difference.
Principle 3: Use assertive discipline. Remember that discipline is not the same as punishment. Assertive discipline is a calm, consistent approach to teaching children and teens new ways of thinking and behaving. When used as a teaching tool, assertive discipline helps children and teens accept responsibility for their choices, become aware of other people’s needs, and develop self-control. Someday, your children’s employers and partners will thank you for teaching them these skills.
Principle 4: Have realistic expectations. Every child and teen is unique in the way they learn and develop. Conflict and frustration can occur when parents expect too much too soon of their children. Likewise, children and teens miss opportunities to learn and grow when parents don’t expect enough of their children. It’s also important for parents to have realistic expectations of themselves. Remember there’s no such thing as a perfect parent or child.
Principle 5: Take care of yourself as a parent. Many parents and caregivers feel unprepared or uncertain, and asking for help is often seen as a weakness. Fear of being blamed or shamed prevents many people from seeking support. And yet, the non-stop job of parenting is easier when our own physical, social, emotional and intellectual needs are met. This recharges our “parenting batteries” so that we have energy to be patient, consistent, and available for our children.
Final thoughts: Let’s make positive parenting a daily habit and start the new year with a renewed focus on our family relationships and parenting practices. I’m in — are you?
Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 15 and 18, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.