Positive Parenting

Good communication between parents and children is the foundation of strong family relationships. Developing good communication skills helps parents discover problems early, support positive behavior, and stay aware of what is happening in their children’s lives.

Key communication skills include:

  • Questioning -The kind of information you receive depends a lot on how you ask the question
  • Showing interest or concern -Don’t blame or accuse. For example, instead of saying “How do you get yourself into these situations?” say “That sounds like a difficult situation. Were you confused?”
  • Encourage problem-solving/thinking – For example, instead of “What did you think was going to happen when you acted so recklessly?” say ”So, what do you think would have been a better way to handle that?”
  • Listening and observing – Youth feel more comfortable bringing issues and situations to their parents when they know they will be listened to and not be accused

Sometimes talking with children brings up strong feelings that interfere with clear thinking.

  • Icon for CALM Steps
    CALM Steps

    Following the CALM steps can help a parent keep the conversation moving in the right direction.

    C: Control your thoughts and your actions.

    A: Assess and decide if you are too upset to continue.

    L: Leave the situation if you are feeling too angry or upset.

    M: Make a plan to deal with the situation within 24 hours.

  • Icon for Encouragement

    Encouragement is key to building confidence and a strong sense of self, and helps parents to promote cooperation and reduce conflict. Many successful people remember the encouragement of a parent, teacher, or other adult. Consistent encouragement helps youth feel good about themselves and gives them confidence to:

    Try new activities.
    Develop new friendships.
    Tackle difficult tasks.
    Explore their creativity.

  • Icon for Negotiation

    Negotiating solutions offers parents a way to work together with youths to solve problems, make changes, promote and improve cooperation, and teach youths how to:

    Focus on solutions.
    Think through possible outcomes.
    Develop communication skills rather than problem behaviors or bad habits.

Problem Solving

  • The Steps to Problem Solving:
  • Brainstorm and open your mind to all ideas
  • Try to come up with three ideas each
  • Any idea is good, even ones that seem silly
  • Take turns coming up with ideas
  • Evaluate your list of ideas
  • Go through and list the positives and negatives of each idea
  • Choose a solution
  • Combine ideas if needed
  • All of you should agree on the chosen solution
  • Problem Solving Traps:
  • Don’t try to solve hot issues
  • Don’t blame the other person or put the other person down
  • Don’t defend yourself, try to let it go
  • Don’t make assumptions about another person’s intentions
  • Don’t bring up the past
  • Avoid using words such as “always” and “never”
  • Don’t lecture, a simple statement will get your point across better

Setting Limits

Setting Limits helps parents teach self-control and responsibility, show caring, and provide safe boundaries. It also provides youth with guidelines and teaches them the importance of following rules. This is a two-step process:

  • Step 1: Setting Rules
  • Make clear, simple, and specific rules
  • Make sure your child understands your rules
  • Have a list of consequences
  • Be ready to follow through
  • Step 2: Following Up
  • Research shows that parents are most effective in setting limits when they follow up right away.
  • Youths are more likely to follow rules if they know you are checking up on them and will enforce the consequences consistently.
  • Give a consequence when rules are broken
  • Offer encouragement when rules are followed

SANE Guidelines

Testing limits is a natural part of growing up, but it presents a special challenge for parents. Often our first reactions may come from fear for our child’s safety, or anger at being disobeyed. The SANE guidelines can help parents establish appropriate consequences when youths break rules.

S: Small consequences are better

A: Avoid consequences that punish you

N: Nonabusive responses

E: Effective consequences (are under your control and non-rewarding to your child)

Youth may get angry, act out, or become isolated when parents enforce consequences. Your child is testing you and your limits. Don’t react. Be consistent with your rules.


Supervision is the centerpiece of effective parenting during childhood. When youth begin to spend more and more time away from home, monitoring their behavior and whereabouts is challenging.

Supervision helps parents recognize developing problems, promote safety, and stay involved.

The 4 Cs of supervision can help you with this difficult task:

Clear Rules – Have a few non-negotiable rules about your child’s behavior and state them clearly! For example:

  • “Give me the phone number for any place you will be.”
  • “I need a 24-hour notice for spending the night or going to a party, dance, or other special event.” (This gives you time to check out the event)
  • “No friends at the house when I am not at home.”

Communication – Regular communication with other parents and teachers:

  • Keeps you involved in your child’s activities
  • Creates resources to deal with problems and builds a strong safety network for your child
  • Informs you of dangerous places or people

Checking Up – This lets your child know that you care about his or her safety, and that your rules are important. This is hard for some of us because we want to trust our children and they may resist our efforts:

  • When your child gives you the phone number of a friend, call it and talk to the parent
  • Meet all the parents of your child’s friends to make sure new situations are safe and supervised
  • Find out about the parties and special events your child wants to attend to make sure that responsible adults will be supervising

Consistency – Supervision is most effective when parents set clear limits and follow through with consequences for misbehavior. Also, be consistent with giving praise and incentives when a rule is followed.

How do you supervise when you are not at home?

  • Know your child’s schedule
  • Call your child at varying times
  • Have your child check in with you or other caregivers when he or she reaches home
  • Have your child check in when he or she reaches his or her destination
  • Surprise your child with a random visit or call
  • Remain in communication with adults who interact with your child

Knowing Your Child’s Friends

Childhood is a period of major growth and change. Youths tend to be uncertain about themselves and how they “fit in”, and at times they can feel overwhelmed by a need to please and impress their friends. These feelings can leave children open to peer pressure. Knowing your child’s friends and peers helps parents improve communication, reduce conflict, and teach responsibility.

You can help your child and increase your influence by:

  • Knowing your child’s friends in the neighborhood and at school
  • Communicating with their friends and their parents whenever possible
  • Go to school to observe their school behavior and who your child spends time with
  • Observe behaviors, speech, and attitude and acknowledge and encourage positive behavior
  • Staying involved in your child’s activities
  • Helping your child understand his/her feelings
  • Discussing your child’s new ideas
  • Being responsible for sex and drug information
  • Sharing your values and beliefs; it gives your child a base to work from
  • Talking to your child when a concern comes up, such as spending time with friends you don’t know, changes in speech and attitude, changes in schoolwork, or lying and sneaking around

Peer Influence

Youths do not always make wise choices in picking friends. Help them see what qualities they should value in a friend, such as honesty, school involvement, and respect. To decrease negative peer influence, spend time together and try these ideas:

  • Play board/outdoor games
  • Read with your child or tell family stories
  • Encourage your child’s interests (drawing, scientific curiosity, music, cooking, etc.)
  • Include your child in social/cultural events in the community
  • Include your child’s friends in family activities

How to Get the Conversation Started