What is the effect of positive parenting on a child?

effect of positive parenting on a child

Parenting is one of the most important and challenging jobs in the world. The way parents interact with and discipline their children can have profound effects on a child’s happiness, behavior, self-esteem, and future success. An increasing body of research shows that a parenting approach called “positive parenting” has a number of benefits for both parents and children. In this article, we will explore the question: what is the effect of positive parenting on a child?

What is Positive Parenting and Why is it So Powerful?

Positive parenting aims to build a healthy parent-child relationship by focusing more on encouragements, rewards, and positive communication, and less on punishments, threats, and negative discipline. The goal is to teach kids self-control and good behavior by showing love, setting limits, and being a positive role model.

Positive parenting is powerful because it helps create secure parent-child attachment. As psychologist John Bowlby’s attachment theory showed, a strong emotional bond with caregivers provides children with a sense of security and a foundation for healthy development. Positive parenting techniques like praise, reflective listening, and warmth help strengthen this attachment.

Numerous Studies Reveal the Significant Impacts of Positive Parenting

Many scientific studies over the past few decades have demonstrated clear benefits of positive parenting approaches:

  • Higher happiness and life satisfaction: In a meta-analysis of 184 studies, positive parenting was strongly associated with higher life satisfaction and lower levels of depression in children. Kids who received warmth and acceptance from parents consistently showed more happiness.
  • Better behavior: Research finds that positive reinforcement leads to greater compliance and cooperation from kids. Approval and rewards motivate them to correct misbehavior. This contrasts with forms of harsh discipline, which increase aggression and conduct problems.
  • Enhanced self-esteem: Multiple studies link positive parenting to higher self-esteem and self-worth in children. Parental warmth shows kids they are valued, boosting their confidence.
  • Better academic adjustment: Children raised with positive parenting tend to have better school outcomes, including higher grades, engagement, and adaptive skills. Researchers believe this is because they develop stronger self-regulation abilities.
  • Improved executive functioning: Positive parenting promotes key cognitive skills involved in executive functions, like problem-solving, planning, and self-control. Nurturing, responsive care helps build these mental capacities.

The evidence is clear: focusing on encouragement and emotionally connecting with kids has widespread benefits for their psychological and behavioral development.

5 Key Skills of Positive Parenting

Psychologist Lawrence Balter outlined 5 core skills that form the foundation of positive parenting in his book “P.R.I.D.E. Parenting”:


Praising means expressing sincere, specific approval when your child exhibits positive behaviors. Research confirms praise is a powerful way to promote good conduct, boost self-esteem, and encourage learning.


Reflecting involves listening carefully to your child’s words and repeating them back. This shows you understand them and helps build two-way communication. Studies find parental reflective listening helps children develop strong language skills.


Imitating your child during play involves mimicking their actions and pretending to be interested in what fascinates them. This builds rapport and helps kids learn social skills. Imitation makes children feel valued, loved, and influential.


Describing means saying back what you observe your child doing during play. Like a sports commentator, you give a simple play-by-play. This helps develop children’s attention spans and comprehension.


Expressing enjoyment involves smiling, laughing, using warm tones of voice, and showing enthusiasm during interactions. This creates a positive emotional climate that nurtures the parent-child bond. Demonstrating joy motivates kids to keep engaging in desired behaviors.

Employing these 5 methods can guide children’s conduct, strengthen attachment, and boost developmental skills. They represent simple but powerful positive parenting techniques.

Positive Parenting Works Best Starting Early but Can Benefit Kids of All Ages

Is there an ideal age when parents should begin using positive parenting approaches?

Research indicates the most pivotal time is actually quite early. Warm, sensitive caregiving in the first few years builds a secure foundation. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes:

“Early relationships with caregivers play a major long-term role in children’s social development and mental health.”

Interactions in the infant and toddler years can have lasting impacts on the parent-child bond and influence brain development.

However, positive parenting remains beneficial at any stage. School-age kids, teens, and even adult children can all benefit from praise, active listening, descriptions, and other positive methods. The key is adjusting them as children mature. For example, teens may respond better to encouragement about developing autonomy and peer relationships rather than praise about toys.

So while early childhood marks a sensitive period, there’s no cutoff after which positive parenting becomes ineffective. It can strengthen the parent-child relationship throughout childhood and beyond.

12 Examples of Positive Parenting Approaches

What does positive parenting look like in everyday family life? Here are 12 practical strategies:

  • Give hugs and say “I love you” unconditionally.
  • Use descriptive praise like “Thank you for waiting patiently!”
  • Get on child’s level during play and imitate their actions.
  • Reflect children’s feelings: “You seem really happy about your drawing!”
  • Give kids choices to develop problem-solving: “Would you like milk or water with lunch today?”
  • Set and enforce limits calmly and consistently.
  • Help children wind down before bed with a calming routine.
  • Validate children’s emotions: “I know you’re disappointed we can’t go to the park today”.
  • Use natural consequences like removing toys if rules are broken.
  • Foster independence through household responsibility.
  • Read books together displaying warmth and enjoyment.
  • Apologize to children when you make a mistake.

These examples demonstrate that positive parenting is not permissive. Parents set reasonable boundaries while also offering empathy, respect, affection, and support. This balanced approach helps kids thrive.

Different Styles of Positive Parenting

While positive parenting philosophies all share a nurturing approach, there are some variations in style:


Authoritative parents are warm and responsive while also setting reasonable rules and expectations. This blend of emotional support with firmness leads to high benefits for kids, including stronger self-regulation, school success and mental health.


Democratic parents actively involve children in family decision-making and treat their opinions respectfully. This teaches kids compromise and perspective-taking. However, parents still retain ultimate authority.


Attachment parenting emphasizes forming a close emotional bond and responding promptly to children’s needs. Proponents argue meeting children’s needs builds secure attachment critical for development. Critics note attachment parenting can be demanding for parents.

The common thread is all these styles emphasize parental warmth, connection, and non-punitive discipline. They simply represent slightly different methods of applying positive parenting principles.

Combining Positivity with Limits and Consequences

Positive parenting is not a permissive, “anything goes” approach. Parents still need to impose reasonable rules and consequences. But these limits are applied in a supportive way.

When misbehavior occurs, positive parents often:

  • Remain calm and use reflective listening to understand why the child is acting out.
  • Show empathy while still stating the unsatisfactory behavior.
  • Allow natural consequences related to the misdeed rather than arbitrary punishments. For example, taking away a favorite toy for hitting.
  • Reinforce positive opposite behaviors. If the child throws food in anger, praise them the next time they ask nicely for something.
  • Withdraw rewards and privileges temporarily, not permanently.
  • Model apologizes when parents also act inappropriately.

This blends warmth and discipline. Rules create needed structure, while consequences are logical and delivered with emotional support. Yelling, spanking, and love withdrawal are avoided.

Tailoring Positive Parenting to Different Ages

Positive parenting strategies must accommodate children’s evolving developmental needs:

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Clear routines and structure help young kids develop self-regulation.
  • Descriptive praise helps teach new skills. For instance, “You picked up your blocks neatly!”
  • Avoid time-outs. Instead use positives like redirection to more appropriate activities.
  • Playful imitation builds language and social skills. Copy their actions with toys.
  • Reflect emotions and provide comfort when toddlers get upset or tantrum. Be the calm, secure base they need.

School-age Children

  • Praise effort and good learning skills, not natural ability, to encourage a growth mindset.
  • Involve kids in family decisions to practice responsibility and problem-solving.
  • Help kids manage schoolwork demands to reduce family conflict.
  • Show interest in their hobbies and discuss their friendships.


  • Don’t fight all their battles. Let natural consequences of irresponsibility teach them.
  • Respect growing needs for autonomy. Give choices within boundaries.
  • Ask their perspective and validate their feelings so they feel heard.
  • Focus discipline on rules about health and safety, not control.

Tailoring positive parenting takes work but pays off by meeting children’s developmental needs at each stage.

Addressing Common Parenting Challenges with a Positive Approach

Positive parenting does not mean parents will never experience challenges. However, it provides a solid foundation to address common issues:

Grocery Store Meltdowns: To head off tantrums, build in fun through a scavenger hunt for items on your list. Praise cooperation. Ignore minor acting out, but firmly stop safety issues. Re-direct rather than reprimand. Follow up with a reward like reading a book together.

Sibling Fighting: Don’t take sides or dole out punishments. Calmly stop unsafe behavior, then privately praise each child’s good actions. Foster teamwork between siblings. Accept they will still squabble sometimes.

Talking Back: Stay calm when kids get mouthy. Listen to why they are angry. Acknowledge feelings but re-state rules. Use consequences like ending the conversation until they can be polite. Later reflect on how they might communicate better.

Refusing Chores: Make chores bonding time by doing them together. Don’t nag. Set collaborative expectations, then recognize effort. Build in fun elements like making sorting laundry into a race.

Lying: Express disappointment calmly, focusing on the act not the child’s character. Discuss the importance of trust. Allow natural consequences. Praise truth-telling, even about tough subjects. Don’t interrogate.

The point is not to be a “perfect” parent, but to reset challenging moments with empathy and positives. This upholds the parent-child relationship when conflict arises.

Benefits of Positive Parenting Extend Throughout Life

The development of secure attachment and self-esteem in childhood via positive parenting confers lifelong benefits. Studies find it continues helping people:

  • Form healthy relationships in adulthood through better communication skills.
  • Cope resiliently with life’s challenges due to self-regulation and self-efficacy.
  • Feel more satisfied overall with their lives.
  • Succeed academically and occupationally through motivation and persistence.
  • Avoid mental health problems like anxiety or depression.
  • Become more involved parents themselves later in life.

Positive parenting has intergenerational impacts, improving well-being not just in childhood but over the entire lifespan. While challenges inevitably arise in parenthood, the compassionate guidance of positive parenting can help children – and parents – thrive.

A Summary of the Major Effects of Positive Parenting on Children

  • Stronger parent-child attachment and feelings of security
  • Enhanced self-esteem and confidence
  • Greater happiness, life satisfaction, and resilience
  • Better academic and cognitive skills
  • Improved social skills and relationships
  • Higher likelihood of educational and career success
  • Lower risk for mental health problems like anxiety and depression
  • More positive behaviors and cooperation
  • Reduced aggression, delinquency, and substance abuse
  • Healthier development across physical, cognitive, emotional and social domains

The wide-ranging benefits underscore why positive parenting is one of the most constructive approaches parents can use to help their children flourish.

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