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Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a parenting strategy that focuses on encouraging and building good behaviors by being involved in children’s and teens’ lives. Though positive parenting can’t solve every problem with a troubled teen, it may be able to offset some of the negative factors in a teen’s life and help parents intervene when their teen has a problem.

Positive parenting is about being involved in teen’s lives and encouraging their positive traits while giving them room to grow and helping them develop the self discipline to avoid negative behaviors. Positive parenting techniques may vary somewhat depending on a family’s situation, but some of the general principles include:

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  • Tell your teen you love them and find something positive to say about them every day. Teens respond better to positive statements than negative ones, and most teens will start to act more positively if their parents focus on the positive.
  • Talk to teens every day about things that are going on in their lives. Don’t interrogate your troubled teen, but have a conversation with him or her. Allow teens to have their own opinions, but tell them if you are concerned about something.
  • Talk to teens directly about sensitive topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, violence in the media, depression, and suicide. Tell teens what your values and concerns are about these topics, and ask them if they have any questions. Teens listen to their parents’ opinions when making choices, and should feel like they can talk to their parents if they have a question or concern.
  • Set rules that are clear and consistent and establish fair consequences for breaking the rules, like losing driving privileges for a week if the teen breaks curfew. Be consistent in enforcing the consequences when teens break the rules. Avoid using harsh verbal or physical punishments as consequences. Explain the reasons for your rules, and let teens help come up with the rules and consequences.
  • When correcting negative behavior, don’t criticize or belittle your teen. Instead, focus on what the problem is and why you are concerned about it, and involve the teen in finding a solution.
  • Don’t over-schedule your lives; make sure both you and your teen have some time to relax, and give your teen the opportunity to make his or her own decisions about activities and interests.
  • Take an interest in your struggling teen’s interests and encourage them in their positive activities.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends. Don’t forbid teens from seeing friends you don’t like, but tell your teen why you’re concerned about that person.
  • Try to eat at least one meal together as a family without the TV or other media. This encourages families to talk and to develop healthier eating habits, and has been shown to reduce negative behaviors in teens.
  • Try to have realistic expectations; not every teen gets straight As or excels at sports. Focus on appreciating the person your teen is and helping them appreciate their own good qualities as well.
  • Find things you can do with teens that you both enjoy, even if it’s something simple like watching a favorite movie or going for a walk.
  • Give teens reasonable responsibilities around the house so they feel involved with the family and have a sense of responsibility.
  • Don’t make comparisons between your teen and anyone else, especially not siblings.
  • Set a good example of the kind of behavior you expect from your struggling teen, including getting help if there’s a problem you can’t handle on your own. 

Remember that even with positive parenting techniques, teens may still make choices their parents don’t like, and some parents may still need outside help from professionals to deal with teens’ problems. By using positive parenting, however, parents can have more impact on the choices their teens make, and may be better able to spot problems that their teens need help with.

Positive Parenting Tips Sources:

Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth, Positive Parenting, “9 Steps to More Effective Parenting” [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Child Development, “Positive Parenting Tips” [online]