What is Positive Parenting?

Parenting Styles

Parenting styles commonly used in psychology today are based on the work of psychologist Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, in the 1960s.  Maccoby and Martin also contributed by refining the model in the 1980s.

The 4 Main Parenting styles:


Authoritarian:  Most people identify this as “old fashion” parenting.  It is the strictest of all the styles of parenting.  Parents have strict rules, high expectations, and expect blind obedience.

Authoritative:  The hallmark of an Authoritative Parenting Style is that parents are warm and responsive, but are also firm.  They set clear rules and have high expectations, and they value their children’s independence.  Research has repeatedly shown that children raised by authoritative parents tend to be more capable, happy and successful.  As a result, children have the opportunity to learn how to negotiate, become self-reliant, achieve academic success, develop self-discipline, be socially accepted, and have increased self-esteem.  While there are many different authoritative parenting approaches, Positive parenting, and specifically the Positive Discipline method, created by Dr. Jane Nelsen, is the most widely used today.   Positive Discipline does not use yelling, spanking, or severe punishment, and is focused on encouragement and problem solving.

Permissive:  Permissive parenting style is warm and responsive with little to no rules.   The key aspect of this style is that parents are indulgent and lenient.  The children run the home in Permissive homes.

Neglectful:  A neglectful parenting style is one that has no rules, but is also cold and indifferent.  Children are left to fend for themselves, and the parent is uninvolved emotionally and sometimes even physically absent.        


Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a parenting principle that assumes children are born good and with the desire to do the right thing. It emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and using positive ways to discipline. The positive parenting approaches focus on teaching proper future behavior instead of punishing past misbehavior.

In the 1920s, two Viennese psychiatrists, Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs introduced the United States to positive parenting strategies.  Parenting experts and programs across the world have since refined and championed various positive parenting solutions.  Many modern parents embrace these gentle parenting principles because they do not want to parent the way they were raised.  Positive parenting means parents can raise happy children in ways that reflect their family values and beliefs. Positive parents are sensitive to their children’s needs, developmental stage and temperament. Among the four Baumrind parenting styles described above, positive parenting is an authoritative parenting style.

Benefits of Positive Parenting


Decades of studies have shown that using positive discipline yields positive outcomes in terms of the child’s behavior and emotional growth.  In contrast, harsh, punitive parenting in early childhood tends to result in more behavior problems. Parents who are cold, uninvolved and unresponsive raise kids with worse self-regulation, which further exacerbates the child’s behavior issues.


A positive parent does not need to punish their child to correct problematic behavior. There is no more yelling, power struggle or hostility. As a result, the parent-child dynamics change and their relationship improves.  Furthermore, mutual respect and open communication strengthen the parent-child relationship.


Children raised with positive parenting have higher self-esteem. They believe they can do things as well as most other kids.  These children are also more resilient. They bounce back readily from adversities.  Kids who are resilient with self-confidence have less family conflict and better connections with their loving parents. They tend to have better mental health​​.


Positively parented children enjoy more academic success.   A better parent-child relationship resulted from this parenting style is also highly associated with school performance.


Children of positive parents have better social problem solving skills and social self-efficacy. They are more well-adjusted and have a positive sense of self.


Children are not the only ones who benefit from positive parenting. Researchers have found that parents who practice positive parenting also gain self-esteem and confidence in their parenting. They have less parenting-related stress as the children have self-discipline and are well-behaved.


Positive Discipline

Dr. Jane Nelsen, a student of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs’ work in positive parenting, developed the Positive Discipline method in the 1980s.  In Positive Discipline, parents clearly communicate what behaviors are appropriate, which ones are inappropriate, and what the rewards for good behavior and the consequences for bad behavior are.  The philosophy is rooted in encouragement, empowerment, and mutual respect that supports parents in finding solutions to misbehavior rather than using or relying on punishment.

Discipline is all about guiding children, not punishing them.  Positive Discipline does not use yelling, spanking, or severe punishment.  Parents maintain a warm and firm tone, and encourage their children to make choices that make sense.  The problem solving technique involves encouraging the behaviors you'd like to see continue, and discouraging the behaviors you'd like to see stop.  Parents maintain a positive, respectful relationship with your child while disciplining them.  Experts find that it is motivating and effective for kids of all ages.  This method is also a favorite of teachers and is used in classrooms across the globe.

The five principles of Positive Discipline:

  1. It is kind and firm at the same time.
  2. It helps children feel a sense of belonging and significance.
  3. It is effective long-term.
  4. It teaches valuable social and life skills for good character.
  5. It invites children to discover how capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

The method takes training and practice, but it is very effective. Research has shown that children do better when they perceive both firmness and kindness from their parents.   Children who rate their parents as both responsive to their needs and feelings while having high — yet realistic — expectations are much less likely to engage in socially risky behaviors and have more success socially and academically.  These children find it easier to work toward concrete goals and are motivated to succeed when parents are loving and firm.  Positive Discipline is unique in that it works on children from toddlers to teens.  Core concepts from the method can even be used in adult relationships as well. 

Want to learn more about Positive Parenting and Positive Discipline, and see if it would be a good fit for your family?  Book your "Create Your Inspired Family Discover Session" today.