You watch a TV show with a dysfunctional family where the kids sneak out to commit crimes while their parents threaten to hit them. It’s billed as a comedy.
You visit a website set up to mock children caught on camera in moments of distress.
You hang out with relatives who look at you funny when you empathize with your upset child. Maybe they even ask you whether you ought to consider spanking your kid now and then.
Your culture is all around you, teaching you how to be a parent from the day you are born. As I said in Parenting Isn’t An Instinct:
“We are parented ourselves. We watch our friends being parented. We learn about parenting in the fictional stories of movies, television, and books. We see headlines and news stories involving parents. We see and hear the titles of parenting books, whether we read them or not.”
Our culture does not want you to be a positive parent. You’re supposed to operate on an elaborate system of control, coercion, threats, bribes, punishments, limits, consequences, fear, and struggle. You’re supposed to act more like a boss or a warden than a loving companion.
Since your culture doesn’t show you how to be a positive parent, you HAVE to do the extra work yourself of showing yourself another way.
How do you do that? You have to exerting tight control over the messages in front of you. Everywhere you look you need to see images and words that will inspire you to move in the right direction. For anything that gets in the way, you’ll need to turn down the volume or eliminate it entirely.
Let’s look at some of the ways messages get into your brain and what you can do to shift their content.
- If you follow any family members or friends who make fun of kids or talk about punishing them, unfollow those people. You can follow them back later after you feel more secure in your convictions. If you can’t bring yourself to unfollow them, at least add them to a specific list and only read their posts once a week for a limited time.
- Unfollow/unlike any pages/groups/lists that talk negatively about kids. Some of these seem funny, and you might follow them for the emotional outlet. However, along with that dose of dark humor they are also teaching you how to think about kids. Even when it feels lighthearted, they are setting you up for failure.
- Instead, follow people, pages, and groups that highlight treating children respectfully. Comment, like, and share frequently so the posts you want show up in your feed more often.
Here is a small list of some of the accounts that influence me to be a positive parent. Spend some time checking these out or browsing around for others so that what’s on your screen matches what you want in your life.
- LoveLiveGrow Parenting page
- Gentle Parents of the World group
- Empathic Parenting Counseling & Coaching page
- Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond page
- Positive Parenting Connection page
- Happiness is here page
- Racheous page
- Here With You Parenting page
- Issa Waters @IssaWaters (me!)
- Ariadne Brill @positive_parent
- Amy McCready @AmyMcCreadyPPS
- Dr. Laura Markham @DrLauraMarkham
- Megan Stonelake @EmpathicParent
- Sarah @realsimplemama
- @issawaters (me!)
- LoveLiveGrow Parenting boards
- Amy McCready Positive Parenting Solutions boards
- Positive Parenting Connection boards
- Positive Parenting group board from One Time Through
What would you add to these lists?
Other types of media come into your life, too, in the form of television shows, movies, music, advertisements, blogs, essays, and news stories. A lot of them contain terrible examples of negative parenting presented as normal.
You don’t have to go on a complete media blackout forever. But, if you’re just getting started learning how to be a positive parent, taking a break from mainstream influences for a few months will greatly improve your ability to stay clear on your goals.
If you’re in the middle of a book, show, or article and realize that negative parenting will be prominent to the story, consider shelving that story and coming back to it at a later date.
YOU are in charge of what influences you, and you don’t have to continue with anything that will make life harder for you.
Additional Reading: Here’s a selection of life-changing parenting books I highly recommend. (These are affiliate links.)
If you have a co-parent, I hope they are on board with your decision to be a positive parent. But even if they are, you may have other relatives who feel much differently. As you learning about positive parenting, being around them may be stressful. They may ask questions you don’t know the answer to, try to take over for you as a disciplinarian for your child, or make insulting comments about your choices.
Here are a couple of tactics to consider:
- See them less. It’s okay to take a few months being focused inward with your own household. As you learn new patterns and strengthen your connection, it’s okay to take the time to do that without harmful distractions. Let people know you’re going to be a little busy for the next few months. And that’s true! You’re busy spending quality time with your child.
- Develop a few conversation-stoppers to memorize. Make them short and easy to remember. “I don’t want to discuss parenting tactics with you.” “Please do not question my parenting decisions.” “It’s not up to you.” “It’s none of your business.” “Thank you for your concern. I have this handled.” Memorize whatever phrases apply to the situations that are likely to arise, and practice saying them with conviction. When the time comes, repeat them as necessary to assert your boundary on this topic.
- Enlist help from any agreeable relatives. If you have a relative or two who is on your side about positive parenting, ask them to run interference with anyone who’s opposed. Since it’s not their own kids on the line, they may have an easier time than you in engaging the disagreeable relative.
What else would you suggest for parents with relatives who disagree with their positive parenting choice?
For your other friends and acquaintances, dial back any contact you have with punitive parents. When you feel secure with your positive parenting practices, it might not hurt to hang out with other kinds of parents. But when you’re trying to find your way, negative influences only make it harder for you.
On the other hand, seek out new in-person friendships and connections with people who do parent the way you want to. Dig through the Facebook listings for local groups to see if any are compatible. Try Le Leche League, your UU church, and library programs to scout for like-minded parents. If you can find even one other friend who’s on the same path you are, you are doing great.
Where have you been able to make parenting friends?
Who Controls The Message?
You might be thinking I’m trying to brainwash you, and that’s not entirely untrue!
Brainwashing, propaganda, indoctrination, advertising, culture. Whatever you want to call it, we are in a constant state of receiving information that is trying to convince us of something.
The information you receive might as well be based on values you’ve chosen for yourself!
If someone’s going to influence you, it might as well be you!
If you’ve chosen to be a positive parent, go ahead and choose positive influences for yourself.