The Power of Positive Parenting | Patient and Family Education | UC Davis Children Hospital

The power of positive parenting

What is positive parenting and why is it powerful?

Parent and child
  • Positive parenting is about showing children love, warmth and kindness.
  • It’s about guiding children to act the way you want by encouraging and teaching them.
  • It’s about helping children thrive by sending the powerful message: You are loved, you are good, you matter.

The Power of Positive Parenting information sheet (PDF)

Research reveals the power of positive parenting 

  • Positive parenting sets children up for success
    Research shows that positive parenting helps children do better in school, have fewer behavioral problems, and stronger mental health.1
  • Positive parenting helps the teenage brain
    Neuroscientists discovered that positive parenting contributes to better functioning in the brain regions associated with emotions and cognition during the teen years.2
  • Positive parenting is linked to a happy and healthy adulthood
    Harvard scientists found that positive parenting has long-term benefits, including better relationships, mental health, and well-being during adulthood.3
Five positive parenting techniques. Praise, Reflection, Imitation, Description, Enjoyment

PRIDE skills — Five ways to provide positive parenting

The PRIDE skills are five positive parenting techniques that can easily be used in every day life. The skills have been shown in studies to be a successful way to support children's development.

Tip: As with all parenting advice, experts recommend using the skills in a way that feels right for you and your family.

The 5 PRIDE skills in action

PRAISE is a positive statement that expresses approval.

Illustration of moms approving their kids behavior.

Praise makes children feel good

What we tell children becomes their inner voice and has the potential to build up or tear down. Praise builds children up by strengthening self-esteem and self-concept.

Praise teaches children

Praise gives guidance about your standards of behavior. When a behavior is rewarded, children learn how you want them to behave. Each time you praise that behavior, your child will be reminded of your expectations.

Praise changes behavior

When a behavior is praised, children will continue on with this behavior.

4 tips for harnessing the power of praise

Illustration of mom praising child.
  1. Label your praise
    Be specific with your praise to teach your child what she did correctly. For example, instead of saying, “Good job,” try adding an explanation such as, “Good job waiting patiently while I was on the phone.” Your child won’t have to guess what you like.
  2. Praise the baby steps
    Praise doesn’t have to be reserved for “big” behaviors. Praise for small accomplishments can motivate your child when working towards a larger goal. For example, if you want your child to get ready for bed independently, positive feedback for small steps such as brushing teeth and picking out pajamas can keep him encouraged.
  3. Praise achievement and effort
    Focus your praise on effort and hard work, rather than just the end product. For instance, after a soccer game, praise your child for winning the game and trying her hardest.
  4. Praise with your words and body
    Adding smiles, a rub on the back, enthusiasm, a hug, a kiss or a high five can make praise feel extra special.
Ways to praise.

REFLECTION involves repeating back a child’s words and elaborating on what the child said.

Illustration of reflection skill with son and father.

Reflections show you are listening

Reflections let your child know you are paying attention. They communicate the message: ‘I hear you and I get you.’

Reflections promote back-and-forth conversation

When a child’s statements are reflected, it rewards the child for speaking. This encourages children to start conversations and share their thoughts more frequently. Reflections are more powerful than questions to get a child talking.

Did you know?

Back-and-forth conversation with your child strengthens the language center of the brain.4

Reflections help language development

Reflections are a great tool to improve children’s speech since they offer an opportunity to subtly correct grammatical mistakes. For instance, if a child says “I ranned home,” a parent can reflect “Wow, you ran home!”.

Ways to reflect, illustrated examples in the family.

IMITATION involves playing in a similar way as your child or making similar gestures.

Imitation father and daughter

Imitation makes children feel important

An adult imitating a child’s actions is very flattering. Imitation sends the message: ‘What you are doing is interesting and important, and I want to do it too.’

Imitation allows you to get on the child’s level

Imitation is a good way to join in the child’s play if you are unsure of how to do so. Children are the play experts and by imitating what they are doing, they will teach youhow to play.

Imitation helps with social skills

When an adult imitates a child, the child is more likely to imitate the adult. Imitating each other is a great way to practice back-and-forth social exchanges.

Illustration of adults interacting with children.

DESCRIPTION involves describing what your child is doing, much like a sportscaster giving a play-by-play narration of a game.

Mom and son drawing

Descriptions show you are paying attention

Descriptions let your child know they have your undivided attention and you are interested in what they are doing. This is a big self-esteem boost!

Descriptions increase attention span

Descriptions help children focus and spend more time on a task. It’s a great tool to use during homework.

Descriptions teach young children

Descriptions help young children learn new words and concepts such as shapes, sizes, numbers and colors.

Illustration of ways to describe.

ENJOYMENT means expressing warmth and positivity with your words and actions while you play and interact with your child.

An illustration of a father showing enjoyment by his actions.

Enjoyment strengthens the parent-child bond

Adding warmth and excitement to the interaction lets your child know you care about them and enjoy spending time together.

Enjoyment models positivity

Children pick up on and mimic the emotions of others. When you are cheerful, your child will be more likely to act positively.

Showing enjoyment with your body

  • Smile
  • Make eye contact
  • Hug and kiss your child
  • Put your arm around your child
  • Rub your child’s back

Showing enjoyment with your voice

  • Let your child know how much you enjoy being with them
  • Talk in a warm and animated voice
  • Laugh together
An illustration of ways to show enjoyment in the family.
Guy watering flowers

Promoting good behaviors with PRIDE skills

PRIDE skills can be used to teach social skills, prepare children for school, and help them learn to manage behaviors and emotions. To promote healthy development with PRIDE skills, watch for moments where your child displays a good behavior.

Every time you notice a good behavior you’d like to see more of, shower your child with PRIDE skills. The more you point out these good behaviors, the more they will blossom and grow.

Good behaviors to notice and praise:

Social skills and manners

  • Being kind
  • Being a good sport
  • Compromising
  • Doing things for others
  • Helping
  • Making eye contact
  • Saying please and thank you
  • Sharing
  • Showing empathy
  • Taking turns
  • Using nice words

Self-control skills

  • Being careful and gentle
  • Being safe
  • Staying calm
  • Calmly expressing feelings
  • Waiting patiently

School and learning skills

  • Concentrating
  • Creative thinking
  • Flexible thinking
  • Focusing and staying on task
  • Persisting
  • Problem-solving
  • Thinking things through
  • Working hard
  • Working independently

Listening and obeying skills

  • Accepting no for an answer
  • Asking permission
  • Doing things right away
  • Following directions
  • Listening the first time

Targeting inappropriate behaviors with PRIDE skills

Positive parenting tip:
Be on the lookout for good behaviors, even if they are brief, and “catch” them right away.

PRIDE skills can help decrease unwanted behaviors. This is done by “catching” your child doing something good that is opposite of an inappropriate behavior. For instance, want your child to stop running ahead at the grocery store? Praise him for staying next to you.

Almost all unwanted behaviors have an opposite good behavior. When you compliment your child for displaying a good behavior, it helps him learn what to do rather than what not to do, and increases the likelihood he’ll repeat that good behavior.

To decrease an inappropriate behavior...

mom get upset with daughter

“Catch” the opposite good behavior...

Mom praise daughter

Illustration of good behaviors to catch to decrease inappropriate behaviors.
Positive Parenting Tips

Taking the time to play

Playtime is easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily life. Distraction-free playtime offers a chance to pause, breathe, and connect with your child. Parenting experts say that as little as five minutes of daily playtime can strengthen the parent-child bond.

Tip 1: Play with PRIDE

PRIDE skills add goodness and magic to playtime. They turn playtime into special playtime. The more PRIDE skills used, the better!

Tip 2: Let your child lead the way

Since children rarely have the opportunity to be in charge, letting your child lead can make playtime feel extra special. Here are two ways to follow your child’s lead:

  • Go with the flow by letting your child choose what you play with and how you play (as long as it’s safe).
  • Reduce commands and questions such as, “Say choo choo!” and, “What will his name be?”.

Mom and boy playing

Did you know?

Play is an important part of children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.6

A final note

family reading

Do what feels right for your family

You know your child best, so use the skills in a way that feels right. It’s all about encouraging values and behaviors that are personally important to you.

Give yourself praise

Parenting can be hard so remember to go easy on yourself. Showing yourself love is important just as you’d show your child love. Give yourself praise from time-to-time for doing your best.

For more parenting resources, visit


  1. Amato, P. R., & Fowler, F. (2002). Parenting practices, child adjustment, and family diversity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 64(3), 703-716.
  2. Whittle, S., Simmons, J. G., Dennison, M., Vijayakumar, N., Schwartz, O., Yap, M. B. H., . . . Allen, N. B. (2014). Positive parenting predicts the development of adolescent brain structure: A longitudinal study. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 8, 7-17.
  3. Chen, Y., Kubzansky, L. D., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2019). Parental warmth and flourishing in mid-life. Social Science & Medicine, 220, 65-72.
  4. Romeo, R. R., Leonard, J. A., Robinson, S. T., West, M. R., Mackey, A. P., Rowe, M. L., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2018). Beyond the 30-million-word gap: Children’s conversational exposure is associated with language-related brain function. Psychological Science, 29(5), 700-710.
  5. McNeil, C., & Hembree-Kigin, T. L. (2011). Parent-child interaction therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
  6. Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2018). The power of play: A pediatric role in enhancing development in young children. Pediatrics, 142(3), 1-17.

General References

Eyberg, S. M., & Funderburk, B. W. (2011). Parent-child interaction therapy: Treatment manual. Unpublished manuscript, University of Florida at Gainesville.

McNeil, C., & Hembree-Kigin, T. L. (2011). Parent-child interaction therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Science & Business Media.

Troutman, B. (2016). IoWA-PCIT, integration of working models of attachment into parent-child interaction therapy. Unpublished manuscript, Carver College of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, University of Iowa.

Urquiza, A., Zebell, N., Timmer, S., McGrath, J., & Whitten, L. (2011). Course of treatment manual for PCIT-TC. Unpublished manuscript, UC Davis Children's Hospital, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Davis.