Positive Parenting

What is positive parenting and why is it powerful?

Mom and kidPositive 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.

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

kid, mom and dad

  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.

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.

Praise - Love what they do

mom praise her kid

PRAISE is a positive statement that expresses approval.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Praise changes behavior
    When a behavior is praised, children will continue on with this behavior.

Ways to Praise

ways to praise in the family

4 tips for harnessing the power of praise

Tip 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.

Tip 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.

Tip 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 andtrying her hardest.

Tip 4: Praise with your words andbody
Adding smiles, a rub on the back, enthusiasm, a hug, a kiss or a high five can make praise feel extra special.

Reflection - Say what they say

reflection skill for son and father

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

  1. 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.’
  2. 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
  3. 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 rannedhome,” a parent can reflect “Wow, you ranhome!”.
  1. 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.

Ways to Reflect

ways to reflect example in the family

Imitation - Do what they do

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

  1. 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.’
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

imitation father and daughter

Ways to Imitate

ways to imitate in the family

Description - Say what they do

description-mom and son drawing

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

  1. 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!
  2. Descriptions increase attention span
    Descriptions help children focus and spend more time on a task. It’s a great tool to use during homework.
  3. Descriptions teach young children
    Descriptions help young children learn new words and concepts such as shapes, sizes, numbers and colors.

Ways to Describe

ways to imitate in the family

Enjoyment - Show warmth and enthusiasm

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

father and son enjoyment

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

Ways to Show Enjoyment

ways to show enjoyment in the family

Putting it all together

Promoting good behaviors and targeting inappropriate behaviors with PRIDE skills

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.

guy watering flowers

Good behaviors to notice

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 nofor an answer
  • Asking permission
  • Doing things right away
  • Following directions
  • Listening the first time

Targeting inappropriate behaviors with PRIDE skills

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.

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

To decrease an inappropriate behavior...

mom get upset with daughter

“Catch” the opposite good behavior...

mom apraise daughter


Taking the time to play

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

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.5

2 tips to make playtime special

mom and boy playingTip 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?”.
  1. McNeil, C., & Hembree-Kigin, T. L. (2011). Parent-child interaction therapy (2nd ed.). New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
  2. 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.

A final note

family readingDo 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 www.First5LA.org

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.