Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


5 Evidence-Based Ways to Practice Positive Parenting

What is positive parenting and can it really improve your child's behavior?

Key points

  • Positive parenting is a parenting practice that focuses on building a positive relationship with your child.
  • Research finds that positive parenting is associated with lower levels of challenging behavior in children.
  • There are several evidence-based ways to practice positive parenting that may also be associated with improved behavior.

“Positive parenting” is currently a buzzword that is commonly used to describe parenting practices. Yet, what exactly does this term mean? Does research find positive parenting to be effective? And how do you actually practice positive parenting?

What is positive parenting?

There is a need for a more consistent definition of positive parenting. Yet, a recent review article generated the following definition of positive parenting based on 120 articles on the topic: “a continual relationship of parents and children that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally” (Seay & Freysteinson, 2014). Other researchers have defined positive parenting as a parent-child relationship that is “responsive to child’s needs and feelings and combines warmth and thoughtful, firm limit setting consistently over time” (Schor, 2003).

Is positive parenting effective? Will it really improve your child’s behavior?

Research finds that positive parenting is associated with lower levels of aggression and other forms of challenging behavior in children. In particular, mothers who use more positive parenting practices with their toddlers are less likely to have children who show challenging behavior later in childhood.

How do you practice positive parenting in a way associated with less challenging behavior in children (according to the research)?

1) Respect your child’s autonomy and independence. Allow them to make choices and to make their own mistakes. When possible, let them choose the clothes they wear, their play activities, and the order of tasks in their daily routines.

2) Provide developmentally appropriate opportunities for play and learning for your children. Teach them new words and skills but also teach them about emotions. Set limits and correct their behavior when necessary.

3) Be sensitive to cues from your child. Be aware and responsive to their emotions. Respond consistently to their communication (or attempts at communication, if they are not yet communicating using words),

4) Be warm and loving with your child. Regularly show them affection and love. Praise their efforts and hard work whenever you notice it.

5) Be present and interact with your child as often as possible. Practice special time with your child daily (that is, spend about 15 minutes per day one-on-one with your child with minimal distractions and following their lead in play)

Does positive parenting mean you never correct your child or provide limits?

No, positive parenting, as it is defined in the research, involves consistent and firm limit setting.

Can you practice “positive parenting” and still use consequences and time-outs?

Yes, most evidence-based parenting positive parenting programs involve natural and logical consequences, and many programs include some version of time out.

Does positive parenting mean staying close to your child during all tantrums and meltdowns?

No, positive parenting means being sensitive to your child’s cues. If they need space when they are upset, give them time and space to calm down. And if you, as the parent, need some time and space to calm down, allow yourself to do so as well!


Boeldt, D. L., Rhee, S. H., DiLalla, L. F., Mullineaux, P. Y., Schulz‐Heik, R. J., Corley, R. P., ... & Hewitt, J. K. (2012). The association between positive parenting and externalizing behaviour. Infant and Child Development, 21(1), 85-106.

Seay, A., Freysteinson, W. M., & McFarlane, J. (2014, July). Positive parenting. In Nursing Forum (Vol. 49, No. 3, pp. 200-208).

Schor, E. (2003). Family pediatrics: Report of the task force on the family. Pediatrics, 111(6), 1541–1571.

More from Cara Goodwin, Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today