Is parenting an art? It probably is, and like any good art, it requires some theory, practice and, above all, experience. The existence of a theory does not mean that there’s a magic formula or 7 steps to success, but there’s some evidence that certain parenting styles favour the cognitive and social development of children. There’s no standardised way in order to be a good parent, but there are some guidelines —as well as personal and work situations— that favour it.
What will I read about in this article?
- Positive parenting, a matter of practice
- (Pro and not so pro) approaches to positive parenting
- How to support parenting in organisations
Positive parenting, a matter of practice
Let’s start with the practical part. Parenting is a process. It is experience. It is a vital process with successes, setbacks, and advances. A reflection that’s in the public debate, especially thanks to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is whether parenthood, an intimate and private process, should be supported publicly. Should governments, organisations and other social actors accompany parents?
The answer seems to be positive. This revolves around the concept of child best interest, an idea that is at the heart of the Convention, and which calls for parental behaviour that facilitates the child’s full development.
Therefore, and this has been articulated in advanced countries in this subject such as the Nordic nations, parental policies are not in essence policies for parents or workers, but for children.
Under this premise, parenting policies are a way to facilitate the full development of the youngest children. They become stimuli to encourage citizens to grow up with affection and security.
“Should governments, organisations and other social actors support parents?”
Supportive and less supportive approaches to positive parenting
In this framework, and noting the importance of early childhood care, the Council of Europe has decided to support and emphasise the importance of positive parenting.
According to the Council, it is defined as “parental behaviour that is based on the best interests of the child; nurturing, non-violent, while providing recognition and guidance, including setting limits that allow for the child’s full development”.
“Parental policies are not at heart policies for parents, not for workers, but for children. “
Many authors specialised in this field have developed and extended this approach. That’s the case of Professor María José Rodrigo and her team, who propose six principles that form the backbone of positive parenting:
- Warm and affectionate ties.
- Structured environment.
- Stimulation and support.
- Recognition of value.
- Children’s capacity development.
- Education without violence.
As just one example, a recent study with university students found that children of parents with a positive parenting style had higher self-esteem, and this self-esteem accounted to some extent for their academic success and less procrastination (Batool, 2020).
However, the very idea of positive parenting also has its critics. For example, Oxford academic Helen Reece asked, how can parents function without sanctions? Can we be good parents without disciplinary measures?
Reece criticised three of the main pillars (no punishment, positive reinforcement, and leading by example) as unsustainable over time (Reece, 2013).
According to her, moreover, positive parenting eliminates spontaneity and transforms parenting into a mechanical process.
How to foster parenting in organisations
However, and without any doubt, there’s a broad consensus regarding the parental competencies that shape the environment in which children grow up being crucial for their development. As the Russian psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner argued in his Ecological theory, we are sons and daughters of our environment; and parents, as a fundamental part of the first microsystem, shape that environment.
“We are sons and daughters of our environment; and parents, as a fundamental part of the first microsystem, shape that environment”.
But should parents be left to their own devices? The Council of Europe, and many other leading institutions, are aware that they shouldn’t.
They challenge countries themselves to articulate family policies that provide the necessary legislative, administrative and financial measures to create the best possible conditions for the development of positive parenting.
But what can organisations do? And should corporations intervene? If so, what can corporations do as active social actors? UNICEF proposes 10 ways in which organisations can support families.
We highlight four of them:
- Ensure that women are not discriminated against in their employment conditions, wages and career opportunities because of pregnancy.
- Encourage positive parenting practices among employees. One way to promote such practices would be through training programmes which highlight the importance of early childhood development.
- Address the specific difficulties of each worker according to their singularities. Take into account employees with changing schedules, which hinder the parenting process itself, and help with flexible schedules that favour work-life balance.
- Raise awareness among consumers and customers about the importance of early childhood. It’s possible to leverage the full arsenal of available media, teasing with interesting pills on social media.
When companies support work-life balance for their employees, they help foster healthier communities and families and, in turn, stronger businesses and more prosperous economies.
Batool, S. S. (2020). Academic achievement: Interplay of positive parenting, self-esteem, and academic procrastination. Australian Psychology Society, 72, 174-187. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajpy.12280
Reece, H. (2013). The pitfalls of positive parenting. Ethics and Education, 8(1), 42-54. https://doi.org/10.1080/17449642.2013.793961
Rodrigo, M. J., Máiquez, M. L., Martín, J. C., & Rodríguez, B. (2015). Positive parenting from prevention and promotion. In Manual Práctico en Parentalidad Positiva. Madrid: Síntesis.
Seay, A., Freysteinson, W. M., & McFarlane, J. (2014). Positive parenting. Nursing Forum, 49(3), 200-208.