Positive Parenting for Toddlers

Positive Parenting for Toddlers

15 November 2022 • Words by Elle Walsh 3 mins

It can be so tough to know how to talk so kids will listen. You can research and try out lots of different strategies and approaches, but in the end the most powerful resource and strategy there is, is you! The relationship your child has with you is what will keep them coming back to you in times of trouble. My advice for new parents would be to turn inward. Think about the kind of parent you would like to be as you navigate parenthood. If you feel that you want to have a relationship with your child that is bounded in warmth, empathy, responsiveness, and secure attachment, then read on to discover more about positive parenting.

What is positive parenting?

Let’s dive into some research and discover the roots of positive parenting. Positive parenting focuses on the relationship between child and parent and seeks to promote parenting behaviors that are most essential for fostering positive development. There are numerous research-supported tools and strategies that provide a wealth of information for common parenting challenges, such as bedtime struggles, tantrums etc., as well as the many learning lessons that are simply part of growing up, like starting school and making new friends. The field of positive psychology is particularly pertinent to discussions around effective parenting. With the focus on happiness, resilience, and positive development, positive parenting can help you be the kind of parent that you imagine you can be: confident, optimistic, and joyful in your relationship with your child.

Seay and her colleagues (2014) offer this universal definition of positive parenting: “Positive parenting is the continual relationship of a parent(s) and a child or children that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally” (p. 207).

Along with the literature I have explored, from my professional knowledge and experience I also feel that positive parenting is empowering, nurturing, and consistent. It sets boundaries and encourages empathy, provides emotional security, warmth, unconditional love, and affection, and respects the child and their developmental age.

Every parent is looking outward for those parenting hacks that can just simply get them through those tougher moments. The beauty of adopting a positive parenting style is that it is all about you and how you speak to and interact with your child.

What is special and challenging about the toddler years?

Parenting a toddler can rattle even the sturdiest of us and it can be so tempting, especially in desperation during a public tantrum, to resort to short-term discipline that may show results in the moment, such as commanding, pleading, threatening, or negotiating. Although these quick fixes are helpful at that moment, in the long run they will likely reap some negative consequences. Joan Durant, a child clinical psychologist, has written ample material on positive parenting, and in her book Positive Discipline in Everyday Life she places significant importance on talking to a child in a way that shows empathy and helps them to verbalize their feelings. Durant states that the long-term goals are “the heart of parenting” and that it’s most helpful “to see short-term challenges as opportunities to work towards your long-term goals” (2016, p. 21).

Three positive parenting hacks for your pocket:

  1. Turning a NO into a YES
    If your child desperately wants to go to Grandma’s house and you know she’s not home, instead of simply saying “No, we can’t go now,” you could say, “I know you love going to Grandma’s house, but she is out right now. We will make sure we give her a call later to see when she is free for us to visit.”

    Here you are acknowledging your child’s love for and desire to see their grandmother, and letting them know that they will visit soon. You are offering them a positive response with an explanation, rather than a “No” with zero explanation.
  2. Positive direction
    With positive direction, you are offering insight to your child about the consequences of their actions. Try narrating what you see and explaining what could happen next. For example, rather than saying “Stop pulling off your coat,” you could say, “I see you’re taking off your coat again. It looks like you don’t want to go outside and play.”
  3. Positive redirection
    With positive redirection, you are harnessing your child’s curiosity and sense of adventure without curtailing it. For example, if you discover your child coloring on their bedroom wall, you could say, “Paper is for coloring. Here is a big cardboard box. Let’s create something together with this and then you can color it however you like.”

Such simple twists in our words and your child’s behavior could shift from a massive meltdown to cooperation—wonderful examples of the power of positive parenting!


Seay, A., Freysteinson, W. M., & McFarlane, J. (2014). Positive parenting. Nursing Forum, 49(3), 200-208.

Durant, J. (2016). Positive discipline in everyday parenting. Retrieved from https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/document/positive-discipline-everyday-parenting-pdep-fourth-edition/

Elle Walsh