Positive Parenting: Getting to Know Your Child

The Positive Psychology of Parenting: Getting to Know Your Child

Have you ever noticed how many shout-outs to moms and dads there are in winners’ acceptance speeches at award shows like the Oscars and Tonys? Often when we reflect on our accomplishments we recognize and appreciate our parents for believing in us, and for really getting to know our nature, strengths, and passions, and for supporting us in becoming our best selves.

> Sound mixer Kevin O’Connell paid tribute to his mother for getting him his first job in the motion picture industry and “rescuing” him from being a fire fighter. Accepting his Oscar, he recalled what she had said to him: “You can work really hard, and someday you can win yourself an Oscar, and you can stand on the stage, and you can thank me in front of the whole world,’” he said. “Mom, I know you’re looking down on me tonight, so thank you.”

> One of the composers of La La Land’s “City of Stars,” Benj Hasek, recognized his mom with a special message for her: “She let me quit the JCC soccer team to be in a school musical…So this is dedicated to all the kids who sing and write and all the moms who let them!”

> I remember the powerful speech by Tony award winning actress Audra McDonald expressing her gratitude to “the most important people in her life” — her mom and her dad up in heaven — “for disobeying the doctor’s orders and not medicating their hyperactive girl and finding out what she was into instead, and pushing her into the theater.” 

Really getting to know your children and believing in them is often challenging for parents today, who feel so much pressure to have their children fit into “cookie cutter” systems, where it is expected that everyone has to be good at everything and to “fix” them when they’re not. When a parent gets negative feedback about how they “should” be performing academically and behaving in class, and are compared to other children and an expected “norm” it is sometimes difficult to focus on all of the positive qualities and potential you know your child has for succeeding in school and in life.

If we want to practice positive parenting, I believe that it is important to encourage your child to work hard, do well in school, be kind and compassionate human beings, and at the same time recognize them for their unique and special combination of character strengths that may not be graded — such as creativity, zest, teamwork, leadership, generosity, honesty, kindness or compassion.

One perspective that I find useful in helping parents get to know their children at any age is based on the work of Stephen Cowan, MD, developmental pediatrician and author of Fire Child Water Child. Based on ancient wisdom and more than 30 years of practice with a wide range of children from birth to college age, Dr. Cowan’s  “Who is My Child?” Questionnaire may be a first step in helping parents understand their child/ren’s nature, or as he tells his patients, the “powers” that they can choose to access and develop.

TRY THIS: Complete the “Who is my child?” questionnaire for each of your children, as well as for yourself thinking back to when you were a child. Then contact me with the results and we can talk about what it means and how you can use these insights to parent from a positive perspective.

If you want to know more about getting to know your child and how to parent from a positive perspective, look for one of my Positive Parenting workshops or parent groups in your area, or contact me for coaching via phone or Skype.

Yours in positive parenting,


Register for my workshop series here: Positive Psychology of Parenting: Getting to Know Your Child


1 Response

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    wow ellen, did you hit the nail on the head with that one. it would be so much easier if we didn’t have all those other people in or heads when we trying to raise our kids. thanks
    even though my kids are grown, what you say is giving me perspective to let myself off the hook a bit on the guilt i feel.
    by the way, i did try to let my kids be individuals and i think they are. that makes me proud.

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