Ask Nicole: The many faces of positive parenting

There’s a Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” It makes me think of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program motto, “Small changes, big differences.” Together, both quotes provide a helpful reminder that in this lifelong journey called “parenting,” the greatest growth and change often comes from taking one small step at a time.

Raising children is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Many parents stumble, take short-cuts, or want to give up during their parenting journey. But with support and encouragement, we keep taking small steps and get closer to our goal of raising happy, healthy, thriving children.

This January marks the sixth annual Positive Parenting Awareness Month in Santa Cruz County. It’s a time to reflect on the importance of positive parenting and encourage families to use local resources, such as the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. Over the years, we’ve met many people who have taken small steps to reduce the stress of parenting, and in the process, have rediscovered the joy of raising their children. These are just a few of the many faces of positive parenting that we’re celebrating this month.*

Juana, a single mother, found that a few positive parenting strategies made a world of difference. “My children were out of control, and I had no one to help me. I didn’t know what to do. I was actually afraid of my kids. They never listened to me … and they yelled and threw toys at me whenever I said ‘no’ to them. I felt like a complete failure. When I learned the positive parenting strategy, Descriptive Praise, I thought my kids would just ignore me, but it was a miracle! They began to respond to the praise … and I noticed the kids started to repeat the behaviors I had praised. Now, the yelling has stopped at home, and I feel like we are all happier. I wish someone had told me about these parenting strategies when I first had my kids.”

Victor, a single father, had been afraid to discipline his 6-year-old daughter out of fear that she would think he didn’t love her. After learning about the difference between discipline and punishment, Victor understood that assertive discipline is one of the five principles of positive parenting. “That was important because it helped me understand that discipline can be nurturing, and to not be afraid to set limits. After learning positive parenting strategies, my life has completely changed. My daughter listens to me now, and I feel we have a better relationship. I can take her to the store, the park, and to visit friends. The simple parenting strategies really helped us.”

Stephanie and Luke, the parents of a child with special needs, used positive parenting strategies to reduce their child’s tantrums, which had become more extreme and violent. Stephanie and Luke learned that the tantrums were related to their child’s frustration over not being able to speak, so they taught their child other ways to express his feelings and needs. Now their son plays cooperatively with other children and is able to follow directions. Stephanie and Luke realized that making small changes made a big difference, and they are more confident as parents.

William, a divorced father of four teenagers, was required to take co-parenting classes. At first, William had little confidence in himself as a parent. As he participated in a positive parenting program specifically for divorced or separated parents, he learned how to recognize and cope with his own emotions about the divorce, reduce conflict over co-parenting issues with his former partner, and balance work, family and play time. William learned simple parenting strategies that helped him anticipate and handle any challenging teen behaviors and involve his teens in problem-solving. At the end of the program, William’s relationships with his teen children were healthier, stronger and mutually respectful, and his parenting confidence had soared.

Final thoughts: I continue to be inspired by the strength, courage and persistence of all the parents who value their children and themselves enough to reach out for support. During Positive Parenting Awareness Month – and every day throughout the year – take a moment to acknowledge the small steps you’re taking to be a positive parent. It may seem like progress is slow or nonexistent, but one day you will look back and be amazed at the distance you’ve traveled.

If you have a question or idea for future columns, please email me at [email protected]

* All names have been changed


Nicole Young is the mother of two children, ages 14 and 17, who also manages Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program, the world's leading positive parenting program. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency (Mental Health Services Act) and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit, or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or [email protected]