Positive Psychology + Parenting = More Love

The connection between Positive Psych and Positive Parenting

An excerpt from The Idea of Winning, Chapter One of The Winning Family:

Much has changed since I became a mom. Mental illness is no longer a dirty secret, and mental health is considered as important as physical health. Neuroscience has validated all of this book’s wisdom, and studies on psychological strengths have, in fact, created a new field of psychology focused on flourishing—the state of growth above and beyond recovering. In fact, the term positive parenting, which we coined in one of Mom’s brochures over thirty years ago, is now widely used for reinforcing positive behavior. Positive parenting isn’t about making kids behave. Instead of the outside-in word behavior, we prefer the inside-out word agency. We focus on building inner authority, creativity, and positive self-esteem. We focus on connection.

Today, writers, bloggers, coaches, and teachers offer many parenting styles: helicopter parenting, gentle parenting, good-enough parenting. What we want to encourage in this book is real enthusiasm for the power of love in a family—empathy and understanding; belonging and strength.

Positive parenting is based on the foundational concept that nurturing positive emotion makes us more capable and happy. The goal of this book is to “improve family life by better understanding the dynamics of love, parenthood, and commitment,” which positive psychology textbooks cry out for. However, our philosophy goes even further than that; the tools we teach can help end cycles of trauma and violence that have gripped humanity for millennia.

My blended win-lose family was nothing unusual. Among the many changes to this edition is the addition of a chapter on broken or divided families, with insights into what makes re-mixed families work. I don’t know much about my stepmom’s upbringing, but my father’s was certainly traumatic and tumultuous, in spite of his cheerful spirit. Of my three parents, my mom was the only one who transformed herself, by taking the time to examine and release her own dysfunctional patterns. She worked hard to free herself from the trauma that shaped her, and now she shows others how to do it. One of her readers said, “This book is better than years of therapy.”

Currently, the world is having an awakening about the intergenerational effects of ancestral, generational, and childhood toxic stress, trauma, and violence. A Kaiser study changed the world when it revealed that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)3 negatively affect our mental, emotional, and physical health all our lives, even into old age, and into the lives of our grandchildren.

The Winning Family has always been about creating Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs or PACEs) that build resilience. Many of us have experienced childhood trauma, and our “natural” responses to the world are “off,” but we now know more about overcoming, healing, and well-being. In trauma, we lose. In resilience, we win.

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