When Positive Parenting Doesn’t Work: 5 Missteps to Avoid

Children yelling and mother in despair
You’ve tried it—that whole
“Positive Parenting” thing.

You tried not to yell or hand out rewards, but alas, the kids are still running amok all over your house.

Again, you’re left defeated—feeling like threats and punishments are the only way to get your kids to know you’re actually serious and behave in the moment.

I totally get it. I remember (like it was yesterday) feeling at the end of my rope.  Thinking to myself, “Am I even cut out to be a mother?”  “Why is this so difficult for me?” “Why does it feel like my kids are always winning?”

Let’s be honest, friends, there is no more difficult task than raising those tiny humans and doing it WELL!

But what I’ve learned from my own journey of being a daily yeller to a parenting instructor who teaches parents how NOT to yell is that systemic change takes time.

After all, the backtalk and mealtime battles didn’t happen in a day. The problems you’re facing are a result of many tiny interactions that (unbeknownst to you) have fueled the power struggles in your home.

When families express frustration or concern with the effectiveness of Positive Parenting, it’s usually because there has been a misstep or two (or three!) along the way. But don’t worry, those missteps are easy to correct!

So before you throw in the Positive Parenting towel for good, here are a few common hiccups that parents face when trying to implement Positive Parenting Techniques in their home.

5 Common Missteps Parents Make When Implementing Positive Parenting Techniques


1. Parents Aren’t Consistent

I know this is hard. And when life throws you curveballs—snow days, schedule changes, unforeseen circumstances, financial hardships—it can be even more difficult to stay focused and remain consistent in your parenting.

In Jeremy Dean’s book, Making Habits, Breaking Habits, he argues that it takes 66 days, on average, to start a new habit.

For those of us who aren’t naturally inclined to use Positive Parenting techniques (don’t worry, that’s ALL of us), be sure you’re consistent for at least two months before you expect to see results.

In the same way it takes 66 days for parents to form new habits, the same is true for our kids—  66 days to habitually pick up his room, 66 days to master the morning routine, 66 days to keep an afternoon homework schedule.

Stay focused and consistent as you’re implementing these changes and you’ll be on your way to seeing improvement in your home.


2. Parents Send Mixed Messages

If your children are growing up in a two-parent or multi-generational household, it’s important parents strive to find some common parenting ground.  

If children experience different parenting strategies or techniques from the adults in the home, they will figure out a way to undermine the disconnected front.

However, just because parents might use different discipline techniques, DOES NOT mean positive parenting techniques can’t work for YOU. When other adults in the home see how children respond to YOU, they will definitely take notice.

Don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for kids to become accustomed to your new approach. (And don’t be discouraged if they play one parent off of the other!) When parents disagree on discipline, it can be difficult to see changes in children’s behavior, but stay the course and the results will come.

Many parents I’ve taught have found success using the tools even when their parenting partner isn’t totally on board. And like I said before, give yourself 66 days to establish those routines and all the adults in your home will start to pay attention.


3. Parents Fail to See How Their Personality Informs Parenting Decisions

Each family member is hardwired with personality traits that affect their social interactions. When parents tell me that positive parenting isn’t working, I ask them to revisit the Parent Personality Assessment they take when they begin our online course. There are always renewed ‘aha!’ moments when parents are reminded how their own personalities bring out certain behaviors in their kids and informs their discipline decisions.

For example, a parent with a more controlling personality might fail to realize how their low tolerance for mess inhibits a child from helping in the kitchen. Or a parent with a more lenient personality might fail to see how their apathy to routines negatively impacts a child’s behavior.

In order to successfully use Positive Parenting techniques, parents must dig deep and uncover ways their personality might be clashing with their child.

By gaining self-awareness and understanding what triggers you as a parent, you can approach parenting with a more proactive lens. Conversely, if YOU stop doing the things that trigger YOUR CHILDREN—yelling, blaming, arguing, etc.—you’ll be well on your way to creating a peaceful home.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions members, access the Parent Personality Assessment in Session 1 to discover your parent personality and how it can affect discipline decisions.


4.  Parents Spend Too Much Time Reacting

During my years as a parenting educator, I’ve found when parents come looking for discipline advice, they’re almost always looking for the “what should I do when….” RESPONSES:

What should I do when my child hits?

What’s the consequence for not doing homework?

What do I do to stop the whining?

What should I do when my child is sassy or disrespectful?

In each of these cases, parents are looking for a response to a behavior that just happened —what should I do AFTER my child does _________?

While that seems natural—after all, parents want to teach important lessons when a child misbehaves—parents will get better results (i.e. better behavior) by spending more time PROACTIVELY teaching, training, guiding, and instructing to avoid the behavior in the first place.

If you feel like you’re constantly reacting to misbehavior, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board—lay out clear expectations, train children to successfully complete tasks, model respectful behavior, and guide them through the decision-making process.

While you’ll still need appropriate responses to misbehaviors in the heat of the moment, by proactively parenting you’ll find yourself reacting less and less. Which means more and more peace in your home!

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, see Lesson #14 in Session 2 and learn how to successfully train your children to complete tasks around the house and increase their cooperation.


5. Parents Don’t Have All The Necessary Tools

Positive Parenting doesn’t come easily to most parents. For example, our natural instincts often drive us to punish children for lying because we want them to “learn the lesson.”  (When in reality, that only makes them more likely to lie in the future.)

In fact, in most parenting situations in which we feel stumped, we resort to the willy nilly parenting strategies—time-outs, counting to 3, taking away privileges or threatening, “I’m really serious this time!”

Our discipline strategy is equivalent to throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping something sticks.

And when that doesn’t work, we feel more and more discouraged.

Oh sure, we compare parenting war stories with our friends, we Google search for answers to our most pressing questions, but we don’t have a comprehensive parenting plan—a roadmap to follow.

While it may be easy to find one tool to end the nagging and negotiating or find one tool to reduce sibling rivalry, without an all-inclusive parenting roadmap, we still feel like we’re swimming upstream as one new challenge pops up after another.

Until I understood that frustrating behaviors were actually SYMPTOMS and not the root PROBLEM, I was simply putting bandaids over issues—is the same true for you?

Once we understand that misbehaviors are symptoms, we can address the root cause in a way that finally delivers results

To see the life-changing effects of Positive Parenting, you need to go all in. You need an entire parenting solution—not just one behavior-specific tool.

Because it’s just about impossible to piece together a comprehensive parenting strategy from blog posts and sites, I’ve designed a course for parents of toddlers to teens and you can get all the information you need in one place.

I know there are many online parent education options to choose from, and whether Positive Parenting Solutions is right for your family or not, I encourage you to find a resource that will offer you an extensive parenting solution that guides you through the entire parenting journey.

Just like you’ll research your next phone purchase to ensure it has all your favorite features, find a parent education option that meets your family’s needs too. By finding a course that teaches you ALL the tools you need to implement Positive Parenting successfully, you will reduce the misbehaviors and improve cooperation in your home.


Final Thoughts

I know all too well how the difficult moments of parenting can bring you down—make you wonder if you’re even cut out to be a parent. But please know that peace and calm and FUN are absolutely within your reach.

With some small tweaks to what you’re doing now and equipping yourself with a complete roadmap to follow, you will be the patient, confident, and positive parent you know you can be.  

I’ve seen thousands of families thrive and blossom into loving and cohesive family units by using Positive Parenting strategies and that can happen for you.

If you’d like to see if Positive Parenting Solutions is a good fit for your parent education needs, I’d be honored if you’d join me for a FREE CLASS.

I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling, or reminding. Will you join me?

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.