Positive Parenting

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Comfort, Play & Teach:
A Positive Approach to Parenting™
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Be a Positive Parent

Here's what Canadians are saying about Positive Parenting

Peter Mansbridge

Barenaked Ladies

Diane & Mike "Pinball" Clemons

Kim Stockwood

Graham Greene

Hayley Wickenheiser

The Power of Positive Parenting

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase positive parenting? Sweet kisses as you lay your sleepy baby in her crib? A heartfelt round of applause when your toddler finally takes to his potty? An enthusiastic cheer as your preschooler sails off on his two-wheeler for the first time?

While these examples are certainly clear demonstrations of positive, loving and supportive parenting, the kind of parenting that children surely respond to, the definition of positive parenting digs much deeper than that. Invest in Kids, a national charity, has based its working philosophy around positive parenting and is dedicated to helping parents become the positive parents they want and need to be.

Why is Positive Parenting important?

Invest in Kids’ National Survey of Parents of Young Children, showed that although 9 out of 10 Canadian parents believe that parenting is the most important thing they do, nearly one-third of parents could increase their positive parenting, one-third could be more effective in their parenting and nearly two-thirds could decrease their punitive parenting. Furthermore, results of a Statistics Canada survey found nearly 30 per cent of Canada’s infants and young children have an identifiable social, emotional or intellectual problem—and too many of these are related to a lack of positive parenting.

What does it mean to be a Positive Parent?

Positive Parenting is the approach to parenting that Invest in Kids believes best supports all aspects of healthy child development. It is based on decades of research into the links between parenting and how young children respond to life’s challenges. In Invest in Kids’ terms, a “positive parent” is a loving, understanding, reasonable and protective teacher and model. Each of these words holds special meaning.

A positive parent is loving. Research clearly shows that parents must be warm and nurturing, and show unconditional love for their children to flourish. This kind of love is based on listening for and responding sensitively to each child’s needs and showing empathy with and respect for each child.
A positive parent is LOVING when he or she

  • Is warm and nurturing, showing unconditional love
  • Listens for and responds sensitively to each child's needs
  • Has empathy with and respect for each child

A positive parent is understanding of each child’s temperament and is able to build on the strengths of each child’s nature, yet be flexible as time and circumstances dictate. A positive parent is UNDERSTANDING when he or she

  • Understands each child’s temperament and works with it
  • Builds on the strengths of each child
  • Is flexible with each child

A positive parent is reasonable. A reasonable positive parent is consistent and predictable. He or she sets and communicates clear limits and expectations and constructs consequences for irresponsible behaviour that are natural and reasonable, but not punitive. A positive parent is REASONABLE when she or he

  • Is consistent and predictable
  • Sets and communicates clear limits and expectations
  • Constructs consequences for irresponsible behaviour that are natural and reasonable, but not punitive

A positive parent is protective. Because infants and young children are so helpless, they need adults to provide a safe and secure base. To be protective parents must be actively involved with each child and provide not only a physically safe environment, but also an emotionally safe atmosphere where children can experiment with emotions, relationships and ideas. A positive parent is PROTECTIVE when he or she

  • Is actively involved with each child
  • Provides a physically and emotionally safe environment for each child

A positive parent is an accomplished teacher. Each parent, in his or her own style and manner, provides opportunities for each child to learn in an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement and with expectations of success. Positive parents offer each child choices and encourage children to learn to solve problems and make decisions. A positive parent is A TEACHER when he or she

  • Provides opportunities to learn in an atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement and expectations of success
  • Offers choices and encourages problem solving and decision-making

A positive parent is an excellent model. Infants and young children are consummate imitators, constantly looking to their parents for guidance in how to handle life’s challenges. To be an excellent model, parents must know themselves – both internally, regarding their emotions, values and beliefs, and how they appear to others in the family, on the job and in their community.
A positive parent is A MODEL when she or he

  • Models appropriate behaviour
  • Knows herself or himself

Why does Invest in Kids believe positive parenting is the best approach?

The positive parenting approach reflects the learning from decades of research on parenting style and the impact it has on children’s development. Positive parenting is a chief determinant of child outcomes. Equally important, positive parenting helps create a lifelong warm, respectful and loving relationship between parent and child. Equally important, positive parenting helps create a lifelong warm, respectful and loving relationship between parent and child.

Positive parenting means that a parent is able to recognize and work with both the child’s strengths and challenges to build a healthy, supportive and nurturing relationship.

Dr. Chaya Kulkarni
Vice-President, Parent and Professional Education
Invest in Kids

Is Positive Parenting just about being nice to your child?

Absolutely not. Often being a “reasonable” parent does not feel very positive at the time. Take, for example, the qualities of “setting limits” or “disciplining appropriately.” They may not feel very positive at the time. However, the long-term impacts of positive parenting are positive for children, and their relationship with their parents.

Being a Positive Parent seems overwhelming. I can’t be that perfect.

While as a concept, Positive Parenting may look challenging, Invest in Kids has created Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting™—the three main “How To’s” of positive parenting. Each is a tried and true, yet simple, way of relating positively to your children.


Comfort is the first thing babies and children need from their parents. When you comfort your child, she learns to feel secure, loved and valued.


Play is the “work” of children, and you are an essential partner. When you play with your child, he learns to explore and discover the world and his role in it.


Teach is how parents help their children learn. When you teach your child, she learns how to relate to others, solve problems and communicate.

If there’s anything that’s come out of the scientific literature in the last 25 years, it’s the importance of Comfort, Play & Teach with your children. Comfort is clearly supported by the research on attachment, depression, parenting style and discipline, which shows over and over that children do best in environments with high levels of warmth and positive regard and low levels of punitive and angry behaviour. Play, as documented in the research literature, is a critical aspect of learning to talk, becoming creative and getting along with others. Teach is demonstrated over and over as crucial, not just for intellectual development, but for moral and ethical development as well.

Dr. Carol Crill Russell,
Senior Research Associate
Invest in Kids

Do I need to buy any special equipment?

Comfort, Play & Teach builds on the activities that you do every day with your child—no special equipment is required.

What is Comfort, Play & Teach?

The Comfort, Play & Teach approach shows how each comfort, play or teach action by a parent leads to a predictable response from your infant or young child. And this is so much fun! You start something, your child picks it up, mulls it over, responds, and what a thrill for you! These Comfort, Play & Teach activities are geared to your child’s age from birth to kindergarten. So you enrich your child appropriately as he grows and develops.

But I don’t know what to do

Invest in Kids has developed a whole series of practical, easy-to-do Comfort, Play & Teach activities for you, based on the age and capabilities of your infant, toddler or preschooler. They turn everyday moments and routines into enriching experiences. Best of all, they help forge a strong bond with your child.

Is this complicated?

No. Comfort, Play & Teach are straightforward activities that can be applied across the board. You will quickly connect the dots and learn so much about how children grow and mature. Not just physically, but socially, emotionally and intellectually, too. You will be enhancing all aspects of your child’s development, with ever increasing knowledge, skills and confidence. And it is so easy!

Do I need to set aside time each day for Comfort, Play & Teach activities?

No. Thankfully, the beauty of Comfort, Play & Teach is that it is built on the naturally occurring activities you already do with your baby, toddler or preschooler. It takes daily activities, such as eating, commuting or bathing and turns them into Comfort, Play & Teach moments.

What if I am not very good at comforting, playing with or teaching my child?

Most of these activities are so simple you don’t have to be very talented at any of them in order to be successful. Anyway, most children are not harsh judges of their parents, and will likely be delighted with your efforts.

Comfort, Play & Teach: A Positive Approach to Parenting™ is Invest in Kids’ research-based framework for positive parenting. Learn more.

Visit Ages & Stages, for practical Comfort, Play & Teach™ activities to support your child’s healthy social, emotional, intellectual and physical development from birth to age 5.

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