Supportive Parenting

Supportive Parenting: Everything You Need to Know

Published On: April 5, 2024

Many well-intentioned parents can feel lost due to the countless parenting strategies and approaches being advertised to them. Parents are hearing about gentle parenting, child-led parenting, authoritative parenting, and so on. It’s no wonder that parents are feeling overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.

It’s reassuring to recognize that most of the parenting curriculums being advertised have a lot in common, and simply following the similarities is often enough for great parenting. Understanding the core components of a parenting program can be useful when gaining confidence as a parent. I’d like to introduce you to Supportive Parenting, the underlying concept in nearly all parenting programs that you’re aware of today.

What is Supportive Parenting?

Supportive Parenting can be described as parenting from a place of strengths, or building upon the skills your child has developed rather than focusing on areas in which they are lacking. I like the versatility of supportive parenting – It is possible to be a supportive parent to your toddler as well as your teenager. 

Supportive parenting includes encouraging your child to do their best, listening to them without judgments or immediate advice, celebrating their accomplishments while supporting them through mistakes, setting and implementing consistent expectations and consequences, and treating them fairly. 

Remember – being a supportive parent means that you’re aiding and guiding your child, not stepping in and doing things for them. This distinction is important because if you tend to do everything for your child, you are teaching them that they are incapable of doing things on their own, creating dependence, and negatively impacting their ability to try new things. 

9 Tips to Being a Supportive Parent

Tips to Be a Supportive Parent

1. Listen more than you talk.

Have you ever gone to someone frustrated about a problem, and they immediately give you advice without really hearing you? How’d you feel? I can guess you felt shutdown, unheard, and maybe even defeated. How often do you unintentionally shut down your child in this way?

I’ve found that people are really great at knowing how to solve problems, and advice rarely works in the way it is intended. I’ve also found that people return to those who make them feel heard and understood. It is much more effective to allow your child space to fully process their emotions and experiences, and once they feel heard and understood, simply ask, “What do you think you should do?” I’d bet they’ll give you a really great response. If not, you might consider asking them if they would like to hear what you would do. 

2. Allow choices and mistakes.

Rather than telling your child what to do, offer choices whenever possible. When kids hear, “Do this, do that, stop this, go there”, they are immediately pulled to resist. People in general don’t like being told what to do, and kids are not the exception. By giving choices, you are reinforcing their autonomy, and parents often avoid power struggles by offering a couple acceptable choices.

3. Encourage autonomy and self-trust.

Ensure your kid knows that you trust their decision making. When they know that you believe in them, they will begin believing in themselves. You can encourage self-trust by validating their choices and collaborating to solve problems as they arise. You may also ask them what they’ve learned from challenges, and how they might approach challenges differently in the future. 

4. Establish and reinforce expectations.

Although we’ve talked about the importance of giving options and encouraging autonomy, it is equally as important to uphold your expectations as a parent. I often explore with parents what is most important to their family, and we work together to have logical or natural consequences that follow breaking expectations. Expectations are important because they teach self-control, mutuality, and respect. 

5. Understand your family values.

I talk all about values in my individual sessions, and I think it is also important to consider your family values. Values are like light posts guiding us along our journeys. They help us with our decision-making processes and help us stay focused on what is most important to us. Your family values may be different from another family’s values – That is okay! It is important that your values feel genuine and authentic to your family. There are countless opportunities to model your family values to your children, and in turn encourage them to uphold the same values. Some examples of family values include honesty, integrity, kindness, respect, hard work, faith and education. 

6. Guide and support – Do not control. 

Kids do not have the power to do a lot of things, and they definitely feel this power differential. It’s important to allow your child to have autonomy over the small choices and decisions that are age-appropriate for them. It is also important to allow them to resolve their own conflicts rather than stepping in to “save” them, as this teaches them that they are incapable of solving problems on their own.

7. Tolerate differences.

Your child may do things differently than you do, and that’s okay. Your kid may choose to express themselves differently than their peers, and that’s okay too. Tolerating your child’s differences allows them to be creative, build confidence, and feel secure in themselves. 

8. Lean into strengths.

Spend 95% of your time focused on what your child excels at, and 5% of your time working on the areas in which they need improvement. People do better when they feel better. When your kid feels capable and powerful, their efforts in improving other areas of their life will be fruitful. On the other hand, if they feel as though they can’t do anything right, they will feel too discouraged to even try to make changes. 

9. Focus on efforts, not on outcomes.

By focusing on efforts, parents focus on what is within their child’s control. This may be as simple as replacing, “Wow! You got an A. You get a big reward!” with “You got an A. You earned it!” This encourages your child to focus less on the results they produce and more on the hard work they put in to get those results. This leads to less perfectionism and more grittiness as children develop.

Parenting Programs Rooted in Supportive Parenting

I’ve sought out certification in a variety of parenting programs to best support my clients and the community. I have noticed so many familiarities between them that I wonder why we’re complicating things with a new verbiage. Nonetheless, I think the core components of the programs, such as supportive parenting, are useful.

You can find elements of Supportive Parenting in all of the following parenting curriculums:

  • 123 Magic
  • Balance Program
  • Creating Lasting Connections
  • Families in Action
  • Nurturing Parenting
  • Parenting with Love and Logic
  • Positive Discipline
  • Positive Parenting Program
  • Raising a Thinking Child
  • The Incredible Years
  • Unconditional Parenting
  • & More

Final Thoughts

I understand the overwhelm that you may feel when doing research on ways to be the best parent. By taking a strengths-based, supportive approach, you are on the right track. I find it useful to return to the basics when feeling overwhelmed with research and curriculums. Remember – by being a supportive parent, you are setting your child up for a successful, happy life and a positive relationship with you. 

If you need help navigating parenting strategies, you can always reach out to a family therapist who can help you maintain a happier, more peaceful home.