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What is supportive parenting?

Published 13.07.2022 - Produced by Produced by the parenting experts of Väestöliitto - The Family Federation of Finland , the Central Union for Child Welfare and the Federation of Mother and Child Homes and Shelters , Family Federation of Finland
Supportive parenting means bringing up children in a way that is nurturing, caring, consistent and responsive to the child’s needs, and that involves setting boundaries and guiding the child. The aim of this section is to introduce you to the principles of supportive parenting.

Parenting should aim to strengthen the positive bond between the parent and child. Positive experiences and a supportive relationship with the child are a good basis for a parent to resolve conflicts in upbringing. A child is more likely to agree to parental rules when they feel they have a safe relationship and good contact with their parent. As its name suggests, supportive parenting aims to support a child’s positive self-image and self-esteem.

It includes, among other things:

  • a positive attitude towards the child
  • negotiation and giving reasons for decisions
  • clear and consistent boundaries
  • gentle touches, holding the child in your arms or on your lap, and stroking their hair or back
  • looking at and talking to the child in an accepting and encouraging way
  • recognising and prioritising the child’s needs
  • encouraging words and feedback
  • supporting their strengths
  • praising them
  • recognising, verbalising and accepting their and your own emotions

Fourfold matrix of supportive parenting

1. Guiding and interacting with the child / Physical

Guidance and touch:

  • Supportive guidance, instructions and adjustment
  • Showing cause and effect
  • Discussing, negotiating and giving reasons for decisions
  • Clear and consistent boundaries
  • Gentle touches, holding the child in your arms or on your lap, stroking their hair or back
  • Looking at and talking to the child in an accepting and encouraging way

2. Guiding and interacting with the child / Psychological

Being present and acknowledging the child. Describes events/situations between the child and an adult who is close to the child:

  • Taking an interest in the child and responding to the child’s initiatives
  • Listening, verbalising, setting an example
  • Encouraging speech and feedback, supporting the child’s strengths
  • Praising the child
  • Recognising, verbalising and accepting emotions
  • Supporting the development of the child’s emotional and behavioural regulation skills

3. Taking care of the child’s basic needs / Physical

Providing good care:

  • Age-appropriate care, clothing and nutrition
  • Age-appropriate stimuli
  • Facilitating movement that is characteristic of the child
  • Safety, protection and living conditions
  • Education
  • Hygiene, health and health care
  • Age-appropriate supervision and guidance
  • Prioritising the child’s needs

4. Taking care of the child’s basic needs / Psychological

A supportive relationship. Describes the relationship and interaction between a child and an adult who is close to the child:

  • Closeness, warmth and joy
  • The parent is emotionally available to the child
  • Keeping the child’s mental capabilities in mind
  • A positive attitude and approach to the child
  • Developmentally appropriate interaction with the child
  • Ability to recognise the child’s individual limits
  • Ability to support the child’s social development
  • Joy for the child and for spending time with them
  • A sensitive approach, giving the child space

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