The Evidence Portal

Positive parenting practices

Flexible activity

In this activity, parents are educated on how to positively interactive with and engage with their children. Content could include:

  • positive discipline strategies and reducing harsh discipline
  • child behaviours and how to deal with children’s anger and misbehaviour
  • positive parent-child interactions and nurturing behaviours
  • children’s social, emotional, language and cognitive development and setting reasonable expectations
  • impact of trauma on children
  • planned activities training and how to anticipate and prepare for high-risk situations
  • communication skills

Parents should be taught how to apply different parenting skills to a broad range of target behaviours in both home and community settings. 

Supporting parents to positively interact and engage with their children fosters the social, emotional and cognitive development of the child. It can also ensure parents understand how to appropriately discipline their children, mitigating the risk of child maltreatment. 

How can it be implemented?

Education on positive parenting practices can be provided in a number of different ways. The content taught should be tailored to the age of children. Parents of toddlers will need to learn and practice different strategies to parents of older children. 

You should use your professional judgement to determine what is most appropriate for your client/s.

Home visits:

  • Sessions on positive parenting practices can be conducted in home visits with individual families.
  • Sessions typically run weekly, for 45mins-2hrs
  • The frequency and length of sessions may reduce as families' needs lessen
  • Visits can be supplemented with telephone calls as needed.
  • Home visitation can last for 10 weeks to 1 year. The length of the program should be based on client needs. 
  • Sessions can be conducted with all relevant family members (e.g. parents, grandparents, siblings etc.).

Group sessions:

  • Sessions on positive parenting practices can be conducted in a group setting. This can facilitate collaborative program solving discussions and can support parents to develop social networks. 
  • Group programs typically run weekly for 5-20 weeks. Each session is about 2-3 hours in length. 
  • Sessions can be supplemented with 15-30 minute phone calls towards the end of the program.
  • Parents can also be given workbooks that include key content and activities to complete during the group sessions and in their own time. 

A combination of home visits and group sessions can also be conducted. The structure of the program should depend on client needs. For example, a home visiting program could use group sessions to reinforce messages taught in home visits or to connect parents with other families. A group program could use home visits to follow up with families who require more assistance.  

Parenting skills should be taught via a number of active training methods, including:

  • Explaining why the skills are important
  • Modelling and demonstrations
  • Role play and hands on practice
  • Observation and feedback
  • Goal setting

Other implementation methods could include:


  • Three 90 minute sessions
  • Sessions should be independent of each other so parents can attend any or all. 
  • Relevant parenting tip sheets and resources can be distributed. 
  • Practitioners should be available at the end of the session to answer questions.

Multimedia program:

  • 50 minute long interactive online program where parents view different scenarios about child behaviour and answer questions how they would respond. 
  • Handbook can be provided to supplement the content. 

Physician or clinic visits:

  • Parents can discuss their child's behaviour with trusted health professional who provides advice on how to discipline children, foster positive parent-child interactions.
  • Medical professionals should work in partnerships with community organisations and refer families to additional services as needed.

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal people and communities?

  • Parenting education with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families should be undertaken by Aboriginal practitioners where possible, or Aboriginal practitioners should be engaged and valued to provide information about community, cultural protocols and world views.
  • Parenting education needs to recognise unique kinship ties within Aboriginal communities. Also, the culture of parenting in an Aboriginal family may differ from that of non-Aboriginal families. This is why parenting education needs to be co-designed with Aboriginal and community stakeholders, and recognise the worldviews, practices and priorities of Aboriginal people.
  • See the Cultural Safety and Wellbeing Evidence Review for more information.

Who is the target group?

This flexible activity has been implemented with a number of different target groups. Key characteristics include:

  • Parents at high risk of child maltreatment, with children aged 0-10 years old.
  • Parents with children under 12 years old
  • Families with children, prenatal to 6 years of age. 
  • Families experience psychosocial risk
  • Parents of teenagers up to 16 years old
  • Teenage mothers
  • Families as high risk of child abuse and neglect
  • Parents on methadone maintenance with children 2-8 years old
  • Parents with children under 4 years old, deemed at risk of child abuse and neglect or who use harsh physical discipline

Families in rural areas with multiple risk factors for child abuse and neglect

What programs conduct this activity?

  • The Child FIRST program works to strengthen parent-child relationships. A relationship-based approach to enhance nurturing, responsive parent–child interactions and promote positive social-emotional and cognitive development is used. The program aims to facilitate positive interactions through reciprocal parent–child play, reading, play, and family routines. 
  • The Colorado Adolescent Maternity Program promotes maternal competency and nurturing parenting behaviours. Teenage mothers are given instructive materials on age-appropriate ways to enhance child development and discipline children. The program teaches the necessity of love, trust, honesty, patience, and consistency in childrearing, and the detrimental effects of observed violence on child development were stressed at every visit. 
  • In the Hawaii Healthy Start Program, home visits focus on parenting education and modelling effective parent-child interaction. 
  • In the Healthy Families America program, home visits concentrate on improving the parent-child relationship through instruction, reinforcement, modeling, and parent-child activities. 
  • The Incredible Years Parenting Training program parents are taught positive discipline strategies and effective parenting skills. They focus on strengthening parent-child interactions, nurturing relationships, reducing harsh discipline, and fostering parents’ ability to promote children’s social, emotional, and language development. 
  • In the New Zealand Early Start program, home visitors work with families to reduce the use of physical punishment and increase awareness of child abuse and neglect issues. They also seek to improve parental sensitivity, positive parenting and non-punitive parenting. 
  • In the Play Nicely program, parents are taught discipline strategies on how to respond to an aggressive child. Parents watch a multimedia program on different types of discipline and work through which responses/strategies are most effective. 
  • In the Group Teen Triple P program parents participate in group sessions about positive parenting, encouraging appropriate behaviour, managing problem behaviour, and dealing with risky behaviour. 
  • In the Parent Aide Services and Case Management program, home visitors target parenting skill guidance, such as appropriate discipline.
  • The Parents Under Pressure program includes numerous modules designed to improve positive parenting behaviours. One module, ‘Connecting With Your Child to Help Them Feel Loved and Safe’, promotes a positive parent-child relationship. ‘Understanding What May Happen When Children are Exposed to Trauma or Loss’ focuses on the impact trauma may have on a child. 
  • In the Relief Nursery Prevention program, early childhood teachers work to enhance parenting skills, promote parent-child relationships and support parents to create a healthy and nurturing home environment.
  • The Safecare+ home visiting program focuses on parent-child interactions through education and skill demonstration. Parents learn to increase positive interactions with their child, structure daily activities by providing engaging and stimulating activities, and prevent difficult child behaviour.
  • In the Parental Daily Diary program parents participate in weekly group sessions and home visits about developing a more positive relationship with their child. Gentle parenting skills such as ignoring, and time-out, are promoted. Positive behaviour skills include enjoyable activities and activities the child could be praised for completing. 
  • The Triple P includes various activities to support positive parenting practices. In Level 2 of the program, parenting seminars on ‘the power of positive parenting’, ‘raising confident, competent child’ and ‘raising resilient children’, are conducted. In Levels 3 and 4, parents participate in active skills training and are taught to apply these skills to a range of everyday and difficult situations. Skills include: parent-child relationship enhancement, encouraging desirable behaviour, managing misbehaviour, and preventing problems in high-risk situations. 
  • The Triple P - Enhanced group behavioural family intervention teaches parents to:
    • challenge the beliefs they hold about their child's and their own behaviour and how to change negative behaviours in line with these beliefs
    • promote children’s competence and development (e.g. praise)
    • manage children’s misbehaviour (e.g. setting rules)

What else should I consider?

Practitioners must be trained on topics covering child development, parent-child interaction etc.

Families with children with specific and complex needs (e.g. behavioural disorder) may require additional or different support. Practitioners should ensure the skills and strategies taught are appropriate for the child and meet the family’s needs.

Further resources

Last updated:

20 Feb 2023

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