These days many parents are tuned in to the fact that some forms of discipline are heavy handed. Harsh discipline can actually thwart the development of the child by undermining their confidence and weakening the parent-child connection. However, parents also know that all children can – and do – misbehave from time-to-time and discipline is an important part of establishing consequences and boundaries. Choosing to use positive discipline technique for your child is so effective because it helps to establish cooperation without shaming.
What is Positive Discipline?
Dr. Jane Nelsen is the founder of the positive discipline techniques and published the book Positive Discipline in 1981. While these ideas were not entirely new, they were synthesized into a clear picture of how to raise a child through positive discipline that helped children to become more responsible, cooperative, and self-disciplined. Positive discipline works through clear communication and keeping the parent-child connection (rather than severing it through chastisement and isolation).
The Positive Discipline Book:
The Positive Discipline book goes into much greater detail and gives you many positive discipline techniques and examples to help you navigate parenthood from toddlers to teens. It teaches you how to:
- bridge communication gaps
- defuse power struggles
- avoid the dangers of praise
- enforce your message of love
- build on strengths, not weaknesses
- hold children accountable with their self-respect intact
- teach children not what to think but how to think
- win cooperation at home and at school
- meet the special challenge of teen misbehavior
Why Positive Discipline Is Better
Positive discipline is a form of training, as opposed to chastisement – which is more like a punishment. Effective discipline involves clear communication where appropriate behaviors and inappropriate behaviors are made clear as are consequences.
Positive discipline techniques are better because they focus on encouragement and problem solving rather than on threats, fear of punishment, and/or shame. To me, positive discipline and harsh discipline may both of the same effect of the child behaving in your presence but one is much better. Positive discipline is the best because it is more effective in your absence and because it encourages self growth. Because the child is learning what is expected and learning to problem solve in order to avoid negative outcomes, they are naturally more able to do so without you. If they are learning the consequences of their actions without being shamed and feeling disconnected from the parent, they can learn their lesson without the compounded problem of feeling cut off from their parent.
Generally, more traditional discipline comes after the horse has bolted and is corrective in nature. It can be confusing to the child if clear communication has not occurred to let them know what was expected or unacceptable. This means that it has the potential to damage self-esteem or undermine a child’s confidence.
For example, when a child does something wrong and the standard response is go to your room, or a swat on the bottom, the child has been “disciplined” in a traditional sense. But has that child learned anything? They have probably learned that a certain behavior will merit this negative response but they probably haven’t learned why or what they could have done differently.
Given that children tend to mimic adults, teaching kids this type of punitive reaction to things we don’t like can lead to problems. For example, if I were to smack and shout at my child when they did something wrong, I should not be surprised to find that my child may smack and shout at his friend when he perceives something he doesn’t like. All my child would be doing is repeating what I taught him.
Using positive discipline techniques helps your child learn to use his or her reasoning and better judgement to avoid misbehavior rather than fear of punishment to avoid misbehavior.
Positive Discipline Techniques
Dr. Nelsen offers five criteria for positive discipline- kind and firm, belonging and significance, effective long term, teaches life skills, reinforcement of capability.
Positive discipline techniques do not allow for permissiveness and still involve consequences. They are kind and firm. It is important to be respectful and encouraging even when you are firm in respecting yourself and delivering consequences teach teach the lesson.
Children need to feel a sense of belonging and significance. Connection is a very important part of our motivation and children want to belong and feel important. Positive parenting techniques keep this in mind as well as teach valuable life skills such as respect and concern for others. They encourage cooperation and contribution.
Ultimately, positive discipline techniques are empowering for a child because they invite the children to discover how capable they really are and to use their personal choices in positive ways.
Positive discipline techniques take into account that children will often reflect what we do and sometimes show us our own short-comings. We too can practice self improvement in being clear communicators and in looking ahead to avoid poor behavior.
Another positive discipline technique is to look at the belief behind the behavior. Taking a look at why a poor behavior is happening can sometimes be as simple as the circumstances but for repetitive problems, there may be an underlying belief or misunderstanding that needs to addressed. Talking with children about why they are making their choices and helping them brainstorm and problem solve solutions can go along way towards preventing future problems.
Real Life Positive Discipline Examples
This portion of the post is contributed by Neil Fellowes whose mission is to help parents with their parenting techniques using everyday situations. He uses the authoritative parenting style to create less pressure and frustration. He finds that positive discipline is more effective making busy parents more peaceful and efficient.
You see, there many things we can do as a parent to pre-empt a child’s behaviour. One positive discipline technique is to put something in place that can stop the unnecessary or unwanted behaviour beforehand.
For example, if a toddler is left alone in front of the DVD for a time with a drink and they, quite by chance, stand up by the TV and accidentally drip all their juice out of their toddler cup onto the DVD player and it fuses, it will likely infuriate you, but is it really their fault?
The authoritative parenting style requires the parent to think ahead and work things out for a child. For example, I knew that my children would get on brilliantly for about 30 minutes when they are aged around 12 and 6 years old respectively. If I left them much longer than that they would get disruptive and fall out.
I noticed a pattern, so I began to interrupt it. After about 20 or 25 minutes I’d go and check in on them, spend 5 to 10 minutes with them and then leave again. This way they spent longer together without annoying each other and falling out. Over time I began to increase the time by a few minutes here and there. The outcome was a brilliantly creative time where they made animated movies together out of Lego with voice overs. Because of this they made some memories and developed a closer bond than they would have if I had not predicted their behaviour and interrupted it.
Yes, positive discipline may require a little more work up front to think things through, but compare that to not thinking things through and the energy it then takes to correct bad behaviour and the bad feeling that goes with that.
Take a moment now and consider what do you chastise or discipline your child for the most. Think about what is happening just before you have to tell them off… think about what you can do to interrupt the behaviour before it starts.
An example might be you are going on a trip to grandma’s house. The trip is an hour and usually the children are fine for the first 10 minutes, but then they start to act up, and you have to pull over or threaten them.
Now use the positive discipline approach. What can you do at 10 minutes into the journey that interrupts the kids? Play a game of eye-spy? Sing a song together? What can you do 10 minutes later? Tell them 10 things you love about them? Have them tell each other what they love about each other?
You might notice all my positive discipline examples above get the children interacting with each other and collaborating or cooperating. And you might argue that you can’t do this in all situations.
For example, what do you do when you are on the phone and you sense they are about to get troublesome? You could give them a rub on the head and pause from the call long enough to reassure them that although you are busy you are watching them. You could end the call if it’s unimportant! Alternatively, you could distract them with a treat of some sort.
None of this is hard to do. It takes a little thought on your part, but that thought will save you a lot of trouble and frustration and negative energy. On the positive side, what are the long-term benefits you will enjoy as a family because you have stopped negative behaviour and encouraged collaboration and co-operation.
For me personally, I have always used positive discipline techniques. They came very naturally to me as my Grandmother always used logic and reason with me to help me chose the best course of action and regulate my own behavior. When more traditional disciplines methods were used on me, I felt very angry and resentful of those lording their power over me. I found in raising my own two children that positive discipline is so effective and it results in happier children and parents.
There are so many different parenting styles. What do you feel works when it comes to disciplining your child? Do you think you will try some of these positive discipline techniques?