Positive parenting and positive discipline focuses on teaching good behavior using kind and firm parenting techniques. Here are some simple tips to parent positively to create a peaceful home and happy family.
Why Parents Should Use Positive Discipline
How to discipline effectively?
Every parent grapples with this issue.
If you have young kids, you know how every day can be a struggle if your child doesn’t behave.
Even the most patient and nurturing parents can sometimes lose it when facing a defiant little human.
Consider this: A 3 year old preschooler is throwing a tantrum because Dad poured the gravy on her turkey instead of letting her do it herself. She throws up her hands, thrashing back and forth, screaming and crying for what seems like hours. Out of frustration, the Dad shouts, “Stop screaming NOW!”
Does it sound familiar?
Many of us are guilty of having done this more often than we’d like to admit.
So how should we discipline our kids without falling into such a “Do as I say, not as I do” trap?
What Is Positive Parenting?
Positive parenting is a set of parenting techniques based on the work of Viennese psychiatrists, Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs1.
In recent years, Jane Nelsen Ed.D. refined and championed this method in her famous series of positive discipline books and made positive parenting techniques well known.
Positive parenting strategies emphasize the importance of mutual respect and positive instructions to discipline. Positive parenting focuses on teaching future behavior instead of punishing past misbehavior.
Positive Parenting Tips
Here’s a list of positive parenting tips and positive discipline techniques.
Tip 1: Focus On The Reasons Behind The Behaviors
There is always a reason why children misbehave, even though the reason may seem silly to the parents.
It is reasonable for the child and that’s why they behave that way.
If parents can address the cause directly, even if the child doesn’t get what they want, they would at least feel that their needs are acknowledged. Having emotional support from the family is often more important than having the actual request met.
An acknowledged child can move on without the need to misbehave.
They may still be grumpy, but they do not need to act out once they feel understood.
Ask questions and get to the core of the problem. Knowing the reason behind the behaviors can also help parents avoid them in the first place.
For example, a child hit his brother. The reason could be that her little brother took away her toy and she was frustrated. So teaching the younger child to ask for permission before taking someone else’s things will prevent the issue from arising. Besides, it’s good manners.
If your child seems to never listen to you, there are two main possible reasons.
One reason may be because your expectation is not reasonable. Examine what you ask your child to do/not to do. Is it an order or a request with a good reason? It’s easier for a child to accept a good explanation, especially one that is related to their well-being, than to follow an order blindly.
Tip 2: Use Kind And Firm Discipline. No Need to be Mean to Mean Business.
Be kind to model how to be kind and respectful to others.
Children learn by mimicking others and parents are their primary role models.
When a parent yells, humiliates or calls a child names, the child learns to do the same when they’re upset.
The converse is also true. When a parent is kind and respectful despite being upset, the child learns to deal with difficulties with composure and respect.
Being kind also helps a child to calm down, be receptive to reasoning and more likely to cooperate.
Being kind is not the same as giving in.
Many parents mistakenly equate being positive and kind to being permissive.
This is simply not true.
You can firmly and kindly tell a child that she cannot have what she wants. There is no need for yelling, using a mean tone or talking in a stern voice.
You don’t need to be mean to mean business. A firm and calm NO is as good as, if not better than, a loud and mean NO.
You can be firm in setting limits and enforcing consequences so that your kid knows what to expect and what to base their future decisions on.
Practicing decision making this way also helps children grow their cognitive thinking skills which will be invaluable in their life.
Tip 3: Time-Out Yourself Before You Lose It
Yes, you heard that right.
You need to take a time-out yourself when needed.
It is inevitable that sometimes parents are just exhausted and angered by children’s unruly behavior.
But this is the true do-as-I-say-AND-as-I-do moment if you can calm yourself down and speak in a respectful and firm way.
Think about this, if something doesn’t go your child’s way, do you want them to blow up, or do you want them to have the ability to control their emotion and remain respectful?
When you feel that you’re about to lose it, tell your child that you need a moment by yourself because you are upset. Give a time frame on when you’ll return and then go into another room.
Walking away not only stops the power struggles, but it also allows you the time to cool down and remind yourself about your goal in disciplining (which should be to teach, not to win in a conflict).
While there, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind for a second.
This time-out technique provides you with more time and breathing room to think of ways to deal with the issue at hand.
When you return, you are refreshed and ready to tackle the challenge again.
Regular meditation has been shown to help reduce stress in situations like this and promote mindful parenting4.
Tip 4: Be Non-Punitive. Be Creative In Coming Up With Disciplinary Method.
According to Positive Discipline: The First Three Years by Jane Nelsen, punitive punishment produces Four Rs that do not help a child learn – Resentment, Rebellion, Revenge and Retreat.
Oftentimes, punishment cannot stop bad behavior nor does it also teach good ones.
A positive, non-punitive response is much better in settling an overstimulated child and engaging them in learning new behavior.
One such response is to use positive time-out or sometimes called a time-in. A positive time out for kids differs from a conventional time-out used by many parents because it is non-punitive.
Time out for kids is not and should not be used as a punishment. The child is simply removed from the over-stimulating environment that creates or aggravates misbehavior and put into a place to cool off and feel safe.
The full name of time-out is Time Out From Positive Reinforcement. It is invented by behavioral psychologists, Arthur Staats, when he was raising his own kids.
The idea is to take the child out of the environment where the problematic behavior occurs to remove any reinforcements. Eventually, the child calms down and learns to diminish or stop the undesired behavior.
Unfortunately, many parents use it incorrectly as a form of punishment. They isolate and restrict the child’s movement during the time-out and add a secondary punishment by chastising and lecturing the child.
To use time-out properly, here are the key points:
- State your expectations (no hitting the dog) and consequence (time-out) clearly ahead of time. The child needs to know that they can choose the consequence by their own action. This process helps them learn to make choices and develop cognitive thinking.
- If the child chooses to carry out the unwanted behavior, calmly tell them and then take them to a quiet, safe place. Don’t call them names (you’re bad), scold, look hatefully, or be mean. That is, be kind and firm when using time-out.
Let your child play with toys or roam around if that helps her calm down. Sometimes, when they’re very upset, you could sit and cuddle with them.
Remember, the positive parenting approach is not a punishment.
Afterward the time-out, explain (not lecture) why their previous action was inappropriate and help them come up with a better response the next time they feel like acting out.
It is not easy to come up with a positive response to every situation. Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, also by Nelsen, is full of good advice, solutions and recommendations on how to discipline positively.
It’s hard to remember all 1001 solutions or always have the book handy when you need it.
So it’s important to be creative and flexible.
Tip 5: Be Clear, Be Consistent And Follow Through
Decide and explain the consequences of violating limits clearly before being enforced. In addition, parents need to be consistent and follow through on them.
If a parent is not consistent, there will be confusion.
The child may keep testing or challenging the limits to see what else can happen.
To follow through means do not say something unless you mean it.
For instance, do not make empty threats to cancel the ball game if your kid misbehaves unless you are willing to carry it out when that happens.
Tip 6: Understand Brain Development And Age-appropriate Behavior
Positive parenting for preschoolers or toddlers is different from older kids.
Children under the age of three cannot reason because the part of their brain (prefrontal cortex) responsible for understanding consequences and making sound judgment has not yet developed.
So for children in this age group, redirection instead of reasoning or giving consequences should be used.
For older children, you can help their cognitive development by using inductive discipline and giving them choices.
Tip 7: Make It A Learning Opportunity
When children are old enough to reason (older than three), every misbehaving episode can be turned into an invaluable life lesson.
For instance, what is the lesson of breaking a toy? It means the child cannot play with it any more.
If the child didn’t like the toy, he should have given it to a friend or donate it so that other kids could enjoy it.
If they broke a toy out of frustration, help them find other outlets to release the anger such as punching a pillow.
It is also a good opportunity to give them vocabularies to explain their feelings (“I am angry because…”) rather than acting out.
You are helping your child develop their communication skills at the same time, which will cut down on temper tantrums significantly.
Tip 8: Be Patient And Don’t Despair
Positive parenting and positive discipline won’t produce the behavioral change parents want overnight.
Practicing Positive Parenting is not about getting fast results.
It is about teaching behavior that parents want their children to emulate over time.
It will take longer to see real changes because children need repetitions to learn.
It can be weeks or even months before your child starts to get it.
But when that happens, it will be very rewarding and the benefits will last a lifetime.
With patience and (plenty of) practice, you can turn disciplinary moments into valuable lessons for kids.
To happy homes!
- 1.McVittie J, Best AM. The impact of Alderian-based parenting classes on self-reported parental behavior. The Journal of Individual Psychology. 2009;65(3):264-285.
- 2.Eisenberg N, Zhou Q, Spinrad TL, Valiente C, Fabes RA, Liew J. Relations Among Positive Parenting, Children’s Effortful Control, and Externalizing Problems: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study. Child Development. Published online September 2005:1055-1071. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2005.00897.x
- 3.Neppl TK, Conger RD, Scaramella LV, Ontai LL. Intergenerational continuity in parenting behavior: Mediating pathways and child effects. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2009:1241-1256. doi:10.1037/a0014850
- 4.Gouveia MJ, Carona C, Canavarro MC, Moreira H. Self-Compassion and Dispositional Mindfulness Are Associated with Parenting Styles and Parenting Stress: the Mediating Role of Mindful Parenting. Mindfulness. Published online March 2, 2016:700-712. doi:10.1007/s12671-016-0507-y