Positive parenting discipline techniques

Table of Contents


Inside this post: Figuring out how to make kids listen can go hand-in-hand with power struggles and tantrums. Learn how to set firm boundaries and still keep a peaceful home using positive toddler discipline tips.

“Which one do you want? The truck pants or the navy pants?” As I stretched my arms out holding the pajama bottoms, my son looked up at me.

His exact response was, “Dump truck pants! Woohoo!”

(I have the same enthusiasm for yoga pants.)

We headed out to the living room with jammies in hand and went through our printable bedtime routine cards. He wanted to get himself dressed, and I was delighted. I use all the tricks for independent kids because the more he does on his own, the less I need to coach him through the routine.

But, there was a problem.

He was trying to put his shirt on upside down, and of course, trying to shove his arms and whole body through a hole designed for a toddler’s head wasn’t working out so well.

He wailed and sobbed out of frustration. I attempted to help him, but each time I got within a few feet he screamed that he “wanted to do it himself!”

His emotions pummeled towards me like a tornado, and we were approaching major bedtime tantrum territory.

I took a step back.

I’ve been struggling with the whole angry mom thing lately and I wanted to respond calmly rather than with a quip reaction like, “Just get your pajamas on and calm down already!”

I started silently talking to myself, “Breathe, Lauren. BREATHE, Lauren!”

My complaining child continued screaming a few feet away from me, and I sat there for a minute thinking, thinking, thinking.

Then it hit me…

This was about something bigger.

It was like all the things that irritated him throughout the day were now being expressed in this pajama debacle:

Feeling mad about that cookie I wouldn’t let him have at 9 am. Frustrated that I cleaned the house for several hours when he wanted to play at the park. Annoyed that his sister constantly interfered with his toys.


  • Two Words That Will Tame Temper Tantrums – Every Time
  • The Ultimate Morning and Bedtime Routine Chart That Keeps Kids On Task

Positive toddler discipline tips.

If you find yourself dealing with a strong willed toddler who regularly tests boundaries over and over again, these are 6 core principles of positive toddler discipline that can help you set limits while still maintaining a peaceful home:

Give information.

When toddlers are acting out, they are usually attempting to cope with a situation as best as they know how. If I see a behavior that I don’t like, this is my signal to give more information.

This isn’t teaching, fixing or questioning. Just plain information sharing. Some call this validating your child’s experience, sportscasting or SAY WHAT YOU SEE®.

Whatever you call it, the concept is basic: give more information.

It might sound like this…

“You’re really angry that you can’t get your pajamas on right now.”

“Those pajamas aren’t going on the way you want them to.”

“You don’t want me to help you.”

The point of giving information is to let your toddler know that you understand his side of the story. Toddlers simply will not listen until this step occurs. Once a toddler feels heard and understood, he or she can begin to listen to your directions and guidance.

Imagine your boundaries are like walls.

Kids are learning to cope with frustration and boundaries. They are working on developing that self-control.

When I see a tantrum or power struggle, it usually means I need to do a better job teaching my kids how to cope with frustration and limits, rather than shifting my boundary.

A classic example of this is when kids have a huge tantrum over the wrong colored cup. At the beginning of meals, our oldest gets to choose between two cups. If he changes his mind, he has to wait for another meal.

Because–let’s be honest here–it’s not really about the color of the cup.

It could be about feeling powerless and wanting more choices besides “just cups.” It could be about struggling with frustration and boundaries.

Or it could be about wanting more quality time, connection and understanding from the parent.

Not matter the underlying reason for the tantrum, I always go back to giving information.

“You wish you could choose a different cup.”

“This is hard for you. I can tell you’re angry.”

“Gosh…you chose that cup and then you realized you didn’t want it anymore. And now I won’t let you change your mind. So frustrating!”

Think of it this way: if you bought a $100 top from Nordstrom, took it home, realized it wasn’t what you wanted, and they wouldn’t let you return it, you’d be really frustrated too. The store doesn’t change the return policy just because you don’t like it. And after that experience, you probably won’t buy another $100 top again without thinking through your choice.

Don’t let boundary testing ruffle you.

When kids start throwing tantrums or pitching a fit over boundaries and limits, it takes a ton of self-control as a parent to stay calm. If your child doesn’t comply to your requests, it can leave you feeling powerless.

And when you feel powerless, you may feel compelled to yell, get angry or throw things to fill your need for power and “take control” of the situation.

The thing that always helps me stay calm is to remember this:

Your boundary is your boundary. So if you are able to set it once and know that you won’t need to move it (i.e. bedtime is bedtime) based on your child’s reaction, then you are going to feel much less of an energy drain.

You can validate your child’s emotions or experience and lead with empathic parenting, but getting upset, angry and yelling, only drains us as parents when we are already exhausted.

Offer alternatives and choices.

When kids are frustrated or upset with a boundary, they don’t want to hear about what they can’t do and why they can’t do it. This is totally understandable because when I can’t do something, I don’t really want to hear about it five times over.

Offering alternative things the child can do will restore the balance of power. Maybe the child gets to choose the chair they sit in, or the game you play with them, or the toothbrush they use.

“You have two choices…” is a helpful phrase can make a huge difference in toddler discipline.

Grab a free preview of Helpful Phrases, a book with 100+ parenting phrases that I love and use.

Use peaceful, yet physical boundaries when needed.

If you are working to be a more practical and positive parent, there is a myth that you can’t use physical boundaries in a peaceful way.

If I see one of the kids trying to hit the other, I will put my arm between them.

If I need to gently grab my son’s hand to prevent him from hitting, I will do that.

If one of the kids tries to climb on the counter, I will put my arm out.

If my son tries to get out of bed multiple times, I will walk him back to bed. If he refuses, I have no problem calmly picking him up and carrying him as many times as I need to.

I always opt for the minimum physical intervention needed. But if you need to get physical in a peaceful and gentle way, you can do that. Toddlers are incredibly physical in the way they learn about the world.

Boundaries are no different.

If your words feel like white noise, then a well-placed arm or torso is a great way to reinforce what you are saying.

Keep a schedule or routine that serves YOU well.

The world feels super ambivalent for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They have some idea of what to expect, but much of it catches them off guard.

Routines help them feel safe, secure, independent and capable as kids. Whether you are using printable routine cards or one of the sample routines found here, you have a ton of options when creating a routine that will work for your family.

A good routine always saves me from needing to use my energy on yelling and nagging and helps me build more peace and cooperation in my home.

Parenting toddlers is hard work.

When you find yourself battling over pajamas, cups or leaving the house on time, know that the time you spend giving information, staying calm, and holding your boundaries is turning your child into one heck of an amazing person.

Believe me when I say, it’s not about the color of the cup or needing different pajamas.

It’s about your child needing you to confidently lead them.

And you showing up and doing exactly that.

Print this free toddler listening checklist.

This post comes with a free printable checklist to help with toddler listening. I always have the hardest time remembering these phrases. This printable simplifies it!

Here is a sneak preview…

Download Your Free Printable

    1. Download the checklist. You’ll get the printable, plus join 20,000+ parents who receive my weekly parenting tips and ideas!
    2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
    3. Place it on your refrigerator. Check things off as you go and don’t forget a thing!

Get Your FREE Printable Here

Want more on parenting?

  • 7 Challenges and Solutions to Parenting a Toddler and Newborn
  • How Empathy Will Transform Your Child’s Most Difficult Behavior
  • 9 Genius Phrases for Dealing With a Strong Willed Child
  • One Simple Trick to Help Kids Fall Asleep Fast
  • How to Calm a One Year-Old Tantrum Down in Minutes


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After taking my free email series, you will:

  • Learn simple, yet highly effective listening strategies
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Positive Discipline Ideas: Help! My Child Doesn’t Listen

How can we help our children behave? Each child needs to experiment and test his own behavior within clearly defined limits. In other words, our children are supposed to act out, talk back, and not listen – at least once and most likely many times. That’s how they learn.

Think about learning to skate or ride a bike—you fall. Even after you’ve mastered skating and biking, if you’re tired, you’re more likely to fall. It’s the same with children and their behavior. Trying to figure out what they can and can’t do, children often wonder, “How much can I get away with before someone stops me?” Most children aren’t devious or even manipulative in a negative sense. Children just want to learn the rules of life. Depending on their temperament, our children may devoutly follow the rules, follow the rules just enough to avoid consequences, or try to set their own rules.

Make sure your child gets enough sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should consistently obtain at least 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night. When children are even slightly sleep deprived, it not only negatively affects their health, but it can also make it harder for them to control their behavior.

Establish a routine. A routine gives children a structure and environment that fosters feelings of security, comfort, trust, and less anticipatory anxiety. They know what to expect, feel more in control, and can learn more easily. Routines give children a better understanding of their world and how they are expected to function in it.

Have clear, specific rules of acceptable behavior. It sounds silly, but we often don’t tell our children the rules. “We’re not buying anything at the store, except groceries. Please don’t ask.”

Be consistent. Children understand cause and effect. If we are inconsistent in certain situations, regardless of our intention, our children will learn that their inappropriate behavior is the way to get what they want. Nothing is more important than consistency.

Avoid at all cost: “No, No, No, No, No. Yes.” This teaches children to hold out to get their way. So does putting up with crying until we can’t stand it and then giving in.

Stop what you are doing, and go to your child. Put down the phone, stop the car, ask the hundred shoppers behind you to wait, or come out of the shower dripping wet, dressed in a towel and covered in soap. When you stop what you are doing and go to your child, you are acknowledging the inappropriate behavior when it happens and correcting your child immediately following his actions.

Speak to your child at eye-level. For young children this usually requires getting down on your knees, leaning over, or sitting on the floor. For older children, having both of you sit down is the best method, on the floor or in chairs, whatever is convenient.

Validate your child’s feelings. When your child has misbehaved, let him know that you understand or you are trying to understand how he feels. Validate his emotions or intentions. “I know you wanted the toy, but your sister was playing with it.” Speak in a normal tone of voice.

When you are upset with your child, try not to yell or raise your voice. Use a positive, firm, natural tone of voice. In simple terms, explain to your child what he did wrong. He may not know. Instead of “You made a mess,” say, “You took all of Mom’s books off the shelf.”

Offer your child choices when possible. Give your child a choice between two activities that you propose. “It’s time to eat dinner. Do you want to put your seat beside your sister or me?”

Redirect your child. Guide your child to a new activity, and he can no longer do what he wants to do. “You can build with blocks. You can’t play with blocks if you throw them. You can throw a ball.”

Have logical consequences for inappropriate behavior. Don’t allow your child to continue doing what he wants to do unless he does it appropriately. “You can write on paper. You cannot use the markers if you write on the walls.”

Follow through. If you tell your child that there will be a particular consequence for an inappropriate action, follow through.

When your young child is having a tantrum, remember that she is still learning to control her emotions and actions. Admit it, there have been several occasions when we wanted to lay down at the checkout aisle of the grocery store and kick and scream. Most of us just haven’t done it yet.

Lastly, don’t beat yourself up when you violate all these guidelines. Perfect parenting is rare. Children are children and parents are parents, so do the best you can; don’t give up; and they just might grow up fine. (And those other children that look perfect – just might not.)

More Parent Resources:

  • Read about News Mom’s struggle to apply toddler discipline rules in public places on our Mom to Mom blog.
  • Get discipline ideas for other ages in our e-family news archive articles: Infant Discipline: Are You Kidding? and Discipline Tips for School-Age Children.
  • Disciplining Your Child article and resources from KidsHealth.org
  • Listen to this short audio clip – Discipline: A 3-Step Approach – from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What Is Positive Parenting?

How to discipline effectively?

Every parent grapples with this issue.

If you have young children, 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 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 children without falling into such a “Do as I say, not as I do” trap?

Positive Parenting

Here comes Positive Parenting.

It’s a parenting and disciplinary philosophy based on the work of Viennese psychiatrists, Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs.

In recent years, Dr. Jane Nelsen Ed.D. refined and championed this method in her famous series of books and made it well known.

Positive discipline emphasizes mutual respect and utilizes positive instructions.

It focuses on learning (for the future) instead of punishing (of the past). Studies consistently show that using positive discipline yields better outcome in terms of the child’s behavior, emotional growth, academic performance and mental health.

Here are 8 tips on practicing positive discipline.

Tip 1: Focus On The Reasons Behind The Action

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 they don’t get what they want, children would feel that their needs are acknowledged.

They can then move on without the need to misbehave.

They may still be grumpy, but they do not need to act out once they feel understood.

Knowing the reason behind can also help parents avoid them in the first place.

For example, a child hit his brother. The reason could be that his little brother took away his toy and he was frustrated. So teaching children to ask for permission before taking someone else’s things will prevent the issue from arising.

If your child seems to never listen to you, one possible reason is that your expectation is not reasonable.

Does what you ask your child to do/not to do have a good reason? Is it necessary for the well-being of your child?

Tip 2: Kind And Firm Discipline

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 he’s 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 kindness to permissiveness.

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.

A firm and calm NO is as good as, if not better than, a loud and mean NO.

Also, be firm in setting limits and enforcing consequences so that the child knows what to expect and what to base his future decisions on.

Practicing decision making this way helps children grow their cognitive thinking.

Tip 3: Time-Out Yourself

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 him to blow up, or do you want him to have the ability to control his own 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 and then go into another room.

Walking away allows you the time to cool down and remind yourself about your goal in disciplining which is to teach.

While there, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind for a second.

This time-out technique also gives you more time and some 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.

Tip 4: Be Non-Punitive. Be Creative.

According to Positive Discipline: The First Three Years by Dr. 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 and it also doesn’t teach good ones.

A positive, non-punitive response is much better at settling an overstimulated child and engaging her in learning new behavior.

One such response is to use positive time-out. Positive time-out differs from conventional time-out because it is non-punitive.

It is not a punishment.

The child is removed from stimuli that creates or aggravates the misbehavior and put into a place to cool off and feel safe.

The full name of time-out is Time Out From Positive Reinforcement, invented by behavioral psychologists, Arthur Staats, when he was raising his own children. The idea is to take the child out of the environment where the problematic behavior occurs to remove the reinforcer. 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 afterward.

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 he can choose the consequence by his own action. This process helps him learn to make choices and develop cognitive thinking.
  • If he chooses to carry out the unwanted behavior, calmly tell him or take him to a quiet, safe place. Don’t call him names (you’re a bad boy), scold him, look hatefully, or be mean to him. 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 she’s very upset, you could sit and cuddle with her.

Remember, it is not a punishment.

Afterward, you could explain (not lecture) why her previous action was inappropriate and help her come up with a better response the next time she feels 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 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 he misbehaves unless you are willing to carry it out when that happens.

Tip 6: Understand Brain Development And Age-appropriate Behavior

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 reasoning 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 he didn’t like the toy, he should have given it to a friend or donate it so that others could enjoy it.

If he broke a toy out of frustration, help him find other outlets to release the anger such as punching a pillow.

It is also a good opportunity to give him vocabularies to explain his feelings (“I am angry because…”) rather than acting out.

You are helping him develop his communication skills at the same time.

Tip 8: Be Patient And Don’t Despair

Positive discipline most likely won’t produce the behavioral change parents want overnight.

It 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!

  • The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing by Bruce Perry, Maia Szalavitz

Teach Children What to Do

An excerpt from the book Positive Discipline The First Three Years.

This tool is also referred to as “Do vs Don’t.” Children under the age of three do not understand “no” in the way most parents think they do. (And, a full understanding of “no” doesn’t occur magically when the child turns three. It is a developmental process.) “No” is an abstract concept that is in direct opposition to the developmental need of young children to explore their world and to develop their sense of autonomy.

Oh, your child may “know” you don’t want her to do something. She may even know she will get an angry reaction from you if she does it. However, she cannot understand “why” in the way an adult thinks she can. Why else would a child look at you before doing what she “knows” she shouldn’t do, grin, and do it anyway?

Around the age of one, children enter the “me do it” stage. This is when they develop a sense of autonomy vs. doubt and shame. Two through six heralds the development of a sense of initiative vs. guilt. This means it is their developmental job to explore and experiment. Can you imagine how confusing it is to children to be punished for what they are developmentally programmed to do? They are faced with a real dilemma (at a subconscious level). “Do I obey my parent or my biological drive to develop autonomy and initiative by exploring and experimenting in my world?”

These stages of development do not mean children should be allowed to do anything they want. It does explain why all methods to gain cooperation should be kind and firm at the same time instead of controlling and/or punitive. This is a time of life when your child’s personality is being formed, and you want your child to make decisions about him or herself that say, “I am competent. I can try and make mistakes and learn. I am loved. I am a good person.” If you are tempted to help your child learn by guilt and shame and punishment, you will be creating a discouraging situation that is difficult to reverse in adulthood.

To help a toddler develop autonomy instead of doubt and shame, and to help a two to seven-year-old develop initiative instead of guilt, try some of the following methods that invite cooperation:

  1. If you are screaming, yelling, or lecturing…stop. All of these methods are disrespectful and encourage doubt, shame, and guilt in the future.
  2. Instead of telling your child what to do, find ways to involve him/her in the decision so he/she gets a sense of personal power and autonomy. “What are we supposed to do next?” (For pre-verbal children say, “Next, we _____,” while kindly and firmly showing them instead of telling them.)
  3. Be respectful when you make requests. Don’t expect children to do something “right now” when you are interrupting something they are doing. Ask, “Will it work for you to do this in five minutes or in ten minutes?” Even if you don’t think a younger child understands completely what you are saying, you are training yourself to be respectful to the child by giving choices instead of commands. Another possibility is to give him/her some warning. “We need to leave in a minute. What is the last thing you want to do on the jungle gym?”
  4. Carry a small timer around with you. Let your child help you set it to one or two minutes. Then let him/her put the timer in his/her pocket so he/she can be ready to go when the timer goes off.
  5. Give him/her a choice that requires his/her help. “It will be time to go when I count to 20. Do you want to carry my purse to the car, or do you want to carry the car keys?” “What is the first thing we should do when we get home, put the groceries away, or read a story?”
  6. Pre-verbal children might need plain ol’ supervision, distraction, and redirection. In other words, as Dreikurs used to say, “Shut your mouth, and act.” Quietly take your child by the hand and lead him/her to where he/she needs to go. Show him/her what he/she can do instead of what he/she can’t do.
  7. Use your sense of humor: “Here comes the tickle monster to get children who don’t listen.”
  8. Be empathetic when your child cries (or has a temper tantrum) out of frustration with his/her lack of abilities. Empathy does not mean rescuing. It does mean understanding. Give your child a hug and say, “You’re really upset right now. I know you want to stay, but it’s time to leave.” Then hold your child and let the child cry and have his/her feelings before you move on to the next activity.
  9. Children usually sense when you mean it and when you don’t. Don’t say anything unless you mean it and can say it respectfully. Then follow through with dignity and respect—and usually without words. Again, this means redirecting or “showing” them what they can do instead of punishing them for what they can’t do.
  10. Create routines for every event that happens over and over: morning, bedtime, dinner, shopping, etc. Then ask your child, “What do we need to do next on our routine chart?” For children who are younger, say, “Now it’s time for us to _____.”
  11. Understand that you may need to teach your child many things over and over before he/she is developmentally ready to understand. Be patient. Minimize your words and maximize your actions. Don’t take your child’s behavior personally and think your child is mad at you or bad or defiant. Remain the adult in the situation and do what needs to be done without guilt and shame.
  12. Understand that your attitude determines whether or not you will create a battle ground or a kind and firm atmosphere for your child to explore and develop within appropriate boundaries.

Your job at this age is to think of yourself as a coach and help your child succeed and learn how to do things. You’re also an observer, working on learning who your child is as a unique human being. Never underestimate the ability of a young child, but on the other hand, watch carefully as you introduce new opportunities and activities and see what your child is interested in, what your child can do, and what your child needs help learning from you.

Safety is a big issue at this age, and your job is to keep your child safe without letting your fears discourage him/her. For this reason, supervision is an important parenting tool, along with kindness and firmness while redirecting or teaching your child. For example, parents can “teach” a two-year-old child not to run into the street, but still would not let him/her play near a busy street unsupervised because they know they can’t expect him/her to “understand” what he/she has learned well enough to have that responsibility. So why is it these same parents expect their children to “understand” when they say, “No!”


Of all the advice for moms out there, discipline is the one associated with the most guilt. Are we doing the right thing? Will my child grow up to hate me? Or will my child grow up thinking he can get away with anything he wants? Ditch that worry because you can now use these six positive discipline steps at home to change our child’s behavior for good.

Were you punished as a kid?

You know what I mean…

Maybe you forgot to do the dishes and so your parents took away your Nintendo for a week.

Or possibly you didn’t do what a teacher asked at school so you got grounded for a week.

Basically, it boils down to you did something socially undesirable and so your parents took away something you loved that had absolutely NOTHING to do with the action you took.

They said it was for your own good.

Frankly, it just made you really mad at them.

Or even worse, it made you mad at yourself – you’re a bad person who always makes mistakes.

And how mistakes are a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thing.

Ugh, no.

Our childhood has so much influence on the adults we become. But before we start blaming our parents, they were doing exactly what they thought best.

Thankfully, we now know there is a better way to discipline our own kids.

A way that:

  • Actually corrects the behavior
  • Deepens the relationship between parent and child
  • Increases the child’s feelings of self worth
  • decreases our feelings of guilt

And doesn’t make you a doormat.

What is positive discipline?

I am not someone for blindly praising kids. Confident kids who have that confidence based in false praise do nothing for the world.

Positive discipline is not that.

In positive discipline, five criteria must hold true:

  • Is kind and firm at the same time
  • Helps children feel like they belong and are significant
  • Is effective in changing the behavior long-term
  • Teaches skills for good character
  • Invites children to discover how capable they are in solving their own problems and contributing to society.

All things we want for our kids, right?

How does this play at our home?

Here is a simple, six-step process you can use for any behavior you encounter.

Want something you can use right this second? Here are 2 quick tips.

Step 1: Share Your feelings without coming down on the kid

My 4-year-old son has one regular job in the kitchen: Put away the clean silverware from the dishwasher.

He hates it.

Each time I ask him to do it, he tells me how much his stomach hurts and how he’s too tired right now to put away the dishes.

It drives me insane. Every night, I brace myself for the mountain of complaining that he’s going to smack down in the kitchen.

Last night, he pushed me to my limit. As he dragged across the kitchen, acting as if the silverware basket was way too heavy for him, he stumbled and spilled clean butter knives onto our tile floor.

I stopped myself.

I wanted to yell at him…to say, “LOOK WHAT YOU DID!”

Instead, I took my feelings (and all the rage that came with them) and told him:

“I am SO MAD!! All that clean silverware just fell on the floor. I’m FURIOUS!”

I didn’t blame him. I summoned the political phrase of “mistakes were made.”

He looked up at me and said, “Sorry, mommy…”

Read more about how to discuss feelings with your child.

Step 2: Tell your expectations

But, I wasn’t done.

Now, I needed to follow it up so that he could take the steps necessary to make amends.

I crouched down to his level and told him – still mad, I did not conceal the frustration in my voice.

“I expect the dishes to be put away without whining or complaining”

He was still listening…

Step 3: Let them make it better

Then, since he is four, I told him explicitly what he could do to make it better.

“To make this better, you should pick up all the silverware from the floor and put in the drawer without complaining.”

With older kids, you can always say, “I trust you will find a way to fix this”

With my son, this was the last step he needed. He did what I asked. No complaining. No whining about how he was “too bored” to do it.

Say that didn’t work though. What are your options then?

If you have a toddler, they will respond better to the suggestions here.

Step 4: Give them a choice

Here’s where it gets a little difficult. With chores, your end goal is for your child to complete their assigned task.

What choice can you give them?

For me, it came down to a now or later. But not too much later… a later that I strictly defined.

My next move would have been,

“You can either put away the silverware calmly or take a few minutes in the other room to calm down and then put away the silverware.”

Either way, the silverware gets put away. But now he has the choice of when to do it.

If he still continued the complaining?

Step 5: Make the choice for them

That is your cue to take action and make the choice for them.

At this point, I would pick him up and physically remove him from the kitchen and place him in the other room to calm down.

I can even tell him, “Looks like you chose to calm down in the other room.”

If this process works and he comes back calm, then victory!

But if it doesn’t, you are not alone. Every child is different.

What works for one doesn’t work for another. When one child has to be told once, another may need this process repeated 3 times until he calms down.

Step 6: Take Action

Your next step is to do something so that the behavior doesn’t occur again.

It simply can’t occur because you’ve taken the steps to correct it.

Next time my son complains about unloading silverware, I simply leave the kitchen.

It’s a natural consequence to my son because I’ve told him I don’t like the whining and complaining. I leave the room so I can’t hear it.

If these six steps don’t work to correct the behavior, that doesn’t mean its time for punishment.

It simply indicates that the problem is more complicated than you originally thought and you need to move into problem solving.

For the problem-solving approach, check out the book “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I used a similar approach in my classroom teacher days and I plan to use it with my son to solve this dishes situation once and for all.

For more help on parenting discipline, check out the following posts:

  • 5 Positive Ways to React When Your Child is Defiant
  • End the Getting Dressed Tantrums with your Preschooler
  • 5 Simple Tricks to Get Kids to Listen without Yelling
  • 2 Simple Ways to Get Kids to Listen the First Time You Ask

True discipline belongs to truth.

And truth lives in now here.

If you ignore the now and are clinging to your past or looking for your future, then you are going away from the present moment.

Everybody wants discipline in one’s life.

It is true that discipline brings freedom. But if it is a ready-made then, at last, it too brings the pain.

It is because, under discipline, you ignore a lot of things of life those are natural and crucial.

That deliberate ignorance becomes pain and sorrow at last.

We need freedom. We don’t need discipline.

However, in this sophisticated world, we cannot get anything without discipline.

As my blog is concerned with mind, spirituality, and enlightenment, so here we are going to talk about mind discipline that truly brings real freedom.

I hope at the end of this post, you must get some understanding what I want to convey here.

I shall be very thankful if you share this post among your social channels.


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Let’s start,

Fixed Discipline Vs Liquid Discipline

From the name, it implies that in fixed discipline, your pattern to live life becomes fixed.

You live with a particular conditioning. And what that particular conditioning tells, you do.

For example, a person who believes in Buddha will behave according to the teachings of Buddha even the situation has no concern and demand for it.

And in liquid discipline, your pattern to live life becomes like a flowing. You flow with your life.

You reject rigidity and act according to the situation. As for example, if the situation demands your extrovert behavior, then you act like that.

You don’t think that my Jesus or Buddha tells this and I should act according to it. You act according to your own wisdom and stimuli.

If the situation demands to be introvert, you become like that. You change yourself according to the situation.

You try to comply with the situation and try to give full justification to that moment. That living comes under liquid discipline.

How True Discipline Come in Life?

True discipline belongs to the above mentioned liquid discipline.

And true discipline comes when you become true.

And you become true when you live in your present moment. Past is false as it has gone. Future too is false as yet it has not reached.

The present moment is here in front of you and that is the truth.

And living and acting according to the present moment is true discipline. It is not stagnant but like a river that will finally mingle with vast ocean.

Without living in the present moment and acting according to it, you can never become liquid and flowing.

As you are not fixed, so you are free. Choice does not come from a fixed conditioning but it comes from your core existence.

So, you are free to act according to the present situation without any force and rigidity. And true freedom comes with it. You become a responsible person.

Try to live in the present moment and act according to that situation without thinking about the past or future.

So, to live in the present moment and act according to it without any rigidity and particular discipline is called true discipline.

It must bring real freedom. Try it.


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As you stroll through your grocery store, checking off your list, you often have the chance to choose between generic and name brand items. Most of the time the ingredients are similar, it’s just the packaging that’s different.

Well, after more than a decade of reading, reviewing and analyzing numerous books on parenting, I can tell you with confidence that although the titles and packaging are different, the ingredients are often the same. So I’ve done some comparison shopping for you. I’ve looked beyond the packaging and sorted through the ingredients of various books and publications, as well as my own recipes, to bring you proven, tried-and-true principles of discipline — principles that are practical and easy-to-digest. Here are some of those principles.

Unified Discipline

Do you and your spouse agree on discipline? Consider a child we’ll call Johnny. Johnny knows he isn’t supposed to have candy until after dinner. He knows that if he takes a piece beforehand, his mom will quickly discipline him. But, he also knows that his dad won’t do anything. So Johnny grabs the candy, figuring he has fifty-fifty odds of getting away without any punishment. He plans on using the fact that mom and dad don’t see eye-to-eye on discipline to his advantage.

You need to agree on how you will discipline your children–ahead of time. If a new situation arises, talk privately first and come to agreement, before you approach your children. Show your kids you’re unified, it’s easier for you, and much better for them.

Uniform Discipline

If you have more than one child, be sure to apply the same principles of discipline across the board. Don’t show favoritism. Of course, as we said before, each child is unique. But, general guidelines should apply to all children.

Consistent Discipline

What’s the hardest thing about disciplining your kids? If you’re like most parents it’s consistency. You can read all the books in the world and have dozens of great ideas, but if you’re not consistent they won’t work. I’ll admit it, being consistent is tough. Sometimes it’s easier to just let the kids get away with something rather than sticking to your plan and being consistent with our discipline. But consistency pays off in the long run. It helps our kids to know what to expect from us, to understand the boundaries, and to respect the rules instead of testing them.

Firm Discipline

Some parents think that the only way to be firm is to be harsh. Harshness uses angry words, a raised voice or emotional manipulation to try to make children obey. But there is a better way to show that a boundary is secure and can’t be crossed without a consequence.

Private Discipline

Never discipline in public. Let your child know that they will be disciplined when they get home and be sure to follow through. Nothing is more humiliating and degrading to a child than disciplining them in the grocery store, at the pool, at school or other public places. The honor principle works both ways and parents should always show respect to their children.

Non-negotiable Discipline

Don’t negotiate consequences with your children. A friend of mine recently took a privilege away from his daughter for willful disobedience. She lost the privilege of taking the car out Friday night. Well, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer and pleaded with her parents to let her wash, wax and clean the car instead. But, her parents stuck with their decision. Establish clear, non-negotiable consequences for misbehavior–then stick to them.

Disciplining should never involve personal attacks. Never call your children names or label them “stupid,” “lazy,” or “mean.” Don’t say things like, “How could you do something so dumb?” “Why can’t you ever behave?” Never compare them to their siblings or to other children.

Negative motivation might seem to work in the short run, but in the long run it can have devastating effects. Children can eventually feel worse and worse about themselves and will either throw in the towel, “I can’t do anything right, so why even try?”–or if they do try, they’ll feel like they are never good enough.

Three R’s of Discipline

When you need to discipline, immediately remove your child from the situation and send him to his room. The goal is to give your child time to think about what he’s done, and give everyone time to calm down and prepare to talk about the situation.

When you sense that your child is ready and has a calm spirit, move onto the next R, reflect.

During the time to reflect, you and your child will discuss the problem. Ask your child, “What did you do wrong? Don’t let him make excuses or blame others. Next, ask him, “Why was it wrong?” Finally, ask, “What are you going to do differently the next time?” You want to shape his heart so he’ll be self-motivated to change his behavior. Finally, discuss consequences.

Now comes a very important step — reconnect. Before you wrap up your discussion, make sure the bond between you and your child is not broken. Tell your child you love him unconditionally. Give him a hug and let him know you believe in his ability to make the right decision the next time.

It’s easy for me to encourage you on how to raise your kids, but implementing those ideas day-in and day-out can be a challenge. I know, because I face some of those challenges with my own children — bickering, complaining and disobedience are all part of parenting. I also know there are no quick fixes. But I can tell you that my wife and I are persevering in parenting… we’re hanging tough… hoping and praying that our work will find its reward… maybe a little now and hopefully a whole bunch later.

  • Positive Discipline is a method where parents clearly communicate what behaviors are appropriate, which ones are inappropriate, and what the rewards for good behavior and the consequences for bad behavior are.
  • It was developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, a licensed marriage, family and child counselor and author of Positive Discipline.
  • It it an authoritative method focused on encouragement and problem-solving. Positive Discipline does not use yelling, spanking, or severe punishment.
  • Experts find that it is motivating and effective for kids.

If you asked 1,000 parents to name their least favorite part of parenting, discipline is probably near or at the top of the list. And yet a good foundation for discipline is incredibly important to keep parents from feeling burned out. “So many parents I work with, who use traditional discipline and punishment methods, often share how terrible, exhausted, and guilty they feel at the end of the day for all the yelling, nagging, and lecturing,” says Debbie Zeichner, LCSW. “They share how disconnected they feel from their children and themselves. They want to do something different.” Enter Positive Discipline.

What is Positive Discipline and what techniques do you use to employ it?

According to Dr. Nelson, there are five principles of Positive Discipline:

  1. It is kind and firm at the same time.
  2. It helps children feel a sense of belonging and significance.
  3. It is effective long-term.
  4. It teaches valuable social and life skills for good character.
  5. It invites children to discover how capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

“It’s a parenting philosophy based on encouragement, empowerment, and mutual respect,” Zeichner says. “It supports parents in finding solutions to misbehavior rather than using or relying on punishment. Discipline is all about guiding children, being neither permissive nor punitive.”

This method relies on a high level of communication. “The parent explains everything to the child,” says Samantha Rodman, Ph.D. “They’ll go over what behaviors they’re working on, why, and what the consequences are. The parent maintains a warm and firm tone, and encourages the child to make choices that make sense.”

More Parenting

The techniques involve encouraging the behavior you’d like to see continue, and discouraging the behaviors you’d like to see stop. But no matter what, you have to keep your cool — no blowing your top when things get frustrating. “Whether you’re trying to increase or decrease the likelihood of a behavior, you maintain a positive, respectful relationship with your child while disciplining them,” Dr. Rodman says.

That’s easier said than done, but Zeichner says it helps to give kids a choice, or help them work through their feelings. “You can say something like, ‘I know you want to keep playing and it’s bath time. Would you like to leave your toy here or bring it up to the bath? It’s up to you to decide,’” she says. “Or you can say, ‘It’s okay to feel frustrated, but it’s never okay to hit/kick/throw things/bite. What words can you use to tell me what you need?’” That way, kids feel more empowered, and you teach them to make better choices in the long-term.

Is there such a thing as Negative Discipline?

In the parenting-philosophy sense, no, no one really subscribes purposefully to a system of Negative Discipline. But there are discipline methods that are overwhelmingly negative. “Yelling, spanking, guilt tripping, or the silent treatment are all examples of what I would consider ‘negative discipline,’ or discipline that may work short-term but has bad consequences for children’s development long-term,” Dr. Rodman says.

“When a parent uses these methods, the child is often much more focused on the parent’s anger or what has been taken away than the lesson the parent is trying to teach,” Zeichner says. “In addition, it’s hard to learn how to manage emotions effectively and respectfully when such emotional regulation isn’t being modeled. Children raised with negative discipline tend to be more anxious, depressed, and aggressive. They also struggle socially and academically. Punishment focuses on what not to do, while positive discipline teaches children what to do in a kind, respectful, and empowering way.” In that way, Positive Discipline as a better way to find behavioral solutions, rather than temporarily stop problems.

The good news is that Positive Discipline is effective.

This is especially true over the long-term. “Early research has shown that children do better when they perceive both firmness and kindness from their parents,” Zeichner says. “Children who rate their parents as both responsive to their needs and feelings while having high — yet realistic — expectations are much less likely to engage in socially risky behaviors and have more success socially and academically.

“They find it easier to work toward concrete goals and are motivated to succeed when parents are loving and firm,” Dr. Rodman says.

But it does take a lot of time and practice.

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This is especially true of parents who were raised by authoritarian or permissive parents, since the style involves a lot of communication. And you also have to make sure you’re offering the right kinds of rewards. “Positive Discipline encourages the use of verbal rewards as well as goods and services, like gifts or privileges,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, M.D., Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and member of the Educational Advisory Board at the Goddard School. “Non-verbal awards can unintentionally slip into bribery, which we know doesn’t work over time to build an internal sense of responsibility and self-awareness. Positive Discipline requires frequent check-ins regarding how parents are sticking to — or not sticking to — the program. It’s in many children’s nature to seek out the cracks in the dike.”

How to Get Started With Positive Discipline

•There is such a thing as Certified Positive Discipline Trainers, and they do hold classes and workshops across the country. You can see a schedule here.

•Take stock of how your family deals with feelings. “I recommend listening much more than you talk,” Zeichner says. “When a child feels a sense of belonging and significance, he or she is much less likely to misbehave and much more likely to listen and cooperate. It’s also helpful to know that our children learn how to manage and regulate their emotions by how we manage and regulate ours, so modeling the very behavior we want to see is important.”

•Talk to the teachers in your lives. Positive Discipline is often used in the classroom as a way of managing class behavior. “This happens when teachers are warm and firm, give students clear expectations for what needs to be accomplished, offer clear guidelines for what behaviors are unacceptable, work with students to create solutions to their problems, and reward positive behaviors or discourage negative behaviors in a very clear and transparent,” Dr. Rodman says. If teachers can do it for a classroom of dozens of kids, you can certainly do it at home.

•Choose a goal as a family, and discuss a plan for how to achieve it. Remember to offer lots of choices!

Go Deeper Into Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline Positive Discipline amazon.com $9.49 Positive Discipline for Today’s Busy (and Overwhelmed) Parent Positive Discipline for Today’s Busy (and Overwhelmed) Parent amazon.com $7.19 No-Drama Discipline No-Drama Discipline amazon.com $12.87 Positive Parenting Positive Parenting Eanes Rebecca amazon.com $7.20 Marisa LaScala Parenting & Relationships Editor Marisa LaScala covers all things parenting, from the postpartum period through empty nests, for GoodHousekeeping.com; she previously wrote about motherhood for Parents and Working Mother.

Classroom Discipline

If a student misbehaves in the classroom, a teacher must have a few techniques that they can use to reduce or eliminate the unwanted behavior. From misbehaving in the classroom to not doing the assigned work, there are many ways to deal with unwanted behavior including punishment, discipline, or even using rewards. However, the most effective method for dealing with students that are misbehaving in the classroom is using positive discipline. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are many types of positive discipline, and whatever technique is used to prevent or reduce misbehavior will only be effective if:

  • Both the student and teacher understand what the problem behavior is and what the expected consequence is for the misbehavior
  • The appropriate consequence is consistently applied every time the misbehavior occurs
  • The manner you deliver the technique matters (calm versus aggressive)
  • It gives the students a reason for a specific consequence to help them learn

In most cases, using punishment or rewards is not needed, as the majority of problems or misbehaviors can be dealt with using positive discipline.

Difference Between Punishment and Positive Discipline

The meaning of punishment is simple – it’s an action or penalty that is imposed on a student for misbehaving or breaking a rule. However, the impact on students can be very detrimental, from inducing physical or emotional pain to not being effective in reducing future misbehaviors. Punishment is used to control the behavior of students, in two different ways:

  1. Negative discipline involves verbal disapproval and reprimands
  2. Corporal punishment involves severe emotional or physical pain

Alternatively, positive discipline is the practice of training or teaching a student to obey the code of behavior or rules in both the short and long term. Instead of controlling the behavior of students, teachers can use positive discipline to develop a child’s behaviors through self-control and making positive choices.

According to Teachers Unite, which is a movement of public school teachers fighting for social justice, punitive punishment toward students — suspensions, aggressive policing and reactive strategies — go against human rights and fail to address the real problem. However, preventative and constructive approaches that use positive discipline create a positive school atmosphere and also teaches students conflict resolution and behavior skills. In the end, positive discipline can help shape a child, by using encouragement rather than meaningless and even painful consequences, like punishment.

Positive Discipline Techniques

There are tons of techniques that teachers can use to reinforce good behavior with positive discipline, including:

  1. Set the classroom rules at the start of the year
  2. Have consistent expectations
  3. Set goals at the beginning of class
  4. Appropriate behavior should be reinforced
  5. Remain neutral during conflicts
  6. Search for the root cause of the misbehavior
  7. Student dignity matters
  8. Create individual plans for students
  9. Use Praise
  10. Model appropriate behaviors
  11. Provide students with different choices
  12. Remove objects in the environment that cause distractions
  13. Listen to students

Using these positive discipline techniques will help teachers maintain a positive atmosphere and support an inclusive learning environment. In fact, when addressing a specific child, it is important for teachers to work closely with the caregivers and the student to develop a positive discipline plan that works. One of the most critical parts of positive discipline is to help students learn the new behaviors that meet expectations in the classroom, home and elsewhere.

Using Rewards and Privileges

Another alternative to punishment and positive discipline is the use of rewards and privileges for good behavior in the classroom. A reward system can be put in place to encourage good behavior in students that are misbehaving, from helping out other students to raising their hand instead of blurting out the answer. On the other hand, a system that uses privileges, such as being able to go to class without an adult, focuses on good behavior over a period of time and accumulating points toward a certain privilege. However, using rewards and privileges in the long term can lead to negative outcomes, like rewarding students just for participating. To avoid a reliance on a rewards system, positive discipline uses positive and negative consequences to help students learn.

Benefits of Positive Discipline

Using positive discipline techniques can help teachers overcome the many challenges in the classroom and help students learn and make better choices in the future. In fact, using positive discipline in the classroom not only increases academic success in the classroom but provides many other benefits, including:

  • Students show respect for the teacher
  • Students are on task and engaged
  • Less disciplinary measures are needed
  • Fewer suspension and expulsions
  • Students see rules as fair
  • Attendance improves

These are just a few of the benefits that can be seen from using positive discipline techniques in the classroom. On top of this, the benefits also extend beyond the classroom, into the home life, sports and social environment of the student, from being more respectful to everyone to understanding the social norms in different situations.

Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline is a large topic of interest in the parenting world. Some of you may never have heard of the term: positive discipline. Some of you may have heard of positive discipline but really don’t know what it is. Perhaps you know some, but are looking for more guidance. Which ever describes you, I sincerely hope that the information provided here will be easily implemented in your home.

I whole-heartily stand behind using positive discipline to raise your kids. As always, visit our member’s corner for additional support and information!

What is Positive Discipline?
Why Should I Use Positive Discipline?
Using Positive Discipline to Deal Positive and Negative Behavior
Steps to Implementing Positive Discipline
Positive Discipline and Communication?
Other Ways to Implement Positive Discipline

What is Positive Discipline?

Positive Discipline guides all of us parents in molding our children’s behavior. A consistent, respectful and fair approach when interacting with your children is the key. It helps us to develop a good relationship with our children in order to encourage positive behavior.

Positive Discipline also steers us away from using negative discipline methods such as threats, punishment or bargaining. Instead, the goals are to use positive, loving guidance and to act as partners with our children in order to gain their respect and co-operation.

So what is positive discipline? Positive discipline works on the premise that discipline must be taught rather than forced. Discipline is NOT punishment. These two terms are very different, although they are commonly used interchangeably in our culture. You now know that there is a huge difference!!!

Positive Discipline can be described as:

  • a way to set clear limits for behavior
  • a way to model what we want kids to do
  • a way to empathize and understand rather than just provide authority
  • a way to reflect on negative behavior and creating goals for improving it, rather than using punishment
  • a process for communicating respectfully with our kids
  • positive reinforcement of appropriate behavior and achievements
  • a strategy for guiding or molding behavior

Why should I use Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline brings many benefits to caregivers and children alike. The following characteristics are essential:

1. Children learn by imitation.

Babies and children learn about themselves, their bodies, and their environment by observing and imitating others. This means that children need firm and consistent role models that they can trust in order to learn what is right, what is wrong, and to understand how we expect them to behave. How we treat our children and others is how they will in turn treat people. Positive discipline focuses on providing children with consistent examples of appropriate behavior.

2. Developing a positive relationship with your child.

Children essentially want to please others and are more willing to try if they are motivated by positive relationships. Positive discipline gives us strategies and tools to help us guide or correct children’s behavior, while reaffirming a positive relationship. In fact, in order to use positive discipline, we must build relationships based on mutual respect. By involving our children in their discipline process and evaluation of their own behavior, we can make discipline more effective and learn to avoid using punishment as a parenting tool.

3. Discipline is consistent.

Children need consistency in every aspect of their lives. Discipline is no different. Positive discipline provides us with the framework for setting clear and firm limits and boundaries for behavior. More importantly, it provides us with strategies for managing behavior in a consistent and calm manner – without losing control or applying erratic and inconsistent discipline tools. This means that both the adult and child learn to evaluate and modify behavior in a calm and non-angry manner.

4. Discipline is not the same as punishment.

Punishment is often regarded as being a part of the discipline process. In reality, it is simply a consequence of it. Many agree that punishment is not the most effective means of modifying or correcting behavior. Consider for a moment a child who may not know what is expected of them or who may not be able to control their behavior. Would it be fair to punish this child or would approaching this situation with positive discipline be more effective in changing future behaviors? If you picked positive discipline, you are right. The child in this example will benefit from working through the situation with a calm parent (you) by talking about their choices, why or why not they are good choices, and planning for the future. When the connection between behavior and the reasons for making certain choices in life are established, the child can learn and use positive strategies on a regular basis. This is truly part of growing up!

Looking on the flip side, if we punish a child for something they have done it can be hard for them to relate the punishment to the behavior and see why it was unacceptable. Instead we need to teach our children long term skills for evaluating and changing their own behaviors. In addition to your positive discipline approach, natural consequences can nicely compliment discipline situations. Natural consequences are not punitive, but rather they are what naturally happens in life after an action. For example, if your child does not eat dinner; naturally, there should be no snack before bed.

5. Discipline needs to be taught.

Discipline and self-regulation are skills that we need throughout life. Like any skills, they need to be taught and learned. The positive discipline approach allows us to take the time to teach discipline to our children and to show them what is acceptable behavior by modeling it ourselves.

6. Internal motivation is effective and long lasting

Positive reinforcement of good behavior is always more effective than giving attention to the negative. Teaching our children to be self-motivated to achieve and to behave appropriately is longer lasting than asking them to behave in order to receive a prize, a reward or some other form of external motivation.

Using Positive Discipline to Deal with Positive and Negative Behavior

First it is important to understand why children misbehave. Three typical explanations are:

“A child does not know that that their behavior is undesirable

or does not know what is expected of them in that situation”

In this case, if a child does not recognize their behavior is inappropriate, the adult must guide them to modify their behavior by modeling the correct way to behave. For example, show your child how to take turns while playing a board game or sharing a toy with another child.

“A child is aware their behavior is undesirable but cannot

control their natural impulses to behave in that way”

Children who are unable to instinctively control their impulses, need to be taught techniques for controlling themselves. This again, is most effectively learned when an adult models the correct behavior for them. For example, if the child hits another player in the board game because they are frustrated at waiting for turn, they need the adult to model and show them how important turn taking is as well as finding other outlets for their frustration.

“A child does not care about how they behave”

A child who knows their behavior is wrong and doesn’t care, is not learning why their behavior is inappropriate or the consequences of it. Children who behave this way, need rational reasons for behaving differently. They need strong guidance and opportunities to reflect on and evaluate their own behavior, as well as the internal motivation to improve.

Steps to Implementing Positive Discipline

When trying to apply the positive discipline approach, it is important to keep in mind the following steps when evaluating behavior:

Step 1: Identify the cause of the behavior.

Effective discipline is not only focused on trying to change a child’s behavior. The goal should be to recognize and understand what the child is doing, why they are doing it, and then finding solutions to change those behavioral patterns. When approaching a disciplinary situation it is important to listen, ask questions and make sure you understand what happened and why.

Step 2: Reflect on the behavior with the child

It is important to validate the child’s feelings and empathize with their experience, while showing them that this is not necessarily the right kind of behavior. This could take the form of a simple “Do you think hitting is right?” or a slightly longer reflection with an older child.

Step 3: Offer options for a solution

It is important to make children feel involved in their own discipline process. This does not mean that the child is left to decide what is right or wrong. However, they should be involved in evaluating the gravity of their behavior and the consequences of it. Offering children choices as part of the solution to the problem can be a very effective tool.

Using an outright “No!” or “Don’t do that!” in reaction to undesirable behavior is authoritative. It allows the child little opportunity to evaluate what they are doing, why it is unacceptable and how to avoid it in the future. On the other hand, giving a child two clear but guided choices not only shows them that there are other ways to behave, but it also help them to become independent in making the right decision. For example, if a child gets frustrated and strikes out because they don’t want to share, a statement such as, “It’s not nice to hit your friend. Do you want to apologize now or take a break?” is constructive, effective, and empowers your child to do the right thing.

Step 4: Focus on working towards improved behavior, not punishments

Make sure that the consequences for behavior are clear and relevant to the behavior itself. After all, taking away TV privileges or a favorite dessert have little to do with having drawn on the wall. By making the consequences of their actions relevant to the behavior itself, the child learns a great deal more about how you expect them to behave in the future. For example, if you child is misusing text messaging, the pre-established consequence may be loss of cell phone privileges.

Positive Discipline and Communication

The way we talk to children when implementing positive discipline is very important. It teaches them good communication skills and how to empathize with others. But it also provides us with the tools necessary to remain calm under disciplinary pressure.

Some tips for communicating and connecting with kids include:

  • Get down on their level. Kids rarely listen to adults who are talking at them from a distance. Get in front of the child and close to them in a non-threatening manner. Have them make eye contact with you and make sure they understand what you are saying
  • Keep it short and sweet. Avoid long sermons or lectures. Keep your words to a minimum and say what you want to say in a concise and direct manner
  • Listen when they want to talk. Kids are more willing to adhere to our limits for behavior when they feel understood.
  • Validate their feelings. By repeating and confirming their words you show that you are considering their feelings, and are helping them to see that they are important to the process. Do this even if you have a different view of what they are saying or if your end goal is to show them alternative ways of behaving. For example,
    • “I understand you are frustrated. You can talk to me or take a break when you feel this way again.”
    • “I know that you would like to stay at the park for longer. But right now it is time to go home”

In order to use Positive discipline effectively we must learn to:

  • model respect
  • be patient
  • encourage healthy expression of feelings
  • teach children to recognize, identify and deal with emotions
  • actively listen to our kids
  • give clear and direct instructions
  • encourage independence when possible.

Other Ways to Implement Positive Discipline

  • Follow-through on your word every single time. If you do as you say each and every time, your children will trust you, know that they can rely on you, and will learn from your examples.
  • Always be consistent. You must show consistency between your words and actions – every time. If your words do no match your actions, you children will NOT take you seriously. As a result, your words will be ignored. They will interpret your inconsistency as permission to dismiss your attempts at discipline along with dismissing the requests that you make of them. Children base their beliefs and actions on what they see. For example, if you tell your child to put their tablet away but they don’t and you don’t do anything except keep telling them to put it away, their behavior won’t change. On the other hand, if you consistently follow-though on a pre-established method of giving one warning and then the privilege of using the tablet is taken away, your children will know that your words and actions match.
  • Praise your children for their accomplishments and gains, no matter how small. Giving positive encouragement and praise makes everyone feel good and helps your children feel success.
  • Use a behavior plan that includes many positive rewards.
  • Take the time to teach your children the skills that you expect of them. Do this by talking to them and showing them how to meet the expectations. Once these skills are learned, highly encourage your children to continue using them regularly by being a positive example. Negative consequences can be issued for failure to use these skills only after they have been learned, practiced, and used by your children.

Wanting more? Check out our behavior plans and see your communication, consequences, and positive behavior flourish with your kids!

In Empowerment,

Barb Roba, LMHC, CPC, Ed.M, CAS

12 Positive Discipline Parenting Strategies – that WORK!

We hear the term “Positive Discipline” used frequently, but many parents are unsure exactly what this means, and why this form of discipline is the best for our kids.

The word discipline has origins in the Latin word disciplina, which means, “to teach.” Adapting this concept to raising children, I believe positive discipline means guiding, redirecting, and teaching our children in a way that opens them to be the best they can be. It’s like helping them grow the biggest set of wings possible.

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The outcomes of positive discipline are to improve self-control, respect, responsibility, resourcefulness, and to deepen relationships. Through the growth of these capabilities, the development of a moral and ethical life happens, too.

Did you notice that I didn’t say one of the outcomes is to “be happy” or “successful?” When we live a life armed with awareness, skills to help ourselves and others and a will to be kind and love deeply, there is a good chance the happy days will outnumber the sad and scary ones and we’ll pick a vocation in life that suits us.

Positive discipline does not mean becoming a parenting doormat. It means redirecting our children when they do something inappropriate in a way that keeps our relationship with them intact.

Specifically, positive discipline means to guide our children with limits, boundaries and teaching without growing negative core beliefs in the process.

In order for discipline to work, parents need to remember these twelve positive discipline strategies:

1. Connect first. Redirect second. Children need to feel they belong and they matter before we redirect their behaviour.

Your Child’s Bad Behaviour Could Be Connected To This

2. Acknowledge emotions. Take time to experience, feel and identify the emotions in your children (and you, too).

3. Consider what needs your child is trying to meet. Ask yourself this question, “I wonder why my child did that?”

4. Be kind and firm. Deliver your instructions and boundaries without being sharp.

5. Be mindful of both immediate and long-term goals. How can you curb unwanted behaviour right now without growing relationship rifts or negative core beliefs down the road?

6. Teach the ways of the world and your house (social, life, safety skills). For example, what are the “away spots” for everyone’s belongings? What house jobs can each family member do to help pitch in? How do we use things in the house without damaging them?

7. Inspire problem solving. Involve your child when discussing, “Hmmm… What are our options now?”

8. Encourage capability. Don’t rush to rescue your children from struggles. The process of correcting mistakes, figuring something out and finally getting things right is a wonderful teacher/ motivator.

9. Reduce compromising states. Do your absolute best to reduce hunger, exhaustion, tiredness and over-stimulation. Everyone does better when they are full (spiritually, emotionally, and physically). Create space for rest, play and outside time.

10. Focus on what your child can do rather than what s(he) cannot. For example, turn “No! Stop running” into “Walking feet.”

11. Reel in the stinkin’ thinkin.’ Control your reptilian brain while helping your child to do the same (that’s called self-regulation). Don’t provoke the cobra!

12. Know when to get out of the way. Give your children space to find and use their own voice.

Notice the words “preach” or “lecture” or “nag” are not on this list! Actually, the best positive discipline often happens using the fewest number of words.

Using these twelve basic strategies, parents can use positive communication approaches to helping grow their child’s brains, bodies, and hearts. Those approaches are best explained with hands-on examples so I recommend looking at these books and Facebook pages for more information (click on the author’s names to see their Facebook pages):

No Drama Discipline by Dr. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD

Any of the Positive Discipline books by Jane Nelsen, PhD and her colleagues.

If I have to tell you one more time… by Amy McCready

Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Alyson Schafer

Also my Facebook page where I post positive discipline tricks and tips every day.