Discipling children are one of the toughest yet most important tasks a parent does.

Are you tired of the constant power struggles with your child that leaves you both frustrated and overwhelmed? Positive discipline techniques have the power to bring the peace back in your home and relationships with your children.

When you decide to have children and become pregnant it is recommended that you read pregnancy books to best prepare yourself for your experience ahead. After that, the majority of parents decide to just let parenting come naturally to them, reverting back to styles that their parents used for discipline.

I think it is safe to say the default disciplinary action is typically punishment.

Positive discipline is based on the belief that we should teach our children right from wrong where punishment is based on the role of parents controlling their children.

Trying to control a child creates more problems and power struggles.

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This is an area that has been very difficult for me to change my belief system. I grew up where I constantly heard the saying “children are meant to be seen not heard” and was disciplined with the typical punishments.

In my own parenting journey, punishment has been my default style when handling misbehavior.

Early on I realized that I was uncomfortable with this type of parenting style. It did not feel right to slap my daughter’s hand when she acted out or yell at her when she is not acting right.

In fact, it felt pretty hypocritical.

How can I sit there and tell my daughter that she needs to be nice to others but not model that behavior towards her?

How can I ask her not to raise her voice when I do not control mine?

You can’t.

It will not work without damaging the relationship between you and your child.

Something I was not willing to let happen.

That’s when I started researching how to handle children’s difficult behaviors in a respectful way. I found positive discipline and have continued to educate my husband and myself on how to implement it into our lives.

I hope to help other families transition into this method of discipline.

Let me tell you, it is not something that you can just start doing perfectly. We catch ourselves many times reverting to our default style. It most commonly happens when we are tired or overwhelmed.

We give our daughter a sincere apology explaining that our behavior was not right and try to handle future situations more respectfully.

We are not perfect and by demonstrating that to our children we teach them that mistakes are okay.

I have found it is helpful to read different texts on the various parenting techniques. I really enjoy Jane Nelson’s work Positive Discipline For Preschoolers.

The main difference is between punishment and positive discipline:

Punishment usually takes the approach that children must experience some type of negative emotion to learn that they did something wrong.

Types of punishments used most often:

  • yelling or lecturing
  • spanking or slapping of hands
  • take away toys or privileges
  • punitive time out

Positive disciplines main belief is that children do better when they feel better, using kind and firm methods to teach children life’s lessons.

Alfred Adler based positive discipline on the principle that human behavior is motived by a desire of belonging, significance, connection, and worth.

Belonging comes from a sense of connection and unconditional love.

Significance is a sense of feeling capable, being responsible, and making a contribution. 

All children have many wants but just a few basic needs. It is important to make sure you are not giving in to everything that your child wants but fulfilling their basic needs.

4 Basic Needs of Children

  1. Sense of belonging and significance
  2. Personal power and autonomy
  3. Social & life skills
  4. Kind and firm discipline that teaches

As you can see, positive discipline aligns with children’s basic needs. Punishment tactics encourage doubt, shame, guilt, and rebellion.

What is Positive Discipline?

First, we must understand the building blocks of positive discipline a bit deeper.

  • Mutual respect (treat your child with respect in order to receive it)
  • Understanding belief behind behaviors (ALL BEHAVIOR HAS A PURPOSE)
  • Effective communication (invite the child to think/participate in decisions instead of demanding)
  • Understanding a child’s world (educate yourself on developmental stages)
  • Teach rather than punish
  • Encouragement (celebrates improvements and efforts)
  • Connection before correction (hug and validate the child’s feelings)

Many parents believe that their job is to control their child and make sure they are behaving in an appropriate manner.

Especially in public.

There are two things wrong with this belief:

  1. Our job as parents is not to control our children. It is to offer guidance in the right direction.
  2. Appropriate behavior according to adults is much different than what children can realistically provide depending on their developmental stage.

Do not expect a two-year-old to sit still for long periods of time. It is an unrealistic expectation setting you and child up for frustration which leads to misbehavior.

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Implementing Positive Discipline

Implementing positive discipline into your parenting style is going to take some effort and time. You will have to be patient with yourself, your spouse, and most definitely your child.

First, eliminate your previous beliefs that children need to obey. Realize they are exploring the world around them and understand their developmental capabilities.

Yes, there are dangers and yes it is our job to guide them away from those dangers. Just remember to be kind and firm.

You can start by:

Getting your child involved with decisions

  1. Create Routines Together
  2. Offer limited choices
  3. Provide opportunities for them to help

Children are more likely to participate if they are involved in the process of setting boundaries. Demands invite resistance.

It is helpful to create routine charts using images for the morning, naptime, and bedtime. Routines set clear boundaries and inform the child what is expected of them.

Both adults and children feel more confident and secure in their environment when routines are set.

Teach respect by being respectful

  1. Model the behaviors and traits you wish to see in your child

Children learn respect and other traits by experiencing them.

Keep in mind that it is not respectful to expect a child to stop what they are doing right then and there. Especially in activities that they are thoroughly engaged in.

Show respect by providing the child with a five-minute or two-minute warning. 

Common desired traits parents wish upon their children:

  • Self-discipline
  • Decision making skills
  • Self-motivation
  • Cooperation/Collab Skills
  • Creativity
  • Values
  • Endurance
  • Responsibility
  • Empathy
  • Honesty
  • Self-reliance
  • Self-confidence
  • Resilience
  • Adaptability

Think about your actions that your children see.

Do they align with what you wish upon them?

If not, you have some homework for yourself.

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Use a sense of humor

Following rules and directions become a light easier and enjoyable when laughter is involved. Some tasks are difficult to get children involved because they do not see the fun in it.

Try spicing it up and getting your little ones to laugh. No one said you had to be a serious parent all the time!

Read my post about transforming into a fun mom here.

Remember that discipline says “I’ll teach you how to do it right” where punishment says “I’ll make you regret doing it wrong.”

Disciplining your child does not have to be a negative experience for you or your child.

It may be challenging but you can still make sure to add lots of hugs and cuddles too. I have read that daily rations of hugs encourages children’s emotional health.

Children need to feel a true sense of connection and belonging in the world, especially from their parents. 

Handling Misbehaviour with Discipline

As I mentioned early it will be an adjustment phase of replacing punishment with discipline techniques.

Provide Opportunities

When a child misbehaves or makes mistakes, try replacing punishment with an opportunity for the child to help.

Example: Child spills a drink on the carpet. Try to resist yelling and lecturing and offer them to help you clean it up. After the mess is cleaned up you can remind them respectfully to hold a drink with two hands etc.

Positive Time Out – Cool Down Area

If the child is acting out by yelling and screaming or using violent actions, a non-punitive time out might be effective.

Time-outs are commonly used as a punishment technique but you can transform it into a “cool down”. To do this, you and the child must agree where this spot will be, making sure it is a positive environment.

It is not meant for the child to be sent to this spot or to go against their will. That will make it a punishment.

I found the best way to incorporate this is to demonstrate it yourself. There have been many times where I have lost my patience or temper when dealing with Melina’s difficult behavior.

I simply state to my daughter, “mommy is going to cool down for a few minutes, I am feeling very frustrated.” I will then head to my bedroom and regain my calm.

After demonstrating this a few times, I started asking Melina if she would like to cool down when she was overwhelmed with her emotions.

Adding in hugs after you and your child cool down helps build the connection between you.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

How many times have you made threats to your child in hopes they would change their behavior?

Most times the child still continues the behavior fearlessly of what you just said.

There is probably no action taken because you really didn’t want to have to follow through with that threat.

Children are very smart, most likely that situation happens often and they have learned that mom and dad are not going to follow through with what they say.

My husband is famous for this. 

Now it is time to break the routine!

Only say what you are actually willing to do.

Example: Let’s say you and your child are at the park. Your child refuses to hold your hand while in the parking lot while walking.

Instead of saying, “You need to hold my hand or else we are going home”.

You can say, “You can either hold my hand or I can carry you.”

Providing children choices allows them to feel that they are somewhat in control of what is going on and invites cooperation.

Act, Don’t Talk

Majority of parents spend a lot of their time lecturing and yelling at their children. Resulting in even more frustration because they most likely continue to not listen to you.

This is very ineffective, especially in the earlier ages. Instead of wasting your breath, start to take immediate action. The fewer words, the better.

Example: Your child has decided that she is going to stand on the kitchen chair. Simply remove your child from the chair saying “butt down please”.

Remember the key is to positive discipline is to be kind and firm. 

Parenting is a hard task, especially when it comes to disciplining young children.

Transforming your mindset to believe that it is not your job to control your child but to guide them in the right direction will be freeing.

Take one day at a time making small changes towards parenting using positive discipline. 

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