Parenting can be a daunting task. There’s no guidebook that can give us definitive answers for the challenges when raising kids, especially as they are growing up. Unwanted behaviors may begin to develop as early as the first few couple of years of childhood, and enforcing rules and boundaries can be tricky yet necessary. We may react instinctively and resort to discipline through yelling or punishment as our parental figures may have done in the past, yet there’s a more effective way to enforce discipline on our kids, and that’s Positive Discipline.
According to Dr. Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., author of Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation and Problem-Solving Skills, Positive discipline aims to develop mutually respectful relationships between us and our children. It teaches us to employ kindness and firmness at the same time, while respecting the needs of our child. We want to allow them to make good choices for themselves by letting them recognize the reasons for their behavior; and work on changing those beliefs instead of attempting to change or punish them for something they believe was okay to begin with.
We aim to help develop effective communication and problem solving skills in our kids and positive discipline focuses on offering solutions through respect and encouragement for showing improvement. This helps build self-esteem among our children in the long term, which to a lot of us, is ultimately the measure of success as parents.
Several scientific studies have confirmed the practice of positive discipline to be effective in decreasing behavioral problems. So if none of your methods are working right, it might be worth giving this a shot! Here we have outlined 10 Ways to Practice Positive Discipline with your Kids.
Always Get to the Bottom of Things
Your child’s bad behavior can be caused by underlying causes that trigger negative emotions in them. The repeated cycle of a child’s temper tantrum, for example, could be used to cover up deeper feelings of loneliness and pain. Understanding this allows us to get to the bottom of things and take action on the cause, rather than the behavior itself.
It always helps to keep an open conversation with your kids about their feelings, spend as much time with them as you can, and learn how to view things through a wider lens.
Diagnosis is the key in practicing positive discipline. This eliminates the need to focus our energies on curing the symptoms repeatedly. It instead allows us to pay attention on resolving the root cause and not just the surface-level issues.
Meet Misbehavior with Empathy
It is unlikely that anyone’s dream is to live in a home filled with chaos and mismanaged anger. We don’t want to fuel negative emotions with more negativity through lectures and yelling every time this happens.
If your child has a meltdown and starts to break things around the house, positive discipline involves acknowledging what they have done, allowing some time for them to figure out the consequences on their own and talk about it at a later time.
“No” Isn’t Always the Way to Go
The simplest word used to express disapproval can quickly lose its essence when used over and over again. Soon your kids may no longer take it as a serious command and this may lead to a power struggle, where they end up testing the limits of your patience.
Positive discipline is all about finding solutions and steering away from punishments. So, instead of saying “no” over and over to your children, show them what they can do, rather than what they cannot.
Engage Them with a Little Bit of Action
Kids love attention, just like adults. Let them feel their presence is appreciated by engaging them in activities and seeking help in tasks in which they can gladly participate in. It can be as simple as asking your child to help stir the pot when cooking, or wash the dishes together. When you ask for their help to do things, they will feel capable, and will likely inspire them to spend their energy doing productive activities.
The Value of Your Time and Resources
Express to your children how their bad behavior expends your valuable time and energy along with its consequences. You can in turn, ask them to do the task you were meaning to to get done or wait until they are settled and explain that their behavior caused an energy drain. This can serve as the reason for the consequence you impose on them and it gives them an incentive to think through their actions and how it affects you and your time together.
Be Kind yet Firm
Hold your boundary by refusing to argue. As kids turn 3, arguments can become the norm. Be sure to establish that this behavior is not tolerated within the household, and if such situations occur when your child angrily disagrees, you simply acknowledge them and walk away. This tells them that there’s no bending the rules when it comes to the limits you’ve set.
Although arguing is not encouraged, be sure that you are also not just shutting them down. Children need to feel heard, so balance it out by taking the time to listen without judgement and arguing. This promotes healthy conversations within the family and helps develop their ability to express themselves openly with you. Giving them an opportunity to speak and present their case allows for a free exchange of ideas and find solutions as a team.
Mistakes are Okay
Mistakes can happen at any time and that’s okay. Positive discipline involves having respectful conversations with your kids about mistakes. Instead of focusing on the mistake as something negative, help them see it as an “area of improvement” instead, and together find things to learn from it. Take away the shame in making mistakes by openly talking about them within your family.
Spend some One-on-one time regularly
A child’s confidence and self-esteem springs from the sense of belonging they feel from spending regular quality time with their parents. Carve out a bit of your time to spend with your kids doing activities like baking, painting or reading a book before bedtime. This helps boost their self-esteem by feeling secure about their importance in the family.
Lead By Example
Phrasing sometimes is the key. You can either tell your children to “Go brush your teeth!” or ask them “What do you do to keep your teeth healthy and cavity-free?”. Both statements suggest the same thing yet one gives a cold, stern command while the other is a friendly, open-ended question. The bottomline of positive discipline is always respect.
Take the path of least resistance by not using fear and intimidation to get them to cooperate. Learning through intimidation often does not sit well with kids and can cause lingering trauma which can last into adulthood. As parents, we want to offer sustainable compliance by giving them guidance and free will while teaching them responsibility for their actions.
At Wee Care Preschool, we understand the challenge of teaching kids discipline. With three different locations throughout Southern California, help is just a click away. Visit us at weecarepreschools.com for more great parenting tips!