What is Positive Discipline?
Positive Discipline is a set of guidelines and techniques to use as an alternative to spanking and punitive punishments.When your little one starts misbehaving or acting out, you can use one of these tools instead of spanking them. If you’re used to giving multiple warnings, counting 1-2-3 or nagging them until they comply, this may be a little tough to follow at first. The positive discipline methods outlined here will help you get started a little at a time, because it will take some time to change the way you think and react. Like me, you’ll have to change the way you look at your child’s behavior and what you think is a solution rather than a punishment.
Positive Discipline is one of the 8 Tenents of Attachment Parenting. Disciplining or teaching your child what you expect from them through house rules, responsibility by letting them help you with chores and tasks, fostering independence, respectfulness through modeling proper behavior and social skills through play and family bonding. Instead of constantly telling them, “don’t do this-don’t do that”, you’re teaching them what you want them to do by example.
When I first read about attachment parenting on Dr. William Sear’s website “Ask Dr. Sears,” I though, “wow, this really makes a lot of sense.” Dr. Sears promotes extended breastfeeding, safe co-sleeping and wearing your baby in a sling. All of this appealed to me as I was getting ready to deliver my son. I liked the idea of continuing breastfeeding and had planned to until the age of 2 yrs, which is what the World Health Organization now recommends. Unfortunately, I couldn’t continue because my son decided to self-wean at a year old.
To be good at positive discipline, you need to understand a little about child behavior and development. Why your child is behaving in an undesirable manner. As parents, we forget that our kids have only been on this earth for 2-3-or 4 yrs and aren’t miniature adults. They are not born knowing how to behave in social situations and when they bite another child, or throw a tantrum in the grocery store, you may be tempted to never take them out in public again.
The biggest factor here in child behavior is imitation. Children imitate what they see and hear. Don’t believe it? Listen to them sometimes and you’ll be shocked to hear your words coming out of their mouths. If you think your kids don’t listen you’re wrong. They listen but choose to ignore. If your child has started yelling and being loud, being disrespectful, not sharing toys or fighting with playmates and this was previously not an issue- take a look at your own behavior over the past few weeks or months. Have you started yelling at them because they don’t listen? Get angry driving in traffic and make references to the other drivers with your kids in the car? Is it really misbehavior, or are they modeling your own behavior back to you? This is a good question.
From your previous discipline attempts, is it easier to get your kids compliance by asking them to help you instead of insisting they do this or that? The old saying, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar” is still true. If you ask someone politely to do something, it is usually more effective than yelling. I have found it’s easier to get my son to pick up his toys if I start and ask him for his help picking up the toys. He’ll say, “Sure” and starts picking up his toys. If I had sais, “Aiden I need you to pick up your toys and put them away” and then left the room or shouted it from the kitchen, I would most likely be ignored.
I have made the decision not to spank my son anymore. Even though I only did it for a short time, I can see that it did not help him to behave better. It just made him more defiant and disrespectful towards me. I now have to undo the damage I have done and try to repair our parent-child bond. It means I will have to get a little creative sometimes when he doesn’t want to do something I ask him. We have already started by using house rules, giving him responsibility with chores, giving choices when possible and stating expectations and limits ahead of time. This article I read on CNN.com suggests that spanking may affect kid’s brains and their ability to develop self-control later on.
I got this book from amazon that I have started reading called Positive Discipline A-Z 1001 : Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems by Jane Nelson. I had seen her in an interview on a talk show and, at first, though it was all a bunch of baloney. I couldn’t see how you could raise kids without punishing them in some way. She talked about not saying “no” and that time-outs were negative consequences and she disagreed with punishments.
After I starting reading the book and discovered that a lot of what she says makes sense. When your child misbehaves, instead of getting mad and doling out consequences, try and find out what is the driving force behind the behavior. If you eliminate the cause, often the behavior will go away on its own. Children seldom do things for no reason at all, although it may seem like it sometimes. If they bite or hit another child during play dates, what was going on just before the incident? Were they fighting over a toy or object? Maybe they just weren’t getting along. Sometimes kids just don’t want to share favorite toys and that’s OK. Tell them you’ll put up their favorite things when company comes over. they can pick and choose which toys to share and which ones to keep out.
Establish a Routine and House Rules
Our routine is pretty simple. Aiden attends preschool during the week from 8 am to 11 am. We live with two of his older nephews (Aiden has 3 adult siblings with children) who are 5 and 9 who also go to school with him. So mornings go pretty easy. The troubles come after school. We implemented the house rules to keep from nagging the kids about jumping on the furniture, fighting over toys and taking others property without asking. We have consequences for breaking the rules, but try to find solutions first and use consequences as a last resort. Although I like the idea of not having to use punishments, I reserve them for those times when he decides to test the boundaries. If he is going to be defiant and say, “No, I won’t” and explaining the reason doesn’t work, then I have to back it up with something.
Set Clear Expectations
It is a theory that if you expect your children to obey in certain circumstances that they will. It is not always true, but if you set boundaries and tell them what is expected early on, you may have better success. One thing I have found works pretty well is to explain what you want them to do just before an outing. If we are going to the store, I’ll tell Aiden that I expect him to stay in the cart, use his indoor voice, and help me find items that we need. If he is successful and we get through our shopping without problems, he can pick out a snack for everyone when we are done. Engaging them in the process helps a lot too. Ask them to help you find the apples, or other item. This is another form of re-direction, it moves their train of thought to something else. Aiden loves to help, so this is a good tactic for him. If he doesn’t meet expectations such as throwing a tantrum, screaming or won’t stay in the cart then I can choose to leave the store and tell him that we can try again tomorrow.
Giving choices is helpful with child behavior problems because it empowers kids when everything else around them is out of their control. I have seen this work with my son who constantly begs me for treats or more juice, soda or ? I gave him a snack, as is our morning routine around 10 am. He wanted more graham crackers and decided to throw a tantrum when I said no. He would throw himself on the floor and start kicking his legs on the floor or on the furniture. As I sat there trying to think of a consequence, I decided to let him choose. I told him he could have a boiled egg or a pickle slice but no more graham crackers because we needed them for snack time after school. He didn’t like that idea and said no. I told him, “Okay, you can have another handful of graham crackers now, but that means later when the other kids are having their snack, he won’t get a snack. His response was, ” I want the pickle.” I explained why and gave him a limited choice and it worked. Otherwise, it would have turned into a power struggle and ended with him in his room for time-out and lectures about his behavior.
This is all still new to me and I am learning as I go. I will try to use more techniques from the book and see how they work. I am happy with my decision not to spank anymore, I do still use consequences but will try to use them less or only when necessary. You may not think that positive discipline methods will work for your child, it does but the changes come slowly over time. Don’t expect results overnight because you will be disappointed. It takes time to change behavioral habits.
I will do a follow up with the book when I have finished it and write a review and post it. If you’d like to read the book, check it out, it’s available on Amazon for around $12 I think.
I would like to know what other parents think and how you discipline your kids. What works for you and what doesn’t. Please leave a comment and tell me how you have had success in your parenting journey.