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Positive Discipline: 23 Techniques

All parents want the best for their children, but sometimes we don’t have the knowledge to act properly. Educating is not an easy task. For this reason, it is essential to have resources to help us act out of understanding and kindness. Positive discipline is that tool for educating children through cooperation and mutual respect between parents and children.

Positive Discipline

What is positive discipline?

Positive discipline was developed by psychotherapist Alfred Alder and his apprentice Rudolf Dreikurs. Later, Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott (founders of the American Association of Positive Discipline) regulated its principles and techniques.

Many times, when we hear the word “discipline” we associate it with negative factors, but the true meaning of this word is “disciple”. We could see our children as disciples who need our help during their development, in order to be free, happy and independent in the future.

Firm & Kind

Several studies have shown that children need to create significant relationships with the people closest to them, such as their parents, friends or teachers. The children who maintain these strong bonds generally behave better. Positive discipline is based on the premise “Firm & Kind” and reinforces these bonds through respect, understanding, self-esteem, communication.

Basic principles of positive discipline

  • Communication and understanding
  • Mutual respect between parents and children
  • Kindness and firmness
  • Strengthening bonds
  • Children’s active participation
  • Emotional and independent development

Positive discipline and why children misbehave

Children are children and sometimes they can make us despair when they don’t do what we expect. Perhaps that is the first mistake: “to expect something from them”. First, we shouldn’t expect their behavior to be one way or the other. We must understand that they don’t communicate like adults communicate, therefore we must the message they are trying to get across.

Positive Discipline To Educate

Rudolf Dreikurs mentioned: “When children don’t behave well, they are trying to say something in a different way than an adult would and therefore, we perceive it as the wrong way, without stopping to think that maybe it is the only way they can/know how to express themselves”. The reasons can be several; to claim our attention, boredom, hunger, etc. This is why important to empathize with our children to know the real reason their behaviors.

Positive discipline is not the same as being permissive

Positive discipline does not mean of it or of permissiveness. Nor does it resemble punitive discipline (based on punishment), since it makes children learn by feeling bad and by feeling afraid. With positive discipline, we are looking for long-term results. The objective is for children to understand why certain things are wrong and why they shouldn’t do them. We don’t impose punishments without knowing if children have really understood why they shouldn’t act in certain ways.

23 positive discipline techniques

Positive Discipline
  1. Self-monitoring
    Many parents lose a lot of energy trying to control their children, but the only behavior we can really control is our own. It’s up to us to adopt an attitude that benefits our mental health and not let difficult situations overwhelm us. We can redirect our children’s behavior and/or tell them what they can do, instead of focusing our attention on what they shouldn’t do. Transmitting safety and calmness will benefit the relationship with our little ones.
  2. Communication
    It’s the basis of every relationship. We must try to look for moments to connect with our children. For example, going for a snack after school, having breakfast together every morning before going to school, or even holding family gatherings. Keeping in touch with our children and up to date on possible problems they may have at school, after-school activities, etc., will help us understand their behavior.
  3. Showing interest
    Ask about our children’s interests, hobbies, and preferences. Making children feel valued strengthens their self-esteem and well-being. Avoid asking “Have you done your homework?” questions. If you know he hasn’t done his homework. We can replace it with phrases like: “I realize you haven’t done your homework”. That way we’ll prevent children from feeling trapped by our questions.
  4. Listening
    No matter how small they may be, they have their own feelings and emotions, listening to what they tell us will help us understand their behaviors. Through them, we have the opportunity to turn the world in a new and surprising way, like when we were children.
  5. Understanding
    Try to understand what is behind a bad behavior; it can be fatigue from school, after-school activities, being hungry, having a bad day, or being uncomfortable with something in particular. Finding out what is really happening to them will help us adopt effective solutions.
  6. Firm & Kind
    Be firm in your decisions but kind at the same time. Show understanding for them but do not give in. For example, the child wants to play video games when they get home but has homework to do. A “Firm & Kind” attitude would be: “I know you want to play video games, but first you have to do your homework and then you can play”.
  7. Be an example
    Children have many ways of learning, one of the best known is by imitation. If we try to keep our children from behaving in certain ways, we should be an example to them and make our words coincide with our actions. That is to say, we can’t tell them not to use their phones when we are eating but then use it ourselves. Being an example is fundamental for them to develop principles and positive values, so it is also important to constantly ask ourselves what mistakes we’re making and try to improve every day.
  8. Pay attention to effort rather than success
    It is very common to focus on success rather than on the efforts made. We all want our children to be the best in school and other activities, but this requires time and effort that must be valued even more than success. Imagine our child fails an exam. We agree that it is not a very high grade, but we must bear in mind that the child has improved, so we have to focus our attention on that.
  9. Seek solutions that involve children
    Let us imagine that our child is playing in the room. When we are going to call them to sit at the table for dinner, we notice that they have painted the wall with colored pencils. One solution that involves the child would be to tell them to clean the wall, or to clean it together.
  10. Taking Responsibility
    Teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. In this way, they learn to relate actions with consequences. We can try phrases like: “As you have done all your homework now we can go to the park”.
  11. Redirect actions
    Redirect actions that are not appropriate in a gentle and subtle way. Imagine that you are in the park and have been swinging for a long time and other children want to get on the swing. We can kindly invite our child to leave the swing and take them to the slide.
  12. Limits
    Limits are necessary to protect our children from danger and help them adapt to the world around us. It is important that children participate in these if they are 4 years and over. The decision should not be unilateral, as in this way we promote power and this can sometimes result in rebellion. For example, decide together when to go to bed or curfew hours.
  13. Natural consequences
    They are those that occur without the intervention of an adult. For example, the child does not want to eat the food and if they don’t eat it later they will be hungry (natural consequence). It is a matter of the child learning them by themselves. Avoid phrases such as “I told you so” or “I warned you”. These kinds of phrases can make a child feel humiliated. Do not forget that the main objective is that children learn and do not repeat the same mistakes, not that they realize that adults know everything.
  14. Logical Consequences
    Logical consequences require adult follow-up. For example: “If you go to bed late, I won’t have time to read you the story. Therefore, we decide a consequence for their actions directly related to unwanted behavior.
  15. Follow-up
    When we apply logical consequences, we must keep them constant. If we deem it appropriate, we can give them a new opportunity to fulfill them later.
  16. Avoiding rewards and punishments
    Prizes and punishments are arbitrary. The consequence is not directly related to the cause and promote authority and power, without regard to mutual respect. Try to replace them by applying logical consequences, as they are based on choice and understanding.
  17. Error = opportunity
    The word crisis in Chinese is composed of two characters, the first means danger and the second opportunity. A mistake is an opportunity to learn. We can let children make mistakes and learn for themselves. When they make mistakes, we will not give them the solution immediately. We can brainstorm and discuss the pros and cons together.
  18. Never use physical violence
    It is not advisable to use physical violence when children misbehave, as this teaches them that violence is okay. When we are very angry, we need to try to calm down and then adopt logical consequences from serenity. We must remember that no one is perfect and that we have all made mistakes.
  19. Time
    Devoting exclusive time to our children is fundamental. This will help to avoid tantrums, focusing too much on electronic devices or even waking up at night in search of our attention. It is advisable to quality invest with them, read them a story before going to bed or take advantage of meals and dinners to share with them.
  20. Tone of voice
    It is beneficial to address them in a friendly and loving tone, that will make it easier for them to pay attention and really listen to what we want to say to them. Perceiving the “sermon tone” will make them want to disconnect and not pay attention to our words. It is important to educate without shouting.
  21. Words
    Choosing the right words accompanied by the right tone of voice is essential for communication between parents and children to reflect respect and affection.
  22. Autonomy
    Although we sometimes have the instinct to protect them, it is not advisable to do so if we want them to grow up safely and independently. Children should be allowed to experience consequences based on their own actions and/or decisions (using common sense, of course). We should not do things that they can already do for themselves, so we will help them to be more autonomous.
  23. Patience
    Accumulated fatigue, stress, or self-demanding can easily cause us to lose patience. We are human and it is normal that sometimes we feel overwhelmed and lose patience with our children. We should not blame ourselves for this, we can look for activities that make us disconnect like sports or simply dedicate time to ourselves.

Shop Talk: The Do’s and Don’ts of Daddy-ing

With all the information on pregnancy, kids, and parenting, I noticed the lack of information geared towards fathers specifically. I decided to gather a few of my co-workers who are either fathers or soon-to-be fathers, to talk about their experiences and create a comprehensive* list of the do’s, dont’s, and what’s? of fatherhood. Think of this as a father’s guide to fatherhood.

*This list is not actually comprehensive.

Advice for dads

DO

-Know your due date

Really, it’s pretty important. I realized that this had to be a “do” when I asked one of the guys when the baby was due and he took about 10 seconds too long to answer. Know when the baby is supposed to come, pack the hospital bag, make sure you have what you need (and nothing you don’t).

-Have patience

Each one of the guys said this multiple times talking about different things. Have patience with your wife, have patience with your kid, and have patience with yourself. If you have any patience left over, lend some of it to the in-laws.

-Prepare to realize some things aren’t important

You missed your TV show this week? You’re not having what you wanted for dinner? After you have kids, you realize what are the really important things in life (hint: it’s your kids). Accept that your night out with the boys may not seem so important anymore, and that’s OK.

-Create as much space as you can

Toys. Everywhere. You don’t know how much space this creature needs until you have it. Make as much space as you can and prepare to continue to clear out more as time goes on. The kid will eventually have more space than you in the house-learn to be OK with it.

-Sleep while you can, seriously.

You won’t be sleeping in, or through the night, for a few years. Enjoy snoozing on the weekend before the baby comes, and then get whatever sleep you can catch once they’ve finally arrived.

-Keep in mind that everyone is different and has their own experience

You’ll be hearing a lot of people talking about how much your life will change, because they used to do x and they don’t anymore. For your friend, that may be true, but you will have a different experience than your friends, or than anyone else in the world, because each child and family is different. It’s true that, perhaps, the guy that used to go climb mountains on the weekend won’t be able to do that, or your buddy who goes out every weekend now has to stay home with the baby…But if, for example, you’ve always been a fan of putting a movie on the TV and staying in for the night, things might not change so much.

There will, of course, be changes, but don’t take other people’s experiences as fact.

Workout.

For most of the first two years of your child’s life, you will be carrying them. Babies get heavy, and sometimes that airplane maneuver you try to do can be more difficult than you expected. While you’re not carrying the child inside you, you’ll certainly be carrying it later. Prepare your body for carrying this extra weight.

Take care of logistics

We’ll touch on this more below, but you’re in charge of logistics. Are you going away for the weekend (or even just to the store)? Make sure the carseat is in the car, make sure you have what you need: snacks, toys, baby. Find the best route to get where you’re going. Your job is to make the trip as easy as possible.

Have some common sense

This is obvious, because it’s common sense. If someone is telling you to do something for your baby that they’re not ready for, don’t do it. For example, if people tell you to let your baby cry and you see that it’s too early, don’t listen to them. If the baby is crying and you don’t know why, go through the checklist: food, diaper, sleep, pacifier, emergency room. A young baby will never cry just because.

Say goodbye to nice things

This goes back to patience, too. Things will fall, break, and get ruined. If you think your expensive x (picture, baseball, sentimental something) might have a chance of getting broken or ruined, put it in a safe place until you’re sure your kid won’t break it (best wait until they’re in college).

-Enjoy every second with your child from day 1

This one pull at the heart strings, but it’s true. You’ll be hearing a lot of advice, and people telling you they know better, but your job is to love your kid with your whole heart.

Advice for dads

DON’T

Try to understand your wife, just listen to her

You don’t need to know why she insists the your kid eat his yogurt before the banana, but since it doesn’t really matter, give the kid his yogurt first. This is also the case for some things during pregnancy, like crying because she doesn’t want to eat her lunch. Listen to her, but don’t try to understand it.

Laugh when your son calls your expectant wife the F word (fat)

This doesn’t require any explanation.

Fight about the little things

This also goes back to the first don’t. If you were to fight with your wife about every little thing, like giving your kid a banana before the yogurt, you’ll never stop. If it’s not endangering anyone, let it slide.

Listen when your friends try to tell you how it WILL be

This also goes back to one of the do’s, but because the guys mentioned it multiple times, I feel like I can say it twice. Everyone is different. Maybe your friend’s baby has to be held all the time and yours is happy to hang out and sleep at a BBQ.

Let anyone take your place

Especially right after birth. There will be new grandparents around who know everything and want to help (and you really should let them help), but you are your child’s father, and don’t let anyone try to take that from you. You are as much your child’s parent as your wife. Never let another parent, teacher, or doctor keep you from important events. The guys I talked to said they get weird looks when they pick their children up from school. If that’s the case, don’t let it bother you- your kid is your #1 priority.

Waste a single day with your children

Maybe you have a fight with your wife or your tied up at work…whatever the reason, don’t ever let it keep you from spending time with your kids. Yes, you have to work, and you might have to put in some extra time to make things work at home, but always, always take the chance to spend those extra 10 minutes with your kid. They really do grow up fast!

Make things more difficult than it has to be: don’t buy so many things that you won’t need

Baby’s seem to require lots of stuff. The crib and the bassinet and the changing table and the bath tub and the playpen…the list goes on. Get the essentials- diapers, some plain onesies, and a bassinet. They won’t be sleeping in their own room/crib for a while, so don’t go out right away and buy everything at once. If you need that all-in-one changing table, fine, but you’ll probably end up changing your baby on the couch, floor, kitchen counter, table, etc. before walking all the way to the baby’s changing table. Think smarter, not harder.

Pay attention to the advice that you don’t want to

So much of the advice I didn’t ask for and was so stupid, I honestly just let it go in one ear and out the other”. This is a good idea. You’ll get some terrible advice. You can smile and say “OK” and then completely forget about it.  Common sense. 

Be nervous

If you freak out every time your toddler falls, your child will freak out every time they fall. Do your best to stay calm… how you react to these situations will directly affect how your children react to these accidents and problems in the future.

WHAT’S

-At the end of the day, you have to trust yourself to know what’s best for your child

You and your wife are your child’s biggest advocates and ultimately know what’s best for them. Trust yourselves to do the right thing.

Work with your partner

Yes, the job can be done alone, but if you have a partner there then work together. Be a team, help each other out, and lean on each other when it gets hard. At the end of the day, you’re going to be there together to laugh about what baby did earlier that day, or cry from exhaustion, but you’ll do it together.

You will not understand how you could love something so much. Don’t try to understand it, just accept it and love your kid.