Positive Discipline is an approach to discipline that is designed to teach children to become responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their families and communities. It’s based on the popular book, Positive Discipline, by Dr. Jane Nelsen.
Positive Discipline offers effective tools for parents, teachers, nannies, and anyone else who wants to teach life skills to children in a respectful and encouraging way. Here are a few of Positive Discipline’s more popular discipline tools:
Take time for training. Before expecting your child to act in a certain way, take the time to offer training. Training is communicating your expectations clearly and respectfully and giving your child the opportunity to practice and learn the new skills. If your child is younger than 6-years old, the best way to offer training is by doing tasks with him. If you want your toddler to pick up his toys after playing with them, pick up the toys together. Detail what you’re doing while you’re doing it (e.g. we’re putting the trucks in the wheels bin; we’re putting the crayons into the craft cabinet). This helps your child make the connection between your expectations, your actions, and the end result. If your child is over age 6, it’s helpful to break the job down into smaller, more manageable tasks. This helps him avoid being overwhelmed and gives him a workable to-do list.
Give limited choices that you can live with. Choices are one of the simplest and most effective tools in your parenting toolbox. The key is to only offer choices that you’re comfortable with.
You can offer choices around things you want your child to have power over, but you also need to make sure he makes an appropriate and safe choice. Clothes, food, and activities are all great examples of times when you can empower your child through choices. For example you can ask, “Would you like to wear your rain coat, your spring jacket, or your poncho to school today?” when you’re struggling with your child about what to wear, or “Would you like apple slices, watermelon, or grapes for lunch today?” rather than simply asking “What kind of fruit do you want?”
So what about when your child has to do something and there’s not an obvious choice? You can still allow your child to choose how or when something happens. For example, if you need to get a dawdling child to put his shoes on, you can ask, “Would you like to put your shoes on by yourself or would you like me to help you do it?” If you need your child to clean his room before bedtime, you can ask, “Do you want to clean your room now or when we get back from the park?”
Use positive time outs. When kids are having a meltdown or are not taking the right action in a difficult situation, many parents turn to the traditional time out. Positive Discipline suggests you take a different approach and instead give your child a positive time out. Jane Nelsen writes, “A positive time out can help children learn many important life skills, such as the importance of taking time to calm down until they can think more clearly and act more thoughtfully.” Positive time outs helps your child think through how his behavior affects other people and learn to accept responsibility and make amends for hurting others.
Create routines. Outlining routines means you can make the decision about how to do something one time and then simply refer back to the routine in future conversations. Because your child has a voice in developing the routine, he’s much more likely to corporate with you when the issue comes up. So when your child complains that he doesn’t want to brush his teeth before reading the next chapter in his bedtime story, you can simply refer back to the bedtime routine which clearly outlines the things we do before going to bed.
Hold regular family meetings. Children naturally want to contribute. That’s why they’re such great helpers. Family meetings are the perfect opportunity to let your child contribute to your family in a meaningful way that makes him feel like an important and valued part of the team. These meetings give each family member the chance to share problems or challenges they’re facing. You can talk with your child about your frustration with how long it takes him to get ready in the morning, your child can talk with you about his anger at being nagged, and then you can work together to find a solution that works for both of you.
Positive Discipline offers great discipline tools for parents and nannies alike. If you’re looking for respectful ways to teach your child valuable life skills, check out the entire Positive Discipline series.