“If you want to discipline your children without shouting, you have come to the right place.
Yelling and punishment never helped anyone. It only made a miserable child more miserable.
When a child misbehaves, it is due to a need not met. The child may not express it as such, but when you punish him on top of the unmet need, the disciplining goes ineffective. It also affects the relationship between you and your child.
That’s where the positive parenting style benefits children. In positive parenting, the child’s needs are met with empathy, therefore the correction to his behavior is made based on the belief that caused the child to misbehave.
When you are trying to discipline positively, the emphasis is put on the root behavior and the solution is made focusing on meeting his needs rather than punishing for the behavior.
In other words, traditional disciplinary methods are like treating chronic disease. Conventional medicine usually treats only the symptoms without treating the disease itself. And the disease keeps manifesting in different areas of the body in different forms – until you find and treat the root cause.
So, until you find the ‘need’ that drives the difficult behavior in kids, it grows and they show it in more and more stubborn ways.
The Importance Of Positive Discipline
Positive discipline is a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelson based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs.
Positive discipline focuses on changing the ‘belief behind the behavior’ rather than focusing only on the behavior. The core belief behind positive discipline is ‘there are no bad kids, only bad behavior.’
So liberating, right?
The usual disciplining methods use threatening, shaming, bribing, and punishing to correct misbehaviors. But as days pass on, kids are angrier and more frustrated and don’t seem to learn the lesson we are trying to impart.
Because the traditional disciplining methods focus on bad behavior as such and label the child as a bad one. When a child gets the impression he is a bad child repetitively, he grows with it and does not change the behavior. Because human beings act consciously or unconsciously based on their beliefs only.
Children always have a need to connect and belong. If they don’t get it, they try to get it by misbehaving.
Positive discipline is based on finding solutions to children’s problems with mutual respect, kindness, and encouragement.
According to Dr. Nelson, there are five criteria for positive discipline.
- Positive discipline is firm and kind at the same time.
- It helps children to feel a sense of belonging and significance.
- It works for the long-term, unlike punishments that work only for the time being.
- It teaches life skills and social skills that will help them to respect others and solve conflicts peacefully.
- It lets children discover their capabilities and use their personal power in constructive ways.
Benefits Of Positive Discipline Compared To Negative Discipline
- Positive discipline focuses on solutions and not treating the child as a bad person, whereas negative discipline treats the child as a bad person.
- Positive discipline empowers kids by teaching effective communication skills and kindness, whereas negative discipline causes a disconnect and lack of effective communication between the parent and the child.
- Positive discipline focuses on meeting the needs of the child, and therefore, reducing the chances of misbehavior in the future. But negative discipline does not take into consideration what the child has to say. His emotions are neglected, and therefore, the child finds more negative ways to grab the attention and to satisfy the need to belong.
- Positive discipline accepts mistakes as such — not only the child’s, but the parent’s mistakes as well. But, the child is still treated with kindness without assassinating his character. He is shown how to correct it the next time. In negative disciplining, a child is shamed for his mistakes, and he is not shown kindness or given directions or support to improve his behavior.
- In positive disciplining, a child learns the appropriate way of releasing emotions from the parent, as the parent is responding with kindness, empathy, and lack of aggressive behaviors like yelling, spanking, etc. But in negative disciplining, a child learns aggressive behaviors (because that’s what he sees). The child grows up with a lack of proper guidance on how to release his emotions, and it may cause low self-esteem and mental health issues.
Now that we know the difference between positive and negative discipline, let’s see what positive discipline techniques we can use to discipline children.
Positive Ways To Discipline Children Without Punishment
Positive parenting doesn’t mean being permissive and letting kids do whatever they want. Positive parents are actively involved in disciplining and teaching children about the consequences of their actions.
How to use positive discipline? Here are some strategies.
1. Set limits
Setting limits is essential for kids to learn about the consequences of their behavior. Authoritarian parents set limits, and if kids don’t obey, they punish or scold them. In permissive parenting, parents are afraid to take action when kids go beyond the limit because they fear they will lose their kids’ love.
In positive parenting, we set limits and definitely take action if kids push the limits. But, the only difference is, it is done with empathy. Kids are not made to feel bad deliberately, but they still understand their behavior created the consequence, and repeating the behavior will be met again with the same consequence.
When they face the consequence, we do not humiliate them, but offer empathy and kindness. You will understand this point better with an example:
Consider this scenario.
Your toddler writes on the wall with a crayon. You tell him, ‘Walls are not for drawing; you can use a paper instead.’ But, if he does it again, you can remind him and tell him if he repeats it, you will have to take the crayon away. And if he does, you go to him and take away the crayon sternly.
He will protest and cry. But you do not give in. You offer him empathy instead. You say, ‘I know it’s hard for you to not draw on the wall. But I can’t let you do it. We can try again when you are ready to draw on the paper.’
No threats, no punishments, and no scolding. Even though it was taken away, he knew you were on his side and he didn’t feel humiliated.
2. Talk less, do more
Until I read Dr. Jane Nelson’s book ‘Positive Discipline,’ I didn’t realize the effect of this behavior of parents, which I am sure many of us are doing.
We talk and talk and talk, and do way less. We tell kids the following things.
‘It’s your last chance. I will not let it happen again.’
‘You only have ten minutes. After that, I will take the remote away.’
‘I will not give you candy ever again.’
But do we really act on our words?
No wonder kids don’t take us seriously.
In positive disciplining, we set limits and act on them when the limits are crossed. No more chances. We stay stern.
It doesn’t mean we should be cruel. Often we let go of our warnings because we feel sorry for kids. Even when we stand by our words, we can show empathy and that we’re on their team.
Or else, kids don’t learn the consequences of their actions and keep repeating the mistakes, because we were so fearful.
3. Offer choices
Offering choices is another positive discipline technique that works well to avoid power struggles, especially with young kids.
‘Do you want to get ready for bed now, or after 10 minutes?’
‘Do you want to drink milk from the red cup or the blue cup?’
Make sure you offer choices that are acceptable to you. If you can’t live with a choice, don’t offer it.
Offering choices make children feel like they are in control and they made the decision. It reduces resistance and power struggles.
4. Create a yes environment
People don’t like to be controlled. And by people, I mean kids too. Have you ever noticed how kids tend to do more of what they are told ‘not to do?’
When we say no, they show more resistance and try to exert power. And let’s face it, always hearing no is tiring for us too. Rules are good for helping us to be on our best behavior, but too many rules make you more rebellious.
How do we usually give instructions to children?
‘No jumping on the sofa.’
‘Don’t play outside.’
‘No TV after 9 p.m.’
But, if you create a more YES environment at home, you can expect more cooperative behavior. It is simple and easy.
Reframe the NO statements into YES, like this.
‘The sofa is for sitting. If you enjoy jumping, you can do it on the floor.’
‘It is too hot to play outside right now. Come inside; we’ll enjoy some indoor games.’
‘Watching TV for so long into the night will make you a grumpy boy in the morning. We don’t like it, do we? We shall switch off the TV after 9 p.m.’
‘Hitting hurts! We show anger with words, not with hands!’
Instead of just saying NO right away, explain your reasons for saying NO.
And, if children request you to play with them, instead of saying NO, you can say, ‘I am in the middle of cooking this meal for you. I will join you as soon as I am done.’
5. Instead of yelling, use a firm voice
Dr. Jane Nelson says positive discipline should be firm and kind at the same time.
When you say your child can’t do something, you mean it. But if they respond angrily, or if they break down in tears, you empathize with them. That’s what firm and kind means.
If your child protests for taking away the spoon, you can say, ‘I know you were having a good time banging the spoon on the table. But the spoon is for eating, and not for banging, so I am taking it away.’
When you are being kind and firm, your message reaches your child. Yelling can never deliver your message because your child does not feel understood, and he is listening to you standing in a place of fear.
Can you teach anyone a positive lesson when you are angry, and when you can feel the adrenaline rush in your body? No, and that’s what happens when you yell. Hence, yelling is inactive.
6. Work with children to bring up solutions
Inspired by all the positive parenting books I have read, what I like to do is hold a family meeting once a week, to discuss the challenges we face as a result of each other’s behaviors.
Right now, the most talked-about problem is sibling squabbles. It is a lot of work helping kids to learn to live with each other. In a way, it is unfair for them to have people who enter their territories uninvited and do stuff they don’t like.
Nobody likes it. Therefore, in such meetings, we discuss the sibling behaviors that irritate the kids. And we set boundaries so everyone knows what is expected of them.
This meeting is not meant to be a blame game. The parent can moderate the accusations with respect.
And we also involve kids by asking questions like, ‘What do you think we can do when this situation comes up again?’
Then they come up with their ideas, we note it down, and decide to try to act on these ideas in the future.
This teaches kids critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This also helps them to view challenges with a perspective of finding solutions rather than being angry and reactive toward them, which is an important life skill.
And also, when kids are involved in these problem-solving sessions, they realize they are not a ‘problem,’ but they are a part of the solution.
7. Treat the cause rather than the symptoms
One benefit of the above said family meetings is you get kids to speak their minds. When you really hear their part, you understand the reason behind their difficult behaviors.
For example, my elder daughter told me she doesn’t like to share her belongings with her sister because she doesn’t return it properly, and even if she does, it is usually not in good shape.
She would have never said that if I didn’t ask her questions. And I would have judged her for this behavior and even labeled her as ‘selfish’ by the old standards. I mean, I don’t believe in forced sharing, but I want my kids to help each other when someone needs something. So, when this fear held her back, I knew we could work on it to help her get better in giving.
So here, rather than judging or labeling a child, we can speak to her about why she displays this behavior. You can discuss with your child to find solutions that are acceptable for everyone. This alternate way of disciplining helps children to develop a growth mindset because they realize their shortcomings can be corrected and improved.
8. Make them feel heard and label their emotions
This is so powerful.
Human beings have an innate need to be heard. Imagine when you have difficult feelings inside you and no one around you is willing to listen to you.
And, on top of that, you get judged for being sad or angry. How does it feel?
That’s what we do to kids.
We judge them as selfish, naughty, attention-seeking, etc, without listening to what they have to say.
So mamas, let’s sit down for a moment and listen. And help them get through their hard feelings by telling them, ‘It’s okay to feel angry.’ Or, ‘It’s okay to feel sad.’
When they feel heard, they feel connected and get a sense of belonging.
And connection is the most important part of positive parenting.
Labeling emotions helps them to be in tune with their feelings. This helps them understand their feelings and manage them appropriately.
Studies show children who are able to label and verbally express their emotions are less prone to anxiety when they reach adulthood. Also, they become able to understand others’ emotions and respond to them empathetically.
9. Replace shaming, threatening, and bribing with teaching
Positive disciplining doesn’t promote shaming, threatening, bribing, or other physical punishments. Instead, we use each opportunity to correct kids’ behavior with teaching.
In positive parenting, both the child and the parent are on the same side. It’s when we see the child’s misbehavior with anger that we feel like punishing them.
Instead, make each mistake an opportunity to teach and guide. Instead of always saying what not to do, explain what to do instead.
10. Stay consistent
Being consistent with your expectations helps kids to obey the rules better.
Before saying NO to something, think about if you really mean NO. If you change your mind when kids protest, they learn your decisions can be manipulated.
So, be picky with your battles.
And if you are not comfortable with breaking certain rules, stay firm when they test your limits. If you change your decisions depending upon your mood, it sends out a confusing message to kids.
11. Reduce the need to control
Disciplining becomes hard when you find the need to control kids. There is a limit to your energy as well. If the atmosphere is set up for failure, it gets hard to be consistent.
For example, if you stock your pantry with junk food, it’s hard to form healthy eating habits in kids. Similarly, if you don’t switch off the TV, but ask kids to go away to bed, it’s hard for them to do it.
So, make their environment and routines more favorable to everyone’s liking so you can reduce power struggles. Have clearly defined rules around mealtimes, bedtime, morning time, etc. so they know what is to be expected.
12. Separate the doer from deeds
Kids develop shame and feelings of unworthiness when we label them as ‘bad girl’ or ‘mean boy.’ Here, instead of telling them their action is wrong, we tell them they themselves are bad humans.
These words have immense effects that can last a lifetime.
No human being can stay eternally good or bad. We all do good and bad things, knowingly or unknowingly. When they become adults, the feelings of unworthiness haunt them and block them from expressing their full potential.
Therefore, when they misbehave, we can point out their mistakes but, at the same time, express the scope of better behavior the next time. And also, talk only about the action they did, and not about them.
We can say, ‘Hurting people is bad. I expect you to be kinder toward your brother.’
This single statement tells him what he did was wrong, but he can try to improve. And there is no shaming like ‘you are a mean boy.’
13. Enforce consequences
When it comes to consequences, there are natural consequences and logical consequences.
Natural consequences, as the name suggests, occur naturally.
Example of natural consequence: John forgets to do his homework every day. You tell him he is expected to do homework in the evening at the mutually agreed time. But he keeps forgetting. Instead of nagging, you decide not to remind him one day. He has to face the consequences in school the next day.
This helps him learn his lesson and be more proactive. In this case, the parent has to give up his/her worry so the child learns to relate his actions with their consequences. If you resort to nagging and giving orders, the child learns to act only when he is nagged or reminded.
A logical consequence is given by a caregiver when the child breaks a rule or misbehaves.
Example of logical consequence: Sally has been told she can’t use her phone after 9 p.m. And she and her mother have made an agreement that if she breaks the rule, her mother can have custody of the phone.
Here, the consequence is something both parties agreed on, and therefore, it doesn’t come across as punishment. The child learns to pay for his misbehaviors and become more responsible.
In both scenarios, the consequences are related to the misbehavior. By letting them go through the consequences, you let the experience be the teacher, rather than emotions.
Contrary to popular belief, the child doesn’t have to suffer to learn a lesson. He can learn it from experience, which is the best teacher.
14. Talk at your child’s level
When you discipline kids, you want to get their attention first. And it is hard to get if you stand tall and yell at the top of your voice.
The best way to get a child’s attention is by getting down at his level and looking in his eye. Since you are standing close to them, you don’t have to yell. The child feels safer and more connected to you. And, therefore, you get a better response.
Yelling makes your voice heard, but your message is silenced.
15. Have faith in your child
If you have two or three or even ten kids, treat each one of them as unique individuals. Interact with each one of them one by one daily, even it’s for five minutes.
Because you need to know who your child is to know his problems. Only when you communicate with him effectively, you get what drives his thinking.
The discipline technique that works with one child may not work with the other. One may be too sensitive, and the other more strong-willed.
To know what they think and what they want, get into their world with never-ending curiosity. Lead them with gentle guidance to mold them to who they want to be, rather than punishing their strong spirits because you don’t understand their dreams.
Having put these positive discipline techniques into practice in my daily life, I can confidently say these work far better than the conventional strict discipline methods. You can experience more cooperative behavior from kids and, as a parent, you have the satisfaction of having a strong bond with your children.
Because ultimately, what we want is to raise happy and kind kids who feel loved and appreciated in this world.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Messy, Yet Lovely, where it originally appeared. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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