Family & Social Child Developement
Positive Discipline Strategies To Try With Your Child
In our previous blogs, we’ve spoken about Positive Parenting, a parenting philosophy which is mainly based on treating children with mutual respect and using positive disciplining techniques. It definitely seems like a more gentle form of parenting that both parents and children could tremendously benefit from but also leaves parents wondering if it actually works.
Why Positive Parenting?
If you respond to your child’s misbehaviour by yelling and losing your cool, you’re not the only one. We’ve all been there. And if that episode is usually followed by the behaviour not changing or worsening and you wallowing in guilt about how you treated your child, you definitely aren’t the only one feeling the way you are. Parental guilt is a real thing that makes you feel isolated and unsure. If you are constantly unhappy about how you are disciplining your child or disappointed over not seeing any change, you might want to rethink your methods and try something different. Your child is more likely to learn better behaviour when they understand right and wrong instead of only complying with you fearing punishment.
Understanding Positive Discipline
Positive discipline doesn’t mean you don’t correct your child but you focus on kindness and trust while you do just that. When children feel loved and respected they feel encouraged to demonstrate positive behaviour in the future.
In her book “Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting” Joan Durant talks about understanding positive discipline.
What positive discipline is
- It is about long term solutions that help your child develop self-discipline
- It is clear communication about your expectations, rules and limits
- It aims at building a mutually respectful relationship with your child
- Works towards teaching your child life-long skills
- Increases your child’s sense of competency and confidence
What positive discipline is not
- It is not permissive parenting
- Doesn’t mean you let your child do whatever they want
- Not about short-term reactions or punishments
Positive Discipline Techniques
Although the list of positive discipline techniques formed by Katherine Kersey includes 101 strategies, after a lot of research, reading and filtering, we’ve put together a list of 10 techniques you can use with your child the next time you need to “discipline” them.
1. Offer choices
Whenever possible offer children choices. If you look closely at a typical day in your child’s life, adults make many of their decisions for them. What they eat, what time they need to get ready, what activities they do and when they need to stop an activity. Although necessary, it can leave children feeling like have little control. To ensure that offering choices are successful, in the sense that they are beneficial to you and your child, pick situations where you can offer both positive and acceptable choices. Eg; “It is bedtime. Would you like to read your book first or brush your teeth?” Or pick two different sets of clothing and ask your child to pick what they’d like to wear. Allowing your child to choose, gives them a sense of freedom and improves their confidence and self-esteem.
2. Set clear expectations and follow-through
Children need a clear set of rules and expectations to understand what is okay and not. An easy way to do this is to use the “When & Then principle”. “When you are done putting your toys away, then you can watch TV”.” When you are done with your homework, then you can go play”. Setting the rule might be the easy part but what’s equally important and not as simple is following through with your instructions. If you need your child to value your words, you need to be consistent and carry out your instructions. In the 101 positive principles of discipline, Kersey also maintains that children behave better when they know what they can count on. Establish traditions and routines which they can anticipate and which provide a sense of belonging and security.
3. Validate their emotions
Children feel a lot of emotions, many of which might seem trivial and unnecessary to you but to children, they are important and very real. While you might be inclined to dismiss their feelings, pause to validate their emotions. This helps you connect with your child before your correct them. It also builds empathy which is key to building a trusting and respectful relationship with your child. Acknowledge your child’s wants and feelings, all of them, the good, the bad and the ugly. Validating them doesn’t mean you are okay with them but this allows your child to know that you understand how they feel. “I know you are upset about leaving the park. I don’t blame you. We need to leave in 5 minutes and get home in time”.
4. Blame it on the rules
As parents, it seems like all we do is make rules for our kids. You can’t eat ice cream before dinner, no TV time in the morning, and bedtime is at 9. It isn’t a pretty job but it’s part of the package. A simple way to make this less about you is to blame it on the rules. “It’s a family rule to wash hands before every meal” or “It’s the school rule to get there by 8 am”. If your child has trouble making transitions, use timers. So this way the timer does the job of ending or starting an activity for you without you having to insist or demand. Whenever possible allow your child to set the time on the timer, of course by offering acceptable and reasonable choices. How long will need to finish your turn on the swing/put your toys away or set the dinner table, 3 or 5 minutes?
5. Focus on your own behaviour
A big part of correcting our children’s behaviour comes from controlling our own. We can’t teach our children to pause and react or not respond harshly or to use their words if we aren’t doing the same when we are triggered. Analyse the situation to know if this behaviour needs any attention. If the behaviour isn’t dangerous, destructive or embarrassing, ignore it. Often children misbehave because they want to get our attention. Pause to think, if the behaviour and your expectations are reasonable. Stay calm, remind yourself “this too shall pass” and before you react, think if the behaviour needs any attention at all. Sometimes, a minor incident can quickly escalate into a tantrum because of how we react to it. As Kersey says “ don’t make a mountain of a molehill, chill out”
6. Change of environment, divide and conquer
Sometimes despite your best efforts and staying calm, a child’s misbehaviour or tantrum just won’t subside. When needed, take the child out of the room to a quieter place to gather themselves. A change in environment can change the course of a tantrum. If you have children who are reinforcing each other’s misbehaviour, separate them. Like putting an adult between two kids while seated in an auditorium for a show.
Even with the best intentions, parents make mistakes. Despite being a calm parent, trying all the right techniques, emotions can get the better of us sometimes. Apologise, easily and genuinely. “I’m so sorry I yelled, I feel so bad about it, I wish I could take it back.” “I must have scared you when I yelled”. Apologising to your child will show your child that it’s okay to mess up and more importantly encourage them to apologise when they are wrong. And some situations might require you to apologise for your child. Do this instead of forcing them to apologise which will only feel like they are lying or make them think that anything can be rectified with an apology. The next time your child hurts someone or grabs their toy say to the other child “I’m so sorry he grabbed your toy/hurt you”. You are modelling better behaviour to your child.
8. Have fun together
Connecting with your child on a daily basis is crucial to strengthening your bond with them. While the demands of your schedule might not permit long periods of alone time with each child, setting aside just 10 minutes a day with each of your children, can help you build a strong relationship with your child. Allow your child to decide how they want to spend this time with you. Letting your child know that you are available when they need you is important, it lets them know they can turn to you for help. Between all the rules and teaching you have to do with your child, remember to also have fun with them and enjoy their company.
We hope these techniques have given you an idea of positive disciplining and help you bring about positive changes in your child’s behaviour. If you observe that your child’s behaviour doesn’t change or gets worse despite different techniques, please seek help from a professional.
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