What are your most common associations with the word “discipline”? I bet some of you mentally connect it with punishment (join the club). The associations that typically arise when ‘discipline’ comes to mind are invariably far from positive, that’s just the way out psyche works. It’s interesting that the Latin word “disciplina” stands for “teaching”, while “discipulus” means “pupil”.
In this post, I’m going to explore the concept of Positive Discipline – an idea that reverts things back to the way they were and encourages parents to teach their kids the appropriate behaviour patterns instead of punishing them. Positive Discipline excludes spanking, nagging, screaming, or punishing kids in a severe way. The mums and I at EasyToBeMom use positive discipline techniques a lot when teaching our kids how to behave.
Positive Discipline (also referred to as PD) is a discipline model that concentrates on the positive behaviour patterns and the concept that there are no bad children, just appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. Based on PD, parents clearly state what behaviours are good, which ones are bad, as well as the rewards for good behaviours, and the drawbacks that come with bad behaviour. Below, I will guide you through small yet effective steps from ‘punishing’ towards ‘teaching’.
Avoid focusing on the wrong. Show your child how to do it right
According to experts in Positive Discipline, repeatedly saying “No” or “Don’t do that” to a misbehaving toddler is ineffective. Wondering what to say instead of no to a child? Let me delve into the issue a bit more. The thing is, when you say “No”, you usually don’t give your kid any details on the alternative (read as: the appropriate) behavior pattern. Without that information, your kiddo will mostly just end up sticking with her initial course of action.
Oftentimes your little one will see this as a fun Daddy-says-No-I-do-it-anyway kind of game and continue misbehaving. However, if you show your kids what else they can do instead of strictly ordering them not to (or punishing them for what they do wrong), this will definitely help you in making them listen. And that’s the core concept when it comes to practicing the Positive Discipline techniques.
Be loving but firm. Teach your kids empathy and respect
Once you recognize that your kids are not bad, they just occasionally behave in a bad way, things will easily fall into place. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should sit back and relax while your cute baby girl hits her friend for not willing to share her gorgeous doll. No doubt, in your little daughter’s mind, she’s doing the right thing. As a parent, you shouldn’t argue with her or lose your temper.
Instead, keep calm and firmly state that hitting our friends is never the option, even if they’re not willing to share their toys with us. Avoid raising your voice, just repeat the same concept using its multiple verbal variations in order to show your child that hitting your friends is not the best choice in life. Empathize with your baby girl by telling her that you understand how much she likes and wants her friend’s doll. That way, you will teach your child to respect and empathize with others.
Offer alternatives whenever you can
After you express empathy, offer your baby girl some alternative options. This will give your child a feeling of control. Thus, instead of calling her “bad” and punishing her, you give her control – that’s a great trick to break your kid’s usual patterns and encourage her to (really) listen and behave. As a matter of fact, this is one of the most popular (and effective) PD techniques out there.
Straightforward alternative options like, “Why don’t you just apologize and give Brenda a hug?” or “Brenda is your friend. We don’t attack our friends or kids with better toys. Do you want to apologize or do you want to play with your own doll until you cool off?” will do. Offer alternatives with logic and reason in mind. Because once an alternative option is presented, and your child stays with it, you’re going to need to respect her choice.
Approach mistakes as steps towards learning
A child will often misbehave just because she thinks of it as the means to get what she wants. When you approach bad behaviours as opportunities for learning and additionally empower your kids with some exciting choices, it will prevent them in the future from using bad behaviours as the means to get to an end even when you’re not around.
Avoid the lecturing routine though. Make the most of various stories and examples from past situations, let your child know about the natural consequences of inappropriate behaviours. “Remember when you hit Jessica when she didn’t give you her teddy bear? She hit you back, and that hurt really bad. Friends shouldn’t hit each other. Just give Brenda a hug and keep playing together”.
Cutting to the chase: There’s no such thing as perfect parenting
Last but not least, don’t punish yourself when you fail to make the best out of all the positive discipline tactics described above. You’re not perfect, which is natural. Accept this fact and embrace it. As a matter of fact, there’s no such thing as perfect parenting. Doing the best you can is more than enough. Give yourself some time, be patient, and never give up on your journey to teaching your kids the right way to behave.
Annabel Strickland is a mum to a 2-year-old boy and an author at Easytobemom.com. In her posts, she shares tips on pregnancy nutrition, fitness, weight loss, parenting, motherhood.