Five Criteria for Positive Discipline

Five Criteria for Positive Discipline

In a previous blog we talked about what Positive Discipline was. We learned that shame, guilt, and fear are not great motivators for changed behavior. Positive Discipline is an approach to parenting that is about mutual respect, being solution minded, and trying to find the underlying root to each behavior. Here are five criteria for Positive Discipline: 

1. Helps children feel a sense of connection. Dr. Jane Nelson, co-founder of the Positive Discipline Association, says “Children do better when they feel better”. Why do we expect our children to behave better by guilting, shaming, and punishing them? Most old school parenting techniques revolve around getting a child to feel badly about their behavior and choices, in efforts to get them to make better decisions in the future. This is completely ineffective and damages our relationships with our children. If we want our children to make better choices and behave better, then we need to make sure they feel connected, significant, and like they belong. Only then will they be able to have the right mental space to make better choices.

2. It is mutually respectful and encouraging. We (hopefully) don’t shame our spouses, or co-workers when they make mistakes or have an emotional outburst, so why do we think it’s okay to treat our children that way? Why is it okay to talk down to them, make them feel bad, and tell them how wrong or bad they are? They are just tiny people learning how to navigate this world. It’s our job to model that for them and show them how to manage their feelings and behaviors. If we are able to treat them with respect instead of shame, they will in turn learn to treat us and others with respect as well. This doesn’t mean it’s passive parenting or we allow them to do anything they want, whenever they want. There is a balance here that we call being kind and firm at the same time. We can be respectful and kind in our parenting, while still being firm and direct. We can show love AND set the expectation or direction for behaviors and actions. 

3. It is effective in the long term. The biggest thing I hear from parents that use physical punishment and/or traditional time outs (stay in the corner and think about what you did!), is that it is effective for them. It gets the behavior to stop immediately and so they keep using it. They are right and wrong here. Yes, these techniques might produce the response they are looking for right away in the moment (tapping of the hands might keep a toddler out of a dog food bowl), but what are you actually accomplishing by doing that? They are learning how to fear you as a parent which is far different from respect. They are learning that it’s okay for someone they love and of authority to hit them in order to teach them a lesson.  And they are learning to stop what they are doing only at that moment, only to do it again the next day because the physical punishment or the traditional time out doesn’t actually teach them anything. They aren’t learning why they are behaving that way, why they shouldn’t behave that way, or how they should behave in the future. The goal of Positive Discipline is to teach a lesson that is effective in the moment AND long term. We want the child to consider what they are thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about themselves, their environment, and their own actions. 

4. Teaches important social and life skills. One of the main goals of parenting should be teaching our children positive life skills; things like perseverance, independence, respect, kindness, empathy, etc. So as parents and caregivers we want to ensure that our techniques are not just eliminating the negative or unwanted behaviors, but also are encouraging the positive behaviors and traits we do want to see from our children. Again going back to traditional time outs. Telling a child to sit on a naughty step or in a corner until they can behave might yield those short term effects we talked about (getting the behavior to stop in the moment). But what is it teaching them? It is teaching them that they are unlovable, that they should be isolated when they do something “bad”, and that they can’t get up until they are calm and ready to listen or behave. What if instead our parenting techniques were able to actually teach the lesson we are looking for? What if instead of shame, we get on their level to validate them and empathize with them? What if instead of isolation, we become their safe house for their big feelings? What if instead of forced apologies we teach them the right way to handle those big emotions when they happen? We cannot expect our children to just know how to behave or manage their emotions without showing them first, and being graceful with them when they make mistakes. We have to guide them and teach them and make sure the message of love gets through to them. In turn, they will be able to take those lessons of solving problems and managing their emotions into our homes, our schools, our communities, and places of worship. 

5. Invites children to discover how capable they are. Lastly we want our children to be capable and independent. We want them to be problem solvers, and critical thinkers, and able to manage the things they are developmentally ready to. We can do this by asking our children questions, guiding them into solving their own problems, giving them choices in their day, asking their opinions on matters, and including them. If we want children to be capable and more independent we have to train them how to do so, and give them plenty of opportunity to try, fail, make mistakes, and keep trying in order to be successful at it. It means taking a little extra time out of days to show them how to do things, clearly setting expectations in our homes, setting routines, and having family meetings. 

These criteria for Positive Discipline are so valuable! We love sharing them with you and can’t wait to share even more with you. Our goal at Nanny Miller Agency is to support families by providing tools, community, and helping hands. We service the Toledo Metro Area and the Ann Arbor area. 

Criteria guidelines are taken from Dr. Jane Nelson of the Positive Discipline Association’s Parenting Tool Cards. 

Chelsea Miller is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Owner of the Nanny Miller Agency. 

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Photo Credit: JP Photography


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