Positive Parenting is a modern parenting technique that is becoming very popular across the United States and Europe.
The official definition of positive parenting is ‘the continual relationship of a parent and a child that includes caring, teaching, leading, communicating, and providing for the needs of a child consistently and unconditionally’.
Positive discipline is a big part of positive parenting, and is discipline without punishment. Keep reading to find out more about what positive discipline is, how it can benefit your family, and how to put it into practice.
What Is Positive Discipline?
Some people hear the phrase ‘positive discipline’ and assume that this involves being a pushover and enabling negative behaviour. What it actually means is disciplining children in a respectful way that will build their self-esteem.
Discipline should be nurturing so that as a parent you can influence your child’s behaviour through loving guidance rather than excessive punishment.
Excessive punishment can inhibit the development of a personal sense of morality, as your child will avoid displaying negative behaviour in order to avoid punishment, rather than out of a desire to do the right thing.
Positive discipline encourages your child to find inner motivation for their behaviour rather than you providing external motivation for their actions through various forms of punishment.
There is no physical punishment and no aggressive communication involved in positive discipline, as studies have shown that these forms of punishment can cause long-term issues of low self-esteem.
Positive discipline requires the parent to be firm, but kind. Every situation should be approached with love and patience. You want to show your child that they are able to use their personal power in a constructive and positive way.
Positive parenting aims to support a child’s self-determination and expression to provide them with decision making skills which they can take forward into their adult life. Positive discipline fits into this by teaching the child in an empowering way.
Some parents may be concerned that empowering their children will make them unruly, but this is not the case. By encouraging independent thought, children will learn the important skill of self-regulation and will demonstrate increased compliance.
A big part of making your child feel empowered is giving them opportunities to make their own decisions. Let them choose their pyjamas, or which bath toys they want to play with. Ask them if they would rather sit in the buggy or walk beside you, holding your hand.
These small decisions will have a big impact on your child’s confidence and their belief in their own capability. It also helps them to understand the consequences of their actions.
If they decide they don’t want to go in the buggy so you leave it in the car, but they get tired of walking, they will have learned a lesson about decision making without you having to enforce anything or be the bad guy.
Empathise with their tiredness, and then distract them with a fun activity like naming the colors of the cars or spotting animals.
The parent displays consistent love and affection to make the child feel secure. If the child feels secure and knows their needs are being met, then they will react better to discipline, especially when it is done with empathy.
Children benefit from clear boundaries which are set out and consistently maintained, with consequences for undesirable behaviours. This teaches them how to be responsible for their own behaviour and has a positive long-term effect on their actions.
The consequences of their actions should be as close as possible to the natural consequences of the situation, rather than an imposed punishment.
This helps your child to learn how to moderate their own behaviour. This self-discipline will enable them to reach decisions using independent thought and critical thinking rather than acting out of fear.
The aim of positive parenting is to treat your child with respect, the same way that you would want to be treated. Imagine if you started a new job and weren’t quite sure what you were doing.
If someone chastised you, shouted, and became angry when you did something wrong, this would not provide a positive learning environment. It would upset you, humiliate you, and stop you from developing the skills you need to be good at your job.
Children are learning about the world around them and how to act in it and it can be overwhelming- they deserve to be treated with kindness and patience.
An important part of positive discipline is recognizing the good behaviour to teach children what they should be doing, as well as steering them away from what they shouldn’t.
Be attentive, and reinforce their positive actions with praise and appreciation. Try to avoid rewarding them with sweet treats and food, or with toys and possessions.
This bribery can cause problems with their relationship with food, and can lead to materialism and give them the wrong motivation for doing the right thing.
How Will Positive Discipline Benefit Your Family?
Positive discipline can be used on children of all ages. It is built on a foundation of positive parenting and a secure attachment style. Research into attachment theory shows that even children below the age of one can benefit from this as it improves self esteem and social confidence.
Positive discipline Positive improves a child’s ability to understand their emotions and regulate their behaviour. This emotional resilience will make things easier for them as they grow up.
By encouraging independent thought and autonomy, positive discipline stimulates creativity and individuality. This improves a child’s ability to make decisions and builds their confidence.
The open and effective communication that you develop with your child as part of positive discipline sets a good example for them to take forwards into their adult life.
All of these skills that are developed through positive discipline help children to adjust to a school environment which can improve their academic performance. It also improves their cognitive and social development.
How To Put Positive Discipline Into Practice?
There is no room for anger in positive discipline. It is unrealistic to expect a parent to never feel frustrated with their child, but this should be expressed as a part of teaching, guidance and discipline.
Your communication should be gentle, non-confrontational and kind. Give yourself time and space if necessary so you can calm down before interacting with your child. If your communication with your child is aggressive, then they could become scared or upset.
Any adjustment to their behaviour after this point will be motivated by their reaction to your anger rather than their desire to learn and grow.
In order for positive discipline to work, you and your child need to build a relationship based on mutual respect and clear communication. You will need to teach your child how to recognize their feelings and express them effectively.
If your child can communicate their feelings they won’t feel the need to act on them straight away, which gives you a chance to work together to solve the problem before any behavioural issues occur.
It will take a bit of time to establish this relationship, but with time and consistency it will develop.
Once you have established a good foundation of open communication with your child, it is important that you continue to validate their feelings. Make sure you make an effort to validate your child’s feelings.
Some consequences of their actions may make them sad or frustrated like having a toy taken off them. Acknowledge their feelings with empathy but without giving in and changing the consequences.
This will make them feel listened to and understood whilst maintaining the security that comes with consistent boundaries.
As explained above, children will flourish if they have clear boundaries set which are consistently maintained. It is important that the boundaries and expectations for their behaviour are clear and specific. Set clear and specific expectations for their behaviour.
For example, rather than saying ‘be good’, you could explain what ‘being good’ means to you, like ‘share your toys and tidy up after playtime’.
It is important to connect with your child before correcting their behavior. Your child will learn more effectively if you can establish a secure emotional attachment with them before a teaching moment.
This might mean that one or both of you need a moment of space to calm down before you can communicate with each other about what happened.
Imposed ‘time-outs’ can be damaging, as it forces the child to be alone when they could be upset and it often makes them more hysterical.
Try to create a safe space to allow your child to self-soothe. They can think about what has happened and how they feel about it which encourages rational thinking. Hopefully, they will be comfortable sharing their thoughts with you afterwards so you can get to know each other better.
Positive parenting works on the assumption that all children are good, they just require guidance to learn and grow. It is important for you to show your child that you Let your child believe they are a good person, and that one wrong action doesn’t change how you feel about them.
Unconditional love is an important part of positive parenting and positive discipline.
Once you have given an explanation about why their behaviour was wrong and allowed them space to respond and react, provide them with an example of positive behaviours to replace the negative action with.
This helps to reinforce your boundaries and expectations, and demonstrates the behavior they should be displaying.
Another important element of positive discipline is fostering a sense of belonging to the family unit. When a child understands that they are part of something bigger than themselves, like a family or a community, they begin to understand that their behaviour directly affects other people.
Use praise to show that your child is appreciated when they do things that benefit the family as a whole – like tidying up or helping with chores.
You can also show them that their good behaviour helps to make your life easier- thank them for being quiet while you were taking a phone call, or for playing nicely while you were busy in the kitchen. This sense of belonging to the family unit also helps your child to feel safe, secure and builds their self-esteem.
One big thing to avoid with positive discipline is shame. Shame is damaging and causes long-term emotional issues. Our goal as parents is not to shame our children, but to nurture them and guide them so they can become the best versions of themselves.
Think about the times that you have been made to feel ashamed- did it help you grow into an emotionally healthy person, or cause you emotional pain that stunted your growth?
Set A Good Example
How we treat our children directly feeds into their view of how they should treat others, and what treatment they should accept from others in the future.
If you behave aggressively towards your child- shouting, negative language, or even smacking- then they might begin to display this behavior themselves.
Even if they don’t behave this way, they will think it is okay for others to display this behaviour towards them. This makes them vulnerable to mistreatment from friends and even puts them at risk of staying in abusive relationships in their adult life.
As you can see, positive discipline is very different to the traditional punishment and reward style of parenting.
It aims to provide your child with important social and emotional skills to build their self-esteem and ability to think independently, rather than trying to control them through bribery and fear. It might be difficult to adjust to initially, but the benefits for your family and your child’s development will be worth the initial effort.
In the long-term, it will help you to have a more positive relationship with your child and will enable them to develop more positive relationships in their adult life.
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