At times, every parent feels overwhelmed, frustrated, and on the edge of imposing reactive, harsh discipline. There’s no discussion, reasoning, or negotiation. In the end, it doesn’t work and it can often be counterproductive—children may become resentful, angry, and vengeful. And this negative from of discipline doesn’t teach them how to change their behavior. Children who are always reprimanded without discussion fail to develop problem-solving skills and an inner voice that helps them to think through their behavior before acting. So what’s a better strategy?
Positive discipline is the way to go. Positive discipline is about helping your child to learn positive values and develop social skills for life. Rather than developing unquestioning obedience, positive discipline will help you raise a child with healthy self-esteem who is responsible, adaptable, proficient at compromising, and skilled at communicating. But don’t confuse positive discipline with being permissive! Children whose parents are overly relaxed or allow them to do whatever they want often struggle with poor self-control and have difficulty committing to tasks. Positive discipline involves parenting in a warm, loving way with fair, firm boundaries and reasonable consequences.
Positive discipline must be given in the context of a warm and loving environment. The more encouraging comments you give your child, the more he or she will respond when you disapprove. Here are some helpful tips to get you started on your positive parenting journey:
- Choose your battles. Constant nagging and criticism makes children tune out. Only use commands when absolutely necessary. Ignore minor misbehavior and focus on the things that really matter.
- Speak to your child in a polite, respectful tone. When you make requests of your child, speak to him or her the same way you would want some to address you. Avoid shouting, sarcasm, threats, and criticism.
- Pile on the praise. Every time your child complies with a request, let him or her know you noticed and that you appreciate it. Consider using star charts or special treats to further reinforce specific behaviors.
- Model good behavior. We all have moments when we feel like we’re about to snap. When you feel this way, take the opportunity to show your child how to handle it appropriately. You might say, “Mommy’s feel very stressed right now! I’m going to sit on the patio for a few minutes and calm down.”
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s easy to be self-critical and dwell on situations in which you weren’t happy with how you disciplined your child. Instead, take time at the end of each day to remind yourself of all the times you handled things well.
Giving positive feedback is an incredibly effective way to nourish the behaviors you want to encourage in your child. Try recognizing small moments with praise for a few days and see what happens. More likely than not, you’ll see a lot more good behavior and positive new patterns emerge in your household.
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