Are you tired of losing your temper with your kids? Are you sick of the battles and arguments? Are you ready to be done with feeling the intense “mom guilt” after you’ve yelled at your children?
If so, then positive discipline might just be for you!
Positive discipline is a disciplinary model based largely on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs that focuses on the positive aspects of a child’s behavior instead of the negative. This model of parenting is based on the fundamental idea that while a child might be behaving badly, the child isn’t inherently bad himself. Good behaviors can be modeled, taught, and reinforced through positive interactions with your children.
Although the positive discipline model has been around since the 1920s, it has gained popularity in recent years, especially as it has gained more traction in schools and in particular, Montessori-style schools.
Positive discipline is based on five criteria:
- Discipline should help children feel a sense of connection.
- Discipline is mutually respectful and encouraging.
- Discipline teaches important social and life skills.
- Discipline is effective long-term.
- Discipline invites children to discover their own capability.
Positive discipline is not based on extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivation involves some kind of punishment and reward system of setting up standards of behavior. For example, you may tell your child, “If you eat all your broccoli, you can have ice cream for dessert.” Positive discipline doesn’t involve extrinsic rewards, but rather focuses on a child’s intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation helps children want to obey you! This can be very different than any style of parenting that you’re used to!
Here are some proactive strategies to prevent battles and arguments:
1. Model good behavior. Model respectful conversations and interactions with others. Children are little sponges! They tend to soak up how they see you interact with those around you. For example, model polite behavior by saying “please” and “thank you” to others.
2. Have a routine. Young children especially love routines. Babies and toddlers thrive on repetition and expectation. Try your best to follow a daily schedule and don’t deviate too far from the typical routine.
3. Redirect misbehavior. Children are not hardwired to use formal logic until they are six years of age! This means that it is extremely hard to reason with a toddler. The best thing you can do with a young child is redirection. For example, if your child is hitting his sibling. Instead of yelling “No!” and using a timeout, try redirecting your child’s attention to something else - a positive behavior. Tell your child, “We are not going to hit people. If you feel like hitting, you can hit this drum or xylophone instead.”
4. Tell your child what you want them to do. Many parents get stuck in a rut of telling your child to stop doing a behavior. Children respond better to being asked to do something instead of being told what not to do. Young children especially need to know what needs to be done. They often don’t know what is expected of them.
5. Pick your battles wisely. You can’t fight every fight. Try to catch yourself saying “no” too often. Don’t fight your toddler on every single issue. Pick your battles wisely, and your little one’s behavior will likely be much better in the long run. Many meltdowns can be avoided by simply focusing on saying “yes” to your children more often.
6. Avoid unnecessary praise. Don’t praise your child for every single thing your little one does. Children hear “Good job!” far too often, often turning them into what experts call “praise junkies.” Overly praising a child doesn’t teach them intrinsic motivation. They will learn to only do good behavior when they receive praise. This does not set them up for a lifetime of success. Instead, describe the good behaviors your child is doing, pay attention to what they are doing, and tell them what you appreciate about their behavior.
Young toddlers and children naturally want to make their parents happy. This is why positive discipline is so helpful for this age. Young children don’t respond well to constant orders and overuse of the word “no.” Most toddlers want to be helpful.
Toddlers also thrive on choices. If healthy meals are a battle, give your toddler two choices, like “Do you want carrots or broccoli with your lunch today?” If your child hates getting dressed, ask her, “Do you want to wear the blue dress or the pink dress today?” If your child throws tantrums during times of transition, say, “Do you want to leave right now, or do you want me to set a timer for two more minutes?” Giving your toddler a sense of control can be a great way to avoid battles!
These are just some of the facets of positive discipline. To find out more, do your own research online, through parenting blogs, or through books from your local library. Here at KeaBabies, we support loving interactions between caregivers and their little ones, and positive discipline can be a great way to start!
Parenting is awesome. Sleep is overrated. Everyday is an adventure.