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What is Positive Discipline?

The Difference between Discipline and Punishment

Mom-daughter2Contrary to popular belief, discipline and punishment are not equal.  Discipline is positive and should prevent the need for punishment.  In fact, the word “discipline” is derived from the Latin “disciplina” which means teaching or education.  Discipline helps to guide children toward positive behavior, promotes self-control, encourages children to think before acting and is not damaging to their self-esteem.  Punishment, on the other hand, is negative – whether physical, verbal, withholding rewards or penalizing.

Positive discipline teaches children rules and behaviors in a respectful, loving and considerate way.  It requires thought, planning and patience from parents and caretakers, such as:

  • “No, don’t run inside!” becomes, “What happened to our walking feet?  Where do we use our running feet?”  or “We will go outside soon and you can show me how fast you can run.”
  • “No, don’t throw the blocks!” becomes, “When did our blocks grow wings?” or “Let’s try building a castle and see what happens!”

Use positive discipline to redirect your child’s behavior, and you validate the legitimacy of your child’s desires and shows you care and understand.  Redirecting endorses your child’s right to choose and begins to teach that others have rights, too.

Children also respond to reasoning – it just needs to be put into their language.

  • ‘Inside feet’ versus ‘outside feet’
  • ‘Soft hands’ versus ‘hard hands’
  • ‘Inside voices’ versus ‘outside voices’

Create a Positive Environment

  • Show the love; smile, touch, hold, caress, kiss, cuddle, rock and hug your child!  This will not only make your child feel secure and happy, but is essential for normal social development.
  • Listen and answer as an equal – not as an instructor.  This will help build your child’s self-esteem and foster respect.
  • Spend time with your child every day.  Make time every day to drop everything and play with your child – even if it’s only for a couple of minutes.  Your child will realize they don’t need to have a temper tantrum to gain your attention.
  • Catch your child doing something good – praise and compliment!  “You’re doing a great job feeding yourself and keeping your food on your plate!”
  • Provide simple rules and state them in positive terms.
  • Demonstrate the behavior you want your child to adopt – actions speak louder than words.