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When I had my baby, my mother told me: “parent with love and not fear.” These words stuck with me and I’ve tried to adopt positive discipline methods when it comes to parenting. I use a model based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviours. We don’t want them to think they are bad individuals but want to reinforce good behaviours while weaning out the bad ones.
Discipline is not punishment but the bridge between goals and accomplishment. The gentler path to good behaviour is positive discipline, clear of induced fear, humiliation, shame, guilt, yelling, threats, or any kind of emotional coercion.
Positive discipline focuses on establishing reasonable limits, correcting missteps in a kind and encouraging manner. Your child feels that she is loved no matter what, in spite of the mistakes or poor choices they make and helps them understand the ‘ why’ of what they should or shouldn’t do and ‘what’ the consequences of such behaviours are.
Unlike the traditional method, it helps strengthen the relationship between parent and child. Children usually act out because either they feel disconnected from their caregivers, or they aren’t getting a particular need met. Traditional punishment models get results through fear, shame, and guilt. These feelings erode self-esteem and can lead to anger and resentment, which results in more bad behaviour. It doesn’t teach kids to think about why certain behaviours are wrong or how their actions impact others.
Positive discipline focuses on teaching children ‘how’ to do things the right way, helping them develop values of empathy and responsibility. It takes patience and time to figure out a child’s needs and to teach them a better way of doing things. It also requires you to put your own feelings of frustration and anger on the back burner.
Many parents see their kids’ uncooperative behaviour as a challenge to their authority but it is usually caused by a child’s need not being met. So instead of scolding them, ask what is upsetting them and why they want what they’re asking for. View their behaviour as a kind of code and then attempt to translate it.
Address the “I need__” or “I feel___” and then you can respond to the need and stop the undesirable behaviour. Your child may be hungry, tired, bored or upset over something. Seeing it that way can change your entire perspective and make you much more empathetic to their plight and less likely to resort to yelling or threats.
Distraction works well with my child. I use this when she is throwing a tantrum and wants things like the knife on the table because she has seen us use it. I say, “That’s not safe! Knives can hurt you.” Immediately after telling her this, I draw her attention towards a toy. This helps divert her attention and connect with the toy instead. The problem gets solved sans the yelling! It is extremely helpful when kids get cranky and whiny because they have to wait for something.
Learn to instruct them. Tell your kids what you do want instead of telling them to stop doing whatever it is you don’t want. For example, instead of saying “Don’t run” say “Walk, please.” Instead of saying “No yelling”, try saying “I expect you to use your inside voice when we are here.” The focus should be on the desired behaviour. Kids are natural pleasers and they will do what they’re told if clearly instructed to do so.
To be effective, discipline needs to be given by an adult with an effective bond with the child. Taking out the time to play, talk, and connect with your kids will result in them being more cooperative in general. I personally feel that time-outs are just another version of punishment by banishment and humiliation. Kids are often left with raw emotions and time-outs erode the parent-child relationship. Use ‘time-ins’ to work for you instead! Go to a quiet place together where you can calm down and solve the problem at hand. Ask your child to think of how his or her actions affect others, as well as ways they can resolve or reconcile the situation.
Try these small tricks to help you adopt the positive discipline approach and you will raise a child who is responsible, empathetic and knows what to do, whether you are around or not!