This is part one of a four part series on Positive Discipline (or positive parenting). Over the next four weeks I will focus on four key areas of positive discipline. Please feel free to send questions in the comment form if you are looking for more specific information.
The word discipline has such a bad reputation, yet, by definition, it simply means to teach. Discipline means helping your children learn to make better choices. Discipline is a child’s first step into the world of education, provided by parents.
Discipline can be positive.
Positive discipline means providing structure and limits, helping your children feel safe, and teaching your children how to make appropriate choices. It does not mean being permissive, or taking a non-parenting approach to parenting.
Research shows that children who are close to their parents are more cooperative and better able to make positive choices. Parents who focus on using positive strategies are more likely to raise confident, responsible children.
Positive discipline means remaining calm and providing alternatives. Positive discipline means being consistent while teaching your child to make positive choices.
The first step toward using positive discipline is knowing your limits. Parenting is hard work. Kids learn by trying new things, and often this includes testing limits. It can be exhausting.
We have to set limits to keep kids safe and provide a solid structure. But we don’t have to fight every battle along the way. And sometimes we need to factor in some flexibility (this is particularly important during big transitions or when traveling).
When stress is high, usually at the end of the day, you might find yourself handing out more time-outs or you might be tempted to start taking things away (like TV time). This is a good time to practice self-evaluation.
It can be very helpful to keep a journal of when things start to go awry (such as temper tantrums, sibling arguments, aggressive behaviors, etc.) including details such as: triggers of outbursts, time of day, when the kids last ate, and what was happening at the time. You might find, for instance, that running to the grocery store for a few quick items at 5pm isn’t working for your kids, or that hunger and exhaustion play an important role in the meltdowns.
By tracking the triggers of the problematic timeframes, you might be able to figure out how to shift your routine to avoid the meltdowns. I know that we need a calming activity immediately following dinner to avoid over-stimulation (and possible meltdowns) in this house.
Tracking triggers and meltdowns is very helpful, but evaluating your own reactions to behaviors can be very enlightening as well. Try asking yourself a few key questions before you react:
Is this behavior appropriate to my child’s developmental age?
Is anyone in danger?
Is this behavior really negative, or am I just out of patience?
Are my expectations realistic given my child’s age, the time of day, the current circumstances, etc.?
Am I responding to the behavior or to outside stimuli (i.e. disapproving stares from other shoppers, input from other family members or friends, etc.)?
Is this a behavior that needs correcting right now or will a redirection suffice?
What are my triggers?
Asking these questions during times of stress gives you the opportunity to step away from your frustration and make a positive choice.
Positive parenting has to start with us, after all. It’s difficult to model making appropriate choices if we are handing out time outs because we are tired and cranky and ready for bedtime. We need to start by figuring out the source of our own frustrations so that we can avoid reacting negatively to the small stuff.
What are your triggers?
Katie is a Child & Adolescent Psychotherapist/Parenting Consultant in Los Angeles, CA. She has a four year old daughter, two year old son, and a rock and roll husband who makes her life complete. Katie has a parenting advice blog at http://practicalkatie.com/and can also be found on Twitter.