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Positive discipline: What it is and how to use it?

little boy and parents smiling

Key points:

  1. Positive Discipline, as advocated by Jane Nelsen, emphasizes mutual respect over punishment for teaching children discipline.
  2. Practical tips for implementing positive discipline include understanding your child’s developmental challenges, connecting with their emotions, praising positive behaviors, and being available for active listening.
  3. Recognize that your child is doing their best with their current skills and capacities, and address the underlying causes of “bad” behaviors.
  4. Maintain age-appropriate expectations, explain rules, and prioritize your well-being for effective positive discipline.

Twenty-five years ago, Doctor in Education Jane Nelsen published her book Positive Discipline and proposed that the key to teaching discipline to children is not punishment, but mutual respect. Today, her “firm and kind” approach to raising responsible, respectful, and resourceful children is regarded as the golden guideline and is advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PBS Parents, The Royal College of Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other institutions and organizations.

Based on the book, here are some practical tips on how to implement positive discipline with your children and encourage their social and emotional intelligence:

  • Understand the challenges your preschooler is facing at this moment of development. Controlling and expressing emotions are skills that are most likely just starting to develop.
  • Try to connect to what your child is trying to express and encourage and help them to put their emotions into words. Recognize and sympathize with what they are feeling.
  • Give praise and attention to positive behaviors and attitudes.
  • Be available for your child. Engage in active listening, even if it’s hard because of your little one’s emotional distress or their limited vocabulary.
  • Remember that your child is doing the best they can with the tools and capacities at hand. Help them control “bad” behaviors by figuring out the reasons behind them, and then either change the cause or heal the emotions associated to them.
  • Have age-appropriate expectations and be consistent with them. Explaining rules and how to obey them is essential.
  • Make time for your well-being. It might take some planning, but it might also make things easier for everyone.

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