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What is Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline was developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, and is used to help teach children to be responsible, respectful, and resourceful members of their communities. Through this method, children learn life and social skills. The method is meant to be carried out in a respectful and encouraging way. By engaging with children respectfully they learn how to engage with others respectfully.

Positive discipline is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP encourage parents to engage in positive discipline to ensure the optimal development of their children. Discipline should always take into consideration a child’s age and their development. They published an article that found that harsh punishments, and spankings, lead to children exhibiting more aggressive behaviors. In fact, they found that these types of punishments lead to:

  • Negative parent-child relationships
  • Elevated cortisol levels which indicate stress
  • An increased risk of mental health, or cognitive, problems
  • Adverse outcomes like that of physically abused children

Why is positive discipline important?

Positive discipline does the following: 

  • Encourages mutual respect – Giving children respect helps them to understand the importance of respecting others. When children feel respected, their self-esteem grows as well.
  • Acknowledges the reason behind a child’s behavior – By taking time to understand the root cause of a child’s behavior, the parent can better help to reduce negative behavior. This can alleviate problematic behavior in a more efficient manner.
  • Improves communication and problem solving skills – Children learn how to communicate their feelings and frustrations. Together the parent and child can work to find solutions, this teaches problem solving techniques.
  • Uses discipline as a teaching moment – Discipline is often seen as a punitive measure, but it means to teach. By teaching children acceptable behavior, we are helping to guide their development in a way that will yield positive results. Children learn why certain behavior is undesirable, and better able to make better choices.
  • Helps to find solutions rather than providing punishment – Punishments do not teach the desired behavior. Punishments often make children feel isolated, or shame. Focusing on solutions, help to encourage the desired behavior and fosters connection.
  • Encourages children – By providing a child encouragement, parents are increasing their child’s confidence and building their self-esteem.

Parents who practice positive discipline are:

  • Warm and firm – It is important that parents are firm and consistent with their children, but they must balance that with being warm and strive to foster a positive relationship with their children.
  • Authoritative in their parenting style – Authoritative parents are focused on communication and connection. They encourage their children, and work with their children to problem solve.
  • Communicate effectively – Communication is important. Parents must provide clear, and consistent expectations.
  • Refrain from yelling and spanking – With positive discipline, parents keep calm and do not let anger consume them. Spanking and other punitive actions are used because they do not foster encouragement and connection.

Positive discipline requires parents to be intentional in their parenting. They must strive to maintain a level-head because modeling a calm, respectful, demeanor will encourage reciprocal behavior in the child.