We were all babies once. On a journey as unpredictable as life, each person has at one point been a diaper donning dingus. So why is it common practice to treat these tots any differently than we treat our peers? Sure, you can’t expect to head to a bar or work a 9-to-5 with them. But in conversation, in dignity, and especially in discipline or problem solving, why is there no double standard? This is where the “positive discipline” philosophy comes in.
What is “Positive Discipline” ?
As defined by this resource for the method, positive discipline is a “is a trauma-informed, brain science-informed, developmentally-appropriate, and culturally responsive approach to parenting developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen.” Nelsen took her personal experiences and educational research, and wrapped it all into a book called Positive Discipline: Teaching Children Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills. (Find ten other great parenting books here.)
Backed by extensive research, this method is centered on a “kind yet firm” approach to parenting. Founded on theories from Doctors Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, positive discipline strategies are being implemented into schools, camps, daycares and homes internationally.
Does it work?
How many times have you banished your kid to time out, yelled, grabbed at and corrected your child, with a tantrum in response? Positive discipline avoids this power struggle, by making discipline and consequences at a child’s eye-level.
Utilizing thorough communication to let kids know what behavior is acceptable and what is not to make children feel more seen and heard. In addition, meeting inappropriate behavior with appropriate consequences makes children less likely to act out or “relapse” with bad behavior.
Using “Mom-Tok” as a guide
You can see some of these strategies at work all over Tik-Tok (a.k.a mom-tok). Laura (@lauralove5514) is a mom who implements montessori and positive discipline strategies when raising her sons Carter (4 y/o) and Jonah (2 y/o). Many of her videos focus on educating her kids on safety, especially with her kids’ passion for cooking. She does this by using what she calls “correlated-consequences” for their messes or “inappropriate” behavior. Check out some of this in motion here:
I promise you dont need to yell or punish in order to teach effectively. On the contrary, a childs logical brain actually shuts doen when being yelled at. #fyp #foryou #parenting #gentleparenting #respectfulparenting #positivediscipline #trending #toddlermom #viral
Gentle parenting doesnt always yeild immediate reaulya because it is nog fear based BUT if you are consistent, you WILL see them actively use what they learn ♥️ Be patient! #fyp #foryou #toddlermom #parenting #gentleparenting #breakingthecycle #positivediscipline #respectfulparenting #viral
As you can see in the video where her youngest, Jonah, spills the coffee, a big part of being successful with positive discipline is regulating your own emotions as the adult. Before responding, Laura took a beat to breathe, pause and think about what an appropriate response would be to this action.
Anyone who has even just interacted with kids knows that they are mirrors: if your behavior is unregulated and extreme, they will mirror this behavior.
This is especially true when it comes to resolving disagreements.
I’m not sold.
One popular criticism of this strategy is that it takes the fear or bite out of discipline. Why would a kid stop having bad behavior, especially if they know the consequences aren’t that bad? As a teenager, did you stop sneaking out after getting grounded, or worse, hit? No; you were just more careful about it, making it harder to seek help in a sticky situation, a lot like apple juice all over the floor.
After all, parenting isn’t by the book. There are ways to create this level of respect between parent and child while still running a tight ship. Check out how Gwenna Laithland (@mommacusses) on Tik-Tok uses positive discipline in a way that doesn’t take the bite out of her bark.
You can let them have autonomy and independence and still set healthy, clear, and reasonable boundaries. #mommacusses #responsiveparenting #momlife #gentleparent
How to get started:
You don’t have to throw away you’re whole parenting groove to get started with positive discipline. Here are some simple things you can start implementing today to create a healthier relationship with you and your child.
1.When disciplining, get to eye level.
-Discipline goes from a corrective tool to a fear tactic when you look like a big, angry monster towering over your child. When trying to get through to your kiddo, crouch down or take a knee to get face-to-face. It helps them focus on what’s being said, and avoids feelings of condescension.
2.Ask if they know what they’re being punished for.
-Questions before response can make consequences more appropriate. Thorough communication leads to productive conversations with your child about why their behavior isn’t appropriate or why it happened rather than marking it as bad without explanation.
In my experience, asking why a child did something leads to a shrug or “i don’t know.” Instead, ask if they know why they’re being punished or what happened, and get them to acknowledge their actions, take responsibility, and hold less resistance when they face consequences.
3.Offer choices when it comes to their consequences
– Giving the child an active role in their decisions and consequences is what I’ve found to be the key to success. This builds their sense of autonomy as well as places responsibility for their actions on them.
4.Use positive reinforcement for good behavior
-Nothing beats getting validation for things you’re doing right. By keeping up with the “high-fives” and “good sharing” or “that was so kind!” you reinforce the line between things that are positive and things that are not. It’s the kid equivalent of a good performance review from your boss.
5.Say “Thank you”
-Show gratitude for kids showing good behavior. Even when it comes to discipline, it goes a long way to show that cooperation is valued. A simple “thank you for listening” or “thank you for helping” shows that you’re watching, and appreciating their wins.
This website for all things positive discipline gives further insight into the history, philosophy and best practices behind the technique. It also offers an education program for parents and educators developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, the leader of this philosophy.