If you want your children to learn from respect, form their own criteria, and be autonomous people, positive discipline is your choice. We tell you what it consists of.
If you are a father or mother, one of your first tasks is to ask yourself what you want to obtain in the parenting process. What are your goals and expectations? It is from this answer that you will be able to select an educational style that suits your family. If among your goals is to raise an autonomous and decisive child, happy, with emotional intelligence, and who enjoys a healthy and strong bond with you, positive discipline is your choice.
This parenting proposal moves away from traditional authoritarian methods, based on punishment and hierarchical family relationships. Instead, it promotes the emotional connection between parents and children, mutual respect, and the development in the child of social skills and personal resources that allow him to become a healthy and functional adult.
Sounds good right? The truth is that numerous investigations support these educational practices as one of the best alternatives available. However, it is not an easy path: it requires a large dose of patience, perseverance, and personal work.
What is positive discipline?
Positive discipline includes a set of democratic parenting practices that allow us to guide and accompany the development of children with love and respect. This educational current has been promulgated mainly by psychologist Jane Nelsen and can be applied by parents, educators, and anyone who plays an important role in the life of a child.
To better understand what it is based on, we share some of its fundamental principles and objectives:
Develop the feeling of belonging in the child. Children respond better and are more willing to cooperate if there is a connection with authority figures and if they feel the environment (home or school) is their own.
Be respectful, kind, and firm in parenting. Positive discipline rejects authoritarianism and aggression towards children, but it does not promote permissiveness either. It is possible to set limits in a healthy and loving way.
Promotes the autonomy and learning of skills of the little ones. The final objective will be to guide the children so that they learn to fend for themselves, to have their own criteria and a sufficient quantity of personal resources for life.
Encouragement and positive reinforcement are prioritized. The focus is placed on the behaviors that we do want to teach and not so much on pointing out bad behaviors. The reason behind “misconduct” is analyzed and solutions are sought.
Communication and empathy are essential. They are the bases for creating a bond of love and mutual respect with children.
How to apply positive discipline with your children?
If you manage to internalize these principles and turn them into a lifestyle, the practice will come by itself. For example, if you remember that the priority is mutual respect, it will be natural for you to accompany a tantrum from your child instead of yelling or shaking him.
Now, it is normal that at first, we do not know where to start applying these principles. Therefore, here are some suggestions.
Accompany a tantrum with positive discipline.
Positive discipline proposes accompanying tantrums, instead of exercising violence that leads to nothing.
It is important that children know what is expected of them so that they can behave accordingly. Therefore, try to explain to your child what the expectations are in each situation.
Use simple, age-appropriate language. Try to make it clear. “You have to behave yourself” is too ambiguous a phrase. Better explain, for example, “You have to pick up your toys when you finish playing. ”
It is also necessary to anticipate situations. If, for example, you are going to eat at a restaurant, you can explain to your child that he should sit at the table or that he should speak in a low tone of voice so as not to disturb other people.
Offer reasonable explanations
The “because I said so” is not enough if what we want is for children to learn and not just obey. When you give a guideline or set a rule, your child needs to know and understand why . This will make him much more willing to cooperate.
“We have to leave the park now so that we have time to have dinner and go to bed at your time; and so you won’t be sleepy tomorrow at school” is a simple but necessary explanation. This does not imply that the child will willingly agree to return home, but it will help him feel taken into account and that he can understand that you are looking for his well-being.
Establish consequences, not punishments
In positive discipline, punishment, humiliation or aggression have no place. For a child to learn from a “bad behavior” it is not necessary to yell at him, get angry with him or take revenge by giving him a lesson. Applying logical and natural consequences is healthier and more effective.
This means that the consequence must be directly related to their behavior and must convey some lesson. If your son does not eat the vegetables and you take away his mobile, this has no relationship and does not teach anything.
Natural consequences are those that occur without adult interference and allow learning through cause and effect. For example, if your child doesn’t pick up his toys, he may not find them the next time he wants to play. Or even that he accidentally steps on them and breaks them. This naturally teaches him to be careful and organized.
The logical consequences are set by adults, but they meet the two parameters mentioned. If the child plays with the ball inside the house after being told not to, the ball may be confiscated for a few days.
Understand what your children’s behavior communicates
Adults tend to focus only on whether children behave badly or well, but we don’t stop to understand what their behaviors communicate. Misbehavior may indicate that the child seeks attention because he feels that he lacks, that he is frustrated or angry about something, or that he is going through a difficult situation that we have not noticed.
Identifying the causes, understanding, and empathizing is essential when applying respectful and positive parenting. Take a moment to try to understand your child, validate his emotions, and find solutions to help him with what he is trying to communicate. This will be much healthier and more effective than just reproaching him for his misconduct.
Encourage appropriate behaviors
Focusing on the behaviors we do want is one of the most effective keys to positive discipline. For this, we have to promote good behaviors, explaining what we expect from the child and rewarding her approaches. For example, we may use behavior modification charts.
It is also necessary to get used to enunciating in the positive. Instead of saying “Don’t yell”, we can say “Speak quieter”. If your child has painted in a book that was not for painting, you can give him a piece of paper and say “We use these sheets of paper to paint”.
Promotes autonomy and resource acquisition
Finally, it is essential to dedicate time to equip children with tools and resources that help them to be more autonomous. Some of the most important aspects may be the following:
Educate in assertiveness and social skills, so that they learn to communicate and relate in a respectful and effective way.
Teach emotional intelligence, so that they can understand their emotions and manage them properly.
Promote autonomy and self-esteem, offering small tasks and responsibilities that they can assume and carry out by themselves.
Show them how to use resources to help them regulate themselves in challenging times. For example, breathing, the corner of calm, or the emotional thermometer are simple and very useful alternatives.
Educating in positive discipline is very beneficial for children since they grow up emotionally healthy, safe, and autonomous. But it is also very positive for parents , as it helps them connect with their children, create strong bonds, and avoid a multitude of conflicts and unpleasant situations at home.