Positive Discipline Tips

By Rosenya Faith
A mother talking to her young daughter at the grocery store.
A mother talking to her young daughter at the grocery store.

The goal of positive discipline is educative, not punitive. Parent your child in a manner that nourishes good behavior while dissuading bad behaviors without shaming or criticizing. Try to provide clear and consistent ground rules in the home because kids thrive on structure, and focus on communicating in a respectful manner to teach your child to do the same.

Provide Choices

Sidestep power struggles and create win-win situations by offering your child choices, the Durham Region Department of Health suggests. Presenting choices empowers your child and helps prevent defiance or resentment. At first, choices can be simple. Ask a child, for example, if she'd like to put her shoes or coat on first when it's time for school, or whether she'd like a half or whole glass of orange juice at lunch. Offer more and increasingly complex choices as your child grows.

Redirect Behavior

Redirect toddlers and young kids to a different activity to eliminate a bad behavior, the University of Missouri Extension says. As you make the transition, explain to your child what was inappropriate. For example, say, "Throwing that block could hurt mommy. Let's go sit down and color a picture together." If your child misbehaves in the grocery store, redirect him to helping you pick out produce. If your youngster is running in the house, ask him to walk like a mouse or as if he were on the moon.

Ignore Misbehaviors

Often a child's misbehavior is the result of attention-seeking. To encourage good behavior, pay attention to those you would like to continue and ignore those that are inconsistent with your expectations, the Virginia Cooperative Extension advises. Giving in to whining or getting involved in minor sibling squabbles will help to perpetuate the behavior.

While you can’t tune out a temper tantrum, make sure your child is safe -- no furniture or other hazards around -- and ignore the behavior while keeping watch for safety, advises the Canada’s Pediatrician’s Caring for Kids website. If the child is so riled up she may injure himself, hold her gently, but firmly, to prevent injury.

Natural Consequences

Angry, punitive consequences don’t encourage a child to develop problem-solving skills or self-control but generally breed anger and resentment. Allow natural consequences to guide your child's development, recommends the University of Missouri Extension. A child who argues he has no homework must face the teacher with incomplete work the next day. Spending all of his allowance frivolously means no money for a movie night with a friend.

When consequences must be enforced, turn to logical solutions, the Missouri Extension also recommends. For example, if your child colors on the wall with crayon, he must help to wash it off. When a teenager comes home late, his curfew is reduced.

No More “No”

It isn't long after a few handfuls of "no," "stop" and "don't" that your youngster quickly learns to tune you out. While saying "no" is necessary sometimes, often you can rephrase in a positive way and keep your child tuned in. Say “yes” more often than “no,” advises the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. If she's armed with crayons and heading for the living room wall, prevent the action without negative talk. Say, “Yes, I know you like to color. And, Yes, you can use your crayons. Let’s draw a picture at the table.” If she's ready to use your knick-knacks as bowling pins, propose the two of you go outside to play kickball.

You can even rephrase a "no" statement in a way that keeps her tuned in. Instead of saying "No standing on the couch," tell your child "the couch is for sitting on, Sunshine." By using "no" more selectively, your child learns that those times are important and signal no room for negotiation, such as when a child tries to dart away in a crowded department store.

Positive Reinforcement

Look for every opportunity to offer encouragement and to praise your child's effort, rather than the result. For example, when your child aces a test, let him know you’re proud of how hard he studied rather than praising him for the "A."

According to Columbia University's Carol Dweck, Ph.D., praising a child's accomplishment rather than his effort can hamper his willingness to take risks and excel in the future. Furthermore, praising the doer can lead to a dependence on approval from others, whereas encouragement and praise for effort leads to self-evaluation.

About the Author

Rosenya Faith has been working with children since the age of 16 as a swimming instructor and dance instructor. For more than 14 years she has worked as a recreation and skill development leader, an early childhood educator and a teaching assistant, working in elementary schools and with special needs children between 4 and 11 years of age.