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Positive Discipline, Parenting Tips & Healthy Child Development
All parents want to protect their kids while nurturing and guiding them so they can become the best people they are capable of being. We understand that parenting is a long-term endeavor and that the little things we do on a daily basis make a significant difference in how our children turn out as adults.
Let’s consider positive discipline and 5 positive parenting tips for healthy child development. This child-rearing guidance is applicable for kids at any age.
The Positive Discipline Model
Positive discipline is a parenting model that focuses on the positive aspects of a child’s behavior rather than the negative or less-than-desirable aspects.
The fundamental concept in the model is that no child is inherently bad, but children do engage in bad behavior from time-to-time. The model encourages parents to reinforce good behavior while steering their children away from unacceptable behavior.
It is important that positive discipline is applied in a calm manner that respects the children as individuals. Verbal and physical abuse have no place in positive parenting, regardless of the parenting model being implemented.
Implementing Positive Discipline
Disciplining our children is part of the responsibility of being a parent. We have to teach them the morality of what is right and wrong.
When a child engages in negative behavior it may be hard to remain calm and positive but applying positive discipline effectively requires that we do so. Becoming angry, violent or yelling may cause a child to change their behavior but the change will be motivated by fear, not any sense of right or wrong.
When it comes to instilling discipline, be kind but firm.
As part of correcting a negative behavior, give the child guidance on proper behavior. Punishing a child without providing guidance on appropriate behavior is an opportunity lost.
In behavioral psychology, enforcement and punishment are often used as parenting tools to stimulate desired behavior in a child. Punishment is a fear-based, coercive method of shaping a child’s behavior while enforcement can be either positive or negative.
When it comes to enforcement, parents use positive reinforcements like complimenting their child’s good behavior, as well as negative reinforcements like not nagging them about taking the trash out as long as they take the trash out.
Positive reinforcement adds a positive stimulus to enhance a behavior while negative reinforcement removes an aversive stimulus to enhance a behavior.
Generally, positive reinforcement is recommended because negative reinforcement is less effective.
Punishments, whether positive or negative, are not recommended because they can lead to mental and emotional trauma that lasts throughout adulthood.
So how do you apply the positive discipline model in your family? Try these tips for positive parenting:
Modify the Child’s Behavior
At the heart of positive discipline is the concept of identifying bad behavior and modifying it to produce desired behavior.
Let’s say your child hit another child while in daycare. How do you respond to their action? What is the positive parenting approach to the situation?
You could focus on your child’s unacceptable behavior (hitting another child) and choose to punish them for being mean. This is a negative approach to discipline and it is less effective at influencing behavior than positive discipline.
To apply positive discipline, start by finding out what caused your child to react and behave the way they did.
Was your child stressed or hungry before acting out? Was the other child teasing them before the incident?
Accept that the behavior is bad but instead of laying out a punishment for it, let your child know that such behavior is unacceptable and explain to them why.
Remain calm and positive, do not become angry and frustrated. If you need to, take the time to breathe and relax before dealing with your child.
Teach the Child How to Set Things Right
When it comes to addressing mistakes that your child has made, it’s not enough to simply point out what the child did wrong. You have to help the child find a way to set things right again.
You want to teach your child to do the right thing at all times, particularly when it comes to addressing and correcting the mistakes they make.
Assuming that you caught your child hitting another child in daycare: instead of saying “don’t do that” or “no hitting!”, you could instead say, “play nice, use your words.” And again, be calm but firm.
Trying to correct a mistake by verbalizing the behavior that the child just performed only gives the child information that he or she already knows. “Don’t hit” does not give the child any information on what he or she should be doing instead.
Saying something like, “play nice, use your words”, gives the child a more diplomatic option to resolve differences with other kids.
Now, what do you do if you didn’t see your child hitting the other child?
When dealing with a negative behavior after the fact, you can help your child set things right by saying, “That was not nice, we do not hit our friends. Would you like to say sorry to [insert child’s name] to make her feel better?”
Most children, especially bigger kids, need some time before offering an apology because they are upset. Instead of forcing a child to apologize immediately, give them something to do like reading a book, until he or she is ready to say sorry. This method is called “time-in,” which is the opposite of time out.
Be Firm but Kind
Instilling discipline in a child involves a struggle for authority.
When a child is reacting badly to something, like hitting another child, this can be especially true. In your child’s mind, what he or she did was justified.
Being reprimanded for the behavior may cause frustration, which could lead to more bad behaviors.
If your child hit the other child for not sharing a toy and your child is trying to justify their behavior, do not argue with them.
Instead, stay calm and be firm. Say what’s needed to be said in a kind manner, never raising your voice or losing your temper.
Saying something like, “hitting hurts and it’s not nice because [insert name] is your friend. We do not hit our friends even if they don’t share,” will make the child realize what she did wrong.
Use different variations of the same statement repeatedly until the child understands that it’s not okay to hit people just because they don’t want to share.
Be firm but kind and exercise patience!
Turning Bad Behaviors into Learning Experiences
There are times when a child will act out to get what he or she wants. Instead of giving in, use bad behaviors as opportunities to teach your child right from wrong.
This positive parenting technique lets you empower your child by helping him or her make better choices when faced with difficulties.
If your child refuses to acknowledge his or her behavior (for example, hitting another child over a toy), you can use past experiences and recollections to help your child empathize with the other child.
You could say, “Do you remember falling off the chair and bumping your head? Hitting someone hurts the same way.”
Your child will understand that their behavior caused hurt to someone, and that warrants an apology.
5 Positive Parenting Tips to Enhance Healthy Child Development
Along with positive discipline, there are some fundamental parenting practices that will contribute to the development of healthy, successful kids. You are probably already implementing this positive parenting guidance so this will serve as a quick review.
Set an Example
The best way to teach kids how to behave is to set an example.
Children, particularly toddlers, are like sponges. They will absorb and mimic all the things that they observe in their immediate surroundings.
This is normal because human beings learn through imitation.
Showing empathy, respect, and acceptance of other people is a great start.
Through imitation, your child will incorporate these positive behaviors and values into their own makeup.
Express Your Love
Children thrive in a comforting, loving home.
Express love or comfort your child through hugs, kisses, gentle pats, or cuddles.
Spend quality time with them and listen to their problems. These are great ways to express your love for the kids.
Expressing love through these acts will bring a deep sense of calm, contentment, and emotional warmth to the child.
A well-loved child will eventually grow into a resilient adult who is able to build and nurture meaningful relationships.
It is simply impossible to love your children too much!
Provide Life-affirming Experiences
As your child’s first teacher, you want to provide them with positive, life-affirming experiences.
Each of us is, after all, the product of our life experiences.
Read to your child every chance you get, join them as they dance, play games with them, take them on walks, go to the park, etc. – help them experience and enjoy life.
As a bonus, you’ll develop a deep emotional connection with your child by being an active part of their life.
Support & Reinforce Life Lessons
Positive parenting involves teaching your child proper values and helping them learn right from wrong.
This will happen over time as they experience life and learn lessons.
To support this process be consistent with rules and discipline while setting clearly defined boundaries.
Be loving but firm when enforcing rules.
Watch for ‘teachable moments’ when you can explain or reinforce a life lesson that is relevant to your child’s current experience.
Communication is key to any relationship, including child-parent relationships.
Support and acceptance are two conditions that create a happy, loving relationship.
Explain to your children that you will always be there for them, loving and supporting them every step of the way.
Express your love verbally, not just through actions. Let your kids hear that you love them.
Children raised by responsive parents are much healthier emotionally and mentally.
With an open line of communication, your child will always come to you whenever there’s a problem.
There is no need to provide solutions to their problems. Just listening and communicating with your child is enough to give them a sense of acceptance and security.
The positive discipline model encourages us as parents to focus on the inherent good in our children rather than focusing on the bad behavior they display from time-to-time.
The objective is to steer the child away from bad or unacceptable behavior while pointing out and encouraging positive alternatives.
In this brief article we looked at several ways to implement positive discipline:
• Modify the child’s behavior
• Teach the child how to set things right
• Be firm but kind
• Turn bad behaviors into learning experiences
We also considered 5 positive parenting tips for healthy child development. These parenting strategies complement the positive discipline model:
• Be a positive role model
• Express your love
• Provide life-affirming experiences
• Reinforce life lessons
• Communicate openly