How to Practice Positive Discipline - Children's Bureau



How to Practice Positive Discipline

As children grow and learn, they will naturally make mistakes along the way. No matter how big or how small these mistakes are, it is the parents’ job to correct bad behavior through discipline and positive reinforcement. When this occurs, using positive discipline techniques is important. 

What is positive discipline exactly? Read on as we explain what positive discipline is, how to enact this type of discipline, and the thin line between certain discipline techniques and abuse.

What Is Positive Discipline?

Simply put, positive discipline is a parenting tool that focuses on encouragement, kindness, and problem-solving skills to correct undesirable behavior in children. More specifically, positive discipline reinforces the idea that children can learn and grow through effective discipline. In this case, effective discipline is centered around mutual respect, solutions vs. punishment, and effective communication.

So how exactly does positive discipline make a difference in child development and good behavior? When you approach a situation from a kind and empathetic standpoint, yet still firm with your parental boundaries, you begin to build a level of trust and understanding with your child. As such, discipline becomes a learning point for your child rather than feeling like cruel and corporal punishment for unwanted behavior. 

Examples of Positive Discipline 

Now that we’ve discussed what positive discipline is, here are some of the ways we recommend disciplining in a positive way:

1. Time-ins

Instead of automatically sending your child to time-out, consider that the reason they may be acting out is due to a lack of attention. If that is the case, time-outs will only make them more frustrated. A time-in, however, is when you take the time to sit with your child after they have made a poor decision. 

By reading a book with them or going on a walk, you allow your child to calm down while still being there with them physically. After your child has calmed down, talk to them about their behavior and why it is not okay. The chances of getting through to them are noticeably higher when they feel safe and secure. 

2. Redirect bad behavior

When your child is misbehaving, another way to enforce positive discipline is through redirection. Here, you have the parental ability to navigate the situation. Next time your child is displaying unwanted behavior, take them outside for a change of scenery and environment. 

In doing so, your child’s attention may easily shift to something else and allow space for calmness to set in. Once they have calmed down, you can proceed with asking what was wrong and explaining why said behavior is not okay. 

3. Use encouragement

One of the best ways to enact positive discipline is to use encouragement regularly. Good behavior should be verbally rewarded at the very least, especially if it does not happen often. 

When your child feels affirmed in the good that they are doing, the chances of them continuing to enact those positive behaviors are much higher. Next time your child makes good decisions, especially on their own, make sure you tell them how proud you are and why their good behavior makes a difference.

4. Give selective attention

Oftentimes, children will act out poorly to get attention. Unfortunately, this misbehaving and attention seeking strategy can turn into a cycle if not corrected early on. However, the easiest way to correct this behavior is through selective attention.

With selective attention, you are essentially choosing if and when to respond to your child’s behavior. For minor incidents, such as purposefully spilling juice on the table, sometimes it is best to turn your cheek and not make a big deal out of it. 

While at times incidents are genuinely an accident, there are also times where children will engage in mischievous acts simply to get your attention. The less attention you pay to the minor attention-seeking acts, the less likely they are to occur. Just make sure that you understand what child neglect is and avoid making them feel that way.

Discipline vs. Abuse: A Thin Line 

One of the most important takeaways from this article will be the understanding between discipline and abuse. Unfortunately, it is a very thin and blurred line, and can be crossed very easily if the difference between the two acts is unknown. So, before you ask “what is verbal abuse” and “is yelling is abuse” here are some of the most common disciplinary reactions that could be considered abuse:

  • Spanking or any physical aggression
  • Name-calling
  • Kicking your child out of the home
  • Silencing children (not letting them talk about how they feel)
  • Leaving a child by themselves for an extended period of time
  • Mocking children’s behaviors and emotions
  • Locking a child up in a room
  • Withholding food

Each of these actions has a significantly negative effect on children and causes more emotional and mental problems in the long run, increasing the likelihood of misbehavior exponentially. 

Start Enacting Positive Discipline Today! 

When questioning how parents should discipline their child, there is no one size fits all answer. Just as each child is unique, so are parents, especially in how they choose to enact their parental roles. However, by incorporating these positive discipline techniques into your family’s lives, you can guarantee that your child will feel loved and heard as they learn how to correct their poor behavior choices. 

If, however, you feel that your child needs extra support, Children’s Bureau provides tools and resources that can help any child (ages 0-21) that are displaying emotional or behavioral distress. Usually, it is difficult for parents to manage certain behaviors on their own. However, extra support is available and will make all the difference in your child’s growth process.

No matter how you choose to incorporate positive parenting into your family’s lives, you can be sure that you will see a significant difference, both short-term and in the long run.

Reviewed By:

Jose A. Ramos Jr., Director of Prevention

Jose A. Ramos Jr., MSW, is the Director of Primary Prevention at Children’s Bureau. He has worked with Children’s Bureau since 1994 and has over 30-years of experience working in the Child Welfare field. He has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Long Beach and is earning his MBA. Jose is also Secretary of the National Association of Social Workers.



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