Positive Discipline: What is it and how to use it




The term “positive discipline” may seem a bit paradoxical, but it is rooted in the idea that children are not innately bad, but they may exhibit bad behavior. At its core, positive discipline focuses on the good behaviors a child displays but works to discourage a child’s more negative behaviors without using physical or emotional harm. The overall goal is to help the child become more self-regulated and responsible for their behaviors and will encourage a more internal source of control.


The Core of Positive Discipline

When using positive discipline, parents are encouraged to be firm, calm, and warm rather than stern, angry, or destructive. The main criteria for positive discipline includes the following:


  • The child feels like they belong and are significant in the eyes of their caretaker

  • The respect in the relationship is mutual

  • The results are long-term

  • The child learns lifelong skills

  • The child develops self-efficacy

Using positive discipline does not mean that the caretaker is ignoring behaviors or being permissive. If this concept seems difficult, or you are at a point where it seems too daunting, you can implement techniques one at a time and build up to a more positive relationship with discipline. If your child is younger, you can use the following techniques as a base to start building your disciplinary tool bag.

Using Positive Discipline

There are many ways to use positive discipline with children but the following list includes some of the more basic techniques.

  • Redirect poor behavior- Why is your child acting out? Are they bored? Find a new activity for them.

  • Catch good behavior- Point out good behavior, acknowledge successes and good efforts

  • Listen to their side- Have the child explain their situation, look for patterns in emotions or reasons for acting out

  • Enforce consequences- Make sure your consequences are consistent and manageable. Be sure you follow through but never take away something a child truly needs (food, etc).

  • Choose when to engage- Not every bad behavior necessitates a response. Some behaviors will have natural consequences. If your child’s behavior puts them or others in danger, intervention is always best.

When to Get Professional Help

If you and your child are not able to work through discipline issues in a respectful and mostly calm way, or if your child seems to be struggling more than usual, it might be helpful to seek the support of a professional mental health provider. Here at Georgetown Counseling and Wellness, we provide family counseling as well as child and adolescent counseling.




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