Positive discipline for parents
How can parents use positive discipline as a tool of intentional parenting? You want to think about discipline differently from what you might have been used to. As a parent, you want to help your child acknowledge what behaviour is wrong; and how and why to correct it. Ultimately, you want to help them understand why they should have different behaviours.
As a family, you want to make sure that your values and expectations are clear. You need to be able to model what they are, and be able to show your children your how and why. What behaviours do you want? Why do you want it and then let your children understand that! Think about discipline not as just punitive punishment to cause pain and inflict pain, but for correction of behaviour, so that your child can learn how to take the right actions.
Effective parenting needs your family goals and values to be an anchor. Your children need to hear and see you model those values you say are important. Positive discipline is built on this level of relationship. For example, if respect is important to you as a parent, how are you showing respect to others in your home, to your spouse and to your children. Do you show respect?
When it comes to emotions, no emotion by itself is bad. It is simply an indication. It is the action you take and what you do as a result of the emotion that matters. So, when it comes to younger children, and when you think of their behaviour as simply throwing tantrums, realise that it is simply emotions being expressed. Now, what they need is for their parents and caregivers to teach them what the appropriate way to respond is. Teach them how to calm down, how to use their words and not to give in to tantrums.
It is also important to pay attention to patterns. Maybe there’s a reason your toddler is unhappy and throws a tantrum. It could be as simple as throwing more tantrums when they are hungry. One way to manage this could be simply not to let your toddler get hungry before you start to prepare his or her food. With positive discipline, before disciplining children seek to understand why they’ve done what they’ve done.
For older children as well when they misbehave or they act out; you want to understand why. As a parent, who wants to apply positive discipline, take the time to understand. In fact, you might be surprised to find out that underlining their behaviour could be stress or even peer pressure. Your child is not necessarily just trying to frustrate you.
When parents react from a place of anger, frustration, and embarrassment, there is no way the discipline can be positive. When you understand what is behind the behaviour that you’re trying to correct, you can then implement and use the right disciplining methods, as well as assign the right consequences. There is nothing like understanding that even in discipline correction, you can do it out of love; it makes a huge difference.
Getting The Early Years Right
The first seven years of a child’s life is absolutely critical. In fact, the first three years are the foundation. So, if you don’t get the first three years right, you actually might fall into the trap of remedial fixes for decades. Watch this video from Gabor Mate. It is important to reiterate that positive discipline cannot happen if there is not good attachment and relationship between the parents and children.
Now, the brain’s psychological development requires a nurturing relationship with mutually responsive adults. If the relationship is unhealthy, it affects the child’s development and leads to insecurities and other issues. A child who is fearful and enters a flight or fight mood is simply defensive and is not learning anything.
Parenting is not a role It’s a relationship – Gabor Mate.
Positive Discipline In The Teen Years
Children who are deprived of real connection with their parents will find it in their peers. A child’s brain cannot handle that competition well. One or the other will win; the question is, is it the parent or is it their peers? And of course, as they get older, they will have more friends and their peers will have more and more influence on them. But you don’t want it to be in competition with the child’s parents.
It should be in alignment or along with their parent’s involvement in their lives. So, don’t push your children to a point when once they’re old enough to get out of having to listen to you; they don’t ever want to listen to you. You don’t want their friends to take over because the friends are filling a void that has been created by a negative, contentious relationship with you.
The power of parents is having the child want to spend time with you. In fact, effective parenting is not forced. As a parent, you are there to help them make the right decisions and to guide them accordingly. With positive discipline, your child knows what to expect and there is warmth in your relationship. Parenting is like having disciples, you want them to follow you, trust you and feel safe with your leadership.
Discipline is supposed to be corrective, teaching your child to replace a behaviour that is not acceptable with the correct behaviour and helping them understand why. Why it’s important, what is the preferred way to act, showing them what to do and modelling it to them as well. Many times parents react with anger, fear, embarrassment, or frustration. But when a parent is reacting, they lash out and that child hasn’t necessarily learned what it is you want them to learn.
How to Apply Positive Discipline
What is your Intention? Is your intention of discipline to correct, to offer alternatives or give consequences for the behaviour? It is helpful to note that not every misbehaviour requires the same discipline tactics. So, always ask yourself, what is the intention of correcting your child? Is it to offer an alternative or to deliver consequences?
Consequences might come up with something you’ve discussed with the child already and you have explained to them what is expected. Perhaps, you have told your child to clean his or her room before going to a friend’s house and it doesn’t get done. A simple consequence here is that you cancel the playdate. Here, simply let your child know that since your expectation to clean his room was not met; he cannot go for the playdate. You didn’t have to smack or yell to make this point clear. I believe that being very intentional about your discipline is much more effective.
Decide what you’re trying to achieve.
Are you just trying to punish for the sake of it or are you trying to achieve a particular goal and teach a particular behaviour? For example, people quote the verse “spare the rod and spoil the child” as the reason to spank with a cane.
In my study, the rod is simply effective disciplining. When you keep the context of the times in mind, you will understand that the rod can be likened to a Shephard caring for Sheep. The Shephard uses the rod to guide not hit the sheep. As such, when it comes to using a rod for positive discipline; it can include consequences, having a talk, modelling the right behaviour and being intentional.
For the parents, who say they must smack a child, does that mean that all the children in the Western world (where smacking is not allowed) are doomed to bad behaviour? On the flip side, are all the children in Africa, who are smacked freely turn out well? So, decide what you want to achieve as you discipline your child. Positive discipline corrects and teaches the right and acceptable behaviour.
Can You Offer Solutions?
And in this, I mean come up with solutions together. This particularly works well with older children. And when they’ve done something that you are correcting, encourage them to come up with solutions.
An example of where this can be used is when it comes to the use of social media. Perhaps you have given your child specific screen time limits and the child continues to ignore this, you can ask what are you doing to fix this? While bringing them into the situation you have in the back of your mind what you’re planning to do, but there’s nothing wrong with having the child be part of the discipline.
It can be very effective to remind your children about what they are not supposed to do; followed by wondering aloud as to why they have continued to do that. You might be surprised at what solutions they come up with. Recently, after continually insisting that phones must be turned in at night, one of mine mentioned that they use it for their alarm that was why she didn’t turn it in. So, the solution? We got another type of device to be used as an alarm! I think it’s very important to teach children that when you take any action, you should be able to analyse it. Our children are thinking beings, let us engage them as such and you will get it (thinking)back from them.
Open Lines Of Communication
Rules without a relationship simply lead to rebellion. As parents, make sure that you have open lines of communication with your children. When it comes to positive discipline; it is closely aligned to understanding your child’s love language and your parenting style. And as such will help you align your style with the way your child responds to cues. Truth be told, communication will always be needed when it comes to correction. Even as adults, we do not do everything right, how much more for children who are learning? We are supposed to teach, show and model how to show up in the world. When we are teaching them what is acceptable, and what is not, it must come from a place of relationship.
The Art of Inquiry
A part of the relationship and communication is to ask insightful questions and seek to understand, don’t just assume you know! Learning to ask the right questions is like a muscle you just need to build it. From a brain science perspective, when you start to do certain things repetitively, your brain starts to learn that this is how we act or think. The more you are in control of your responses, you will find that you react less from a place of anger. When you know exactly what has happened and why it’s happened, then you are able to deliver discipline positively.
As parents, the right attitude is really important. A growth mindset and the use of positive language is also critical. If you’re always so angry or frowning, your children might start feeling very judged. They would start to become maybe fearful of you. While you want them to respect you, you don’t want this to come from a place of fear. Imagine in your office you have a boss who’s always insulting you or being very mean because he feels your work is not up to the standard required. You would call it a toxic work environment and will probably want to quit!
Likewise, consider your children, they cannot quit. Don’t call them names or yell at them. You are simply teaching them that it is okay to call people names. When it comes to positive discipline, you can absolutely correct your child without insulting, labelling and belittling the child.
Love your child unconditionally. While your child will do things that you don’t like, remember that you are correcting the behaviour and not condemning the child. A child who is loved, feels it in their soul and your words and actions as a parent must show this. Remember, to focus on your child’s love language and realise that if you do not love them the way they need to be loved, they will not feel loved. Love is not something to be earned, you love them period. As a result, everything you must be from a place of love, not fear and not projecting your own hurts.
Even when your children are being disciplined, they will know that you love them. Learning the art of communicating with your child is the gift that keeps on giving! If your child’s love language, for example, is words of affirmation, but as a parent, you are an authoritarian who never praises them; then your child is not really going to feel the love that you’re saying you have for them. Let’s not repeat some of those things where people say I guess my father loved me because he paid my school fees. No, we don’t want your children to guess, they should know.
Always think about doing what is best and not what is easiest at the moment. Of course, when a child is in the middle of misbehaving, the easiest way to react or lash out. But it is not the best long term. With the higher calling of being an intentional parent, you are constantly thinking of the why and the how and focused on what is best for the long term; rather than what is easy at the moment. So, for positive discipline to become your default, you need to be intentional. You want to have it inscribed in your head and your heart that discipline is not simply punitive, but an opportunity to teach and correct.
Nurture And Nature
The home environment is so important and the core of effective parenting and offering an enabling environment. Is everyone in the home always shouting and yet you are wondering why your child is shouting? Or maybe there is a lot of hitting going on in the home, then your child will normalise hitting.
The truth is that the nature of your child and the nurturing he or she receives goes hand in hand. And I believe that you nurture your child into their nature. So, you want to make sure that your home environment is enabling, it’s loving, it’s peaceful, and your child feels safe in that environment; so that you can truly make sure that you are nurturing them into their nature.
Empower Your Child
You want to teach your child to identify their emotions. When they know how they are feeling, they can name it and they can tame it. They have to know that emotions are simply indicators, and they do not need to hide, suppress, or ignore. Acting out or even throwing tantrums, to be honest as simply emotions your child is having to deal with.
Sometimes, the emotions are bigger than they are because they don’t know how to express themselves; they lash out. The younger ones will typically cry or roll on the floor. However, as they get older, they act out in different ways. Now, when it comes to children today on social media, not managing emotions can actually have a more dire effect. This is because they might share something online that they shouldn’t because they are in their feelings.
Rather a child who knows how to identify their emotions can say, okay, right now, I’m not feeling so great; I need to drop my device and I need to go for a walk or I need to play the piano, read a book or pray. This ability to self-regulate will help your child learn how to pause before they react and this is empowering.
Overall, when it comes to positive discipline, the main thing to remember as a parent is that positive discipline is all about the process of correcting behaviour; by teaching, modelling and helping your child understand the right way to behave.
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