Understanding the Positive Discipline Difference

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Discipline has long been one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. As a parent, you need some form of disciplinary standards for raising your family. The concept of positive discipline offers an alternative to traditional discipline methods that use corporal punishment to get kids to obey. Positive discipline uses the love parents have for their children to instill in them a desire to obey. This concept can be applied to a child from birth onwards, helping children to grow and mature into loving, responsible adults.

What is Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline is an alternative philosophy to traditional discipline in teaching children good behavior patterns. The concept works best when parents have a loving, secure relationship with their children, as this gives children a greater desire to obey. By incorporating loving measures into their training, parents encourage good behavior leading to self-discipline and self-control.
Positive discipline techniques follow a set of criteria for teaching children to behave. This criteria is as follows:

  • Disciplinary measures are firm but kind, showing children encouragement and respect
  • The discipline helps children have a stronger connection with their parents
  • The discipline has long term positive effects
  • The discipline teaches children important values such as respect, compassion, cooperation, accountability, etc., that helps to build a child’s character
  • The discipline encourages children to use their abilities and skills in constructive ways

Principles of Positive Discipline

Preschoolers and toddlers can be extremely difficult for a parent to control due to their stubborn and willful ways. Many parents resort to swatting or spanking their toddlers and preschoolers to get them to obey. If you have several small children, it can be quite easy to label typical childish behavior as “bad” simply due to lack of patience and understanding of your children’s needs.

Positive discipline for preschoolers and toddlers utilizes a more gentle approach to behavior problems. Rather than institute harsh punishments, this philosophy encourages parents to dig deeper into the motive for their child’s behavior in order to better understand his or her needs.

As a parent, you need to realize that not all “rambunctious” or “inquisitive” behavior is necessarily bad. Sometimes children need to let off steam or explore the world around them, even if they get into trouble in the process. Parents who choose to follow the principles of positive discipline in the first three years of their children’s lives will see a marked difference in their attitude toward parenting. They’ll also begin to experience positive changes in their children’s behavior.

Here are the principles under which this philosophy operates.

  1. Parents are encouraged to distract children or change their circumstances in order to avoid situations that can cause them harm.
  2. Children should be given the liberty to explore the world around them as much as possible and experience the consequences of their own actions
  3. A child’s behavior is a means of communicating his needs; parents should make an effort to uncover these needs.
  4. Disciplinary problems should be resolved with respect and dignity.
  5. Parents need to distinguish between “misbehavior” and typical childish behavior for their kids’ age and act accordingly
  6. Parents should be a good role model for their kids to follow
  7. In the event of friction in the family, parents should make every effort to restore a loving relationship with their children

Positive Discipline in the Classroom

Fredric H. Jones, founder of the positive classroom discipline model, describes classroom discipline as “the business of enforcing classroom standards and building patterns of cooperation to maximize learning and minimize disruptions.” Within Jones’ discipline model, a teacher’s example and classroom management skills are instrumental to building the positive environment students need.

It is Jones’ belief that if teachers treat their students with dignity and respect, their students will comply with the same type of behavior. A mature, competent teacher will set a good role model for students to follow. Teachers who have a love for their profession and are concerned about their students’ academic progress will influence their behavior for the better.

Classroom mismanagement, misconceptions of rules, lack of routines and poor interactions between teachers and students are just a few of the many factors that contribute to disciplinary problems in schools. The following are a few of the most common misconceptions teachers have when it comes to classroom rules:

  • Students should already know what kind of behavior is acceptable in class. As every class is different, teachers can’t assume that students already know the rules. Teachers should always clarify their classroom rules at the beginning of every school year along with the disciplinary measures to enforce those rules.
  • Rules need only to be announced for students to understand them. Rules should be announced, reviewed and discussed so students have a clear understanding of what’s expected of their classroom behavior.
  • Rules are only guidelines. Many teachers set specific rules to coincide with specific disciplinary measures in order to maintain classroom management.
  • Students are against classroom rules. Few students can learn in a disorderly, chaotic environment. Classroom rules give teachers greater control to teach and make the classroom more conducive to learning.
  • Discipline is mainly enforcement of the rules. Rules are meant to be followed voluntarily, not enforced in a dictatorial way. Discipline should be used as a means of teaching students why rules are important and how they benefit by obeying.

Although punishment has its place, punishment alone cannot resolve disciplinary problems. Teachers can, however, gain student cooperation by giving them an incentive to obey. Establishing good relationships is the first step towards gaining student cooperation and trust.

Positive Discipline Promotes Better Behavior

For many couples, parenting is a never-ending battle between them and their children. This is especially true when it comes to raising toddlers. Positive discipline for toddlers can help change that outlook. Through this parenting philosophy, parents teach their kids to behave without resorting to threats, bribes or corporal punishment. The following tips can help parents enjoy better behavior from their children while strengthening their family ties.

Look for the reason behind misbehavior: Most children misbehave for a reason, i.e. they want more attention, they’re bored, they feel scared or insecure, etc. By uncovering the reason and removing the cause, children won’t need to resort to bad behavior to meet their needs.

Make an effort to be a good role model: Children are notorious for emulating their parents’ behavior. Therefore, it’s important parents be a good role model for their kids to copy. According to parenting expert Jim Fay, author of Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood, “Anger and frustration feed misbehavior.” By controlling your emotions and staying calm, you teach your children to act in like manner.

Be consistent in your discipline: Inconsistent discipline is no discipline at all. Overlooking errant behavior will not make it go away. Children often test their limits and stretch the rules. By being consistent in your expectations and actions, you demonstrate your convictions and teach your kids to respect your authority.

Offer a positive behavior to replace a negative one: Some children hear the word “no” so often, it doesn’t mean much to them anymore. By replacing this negative directive with a positive one, parents may get better results. For example, rather than constantly correcting your kids for running in the house, try challenging them to walk “as if they were stepping on marshmallows.”

Take advantage of the if/then clause: Some children have so much energy, they can wear their parents out before noon. By using the if/then clause, you may be able to get them to settle down long enough to give you a break. For example, “if you take a short nap after lunch, then I can take you to the park.”

Avoid bribing: If you’re like most parents, you’ve used bribing at some point in time to get your children to behave or to reward them for good behavior. Offering a bribe, however, may not be the best, as it sends children the message that their behavior can be bought with a price. One of the best rewards you can give your children for good behavior is your time. Personal time with your kids will also help strengthen your relationship to improve their behavior in the future.

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