Positive Discipline: The Only Discipline that Works

Positive discipline is a form of discipline that works and is based on the teaching and parenting that every child in the world needs.
Positive Discipline: The Only Discipline that Works
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

All children in the world “misbehave” sometimes, otherwise, they wouldn’t be children. All parents wonder what they can do to stop this bad behavior, but on many of these occasions, there’s no need to do anything. Rather, the most effective discipline for children to learn right from wrong is the one that has to do with love: Positive discipline. In fact, it’s the only form of discipline that works.

Children, in most cases, misbehave when they’re not well with themselves or when they’re disconnected from their adults of reference. The word “discipline” means to teach, so discipline is the way in which children will learn how to behave properly.

Children learn much better when they feel listened to and valued. Authoritarian or imposing forms of discipline will only make children feel insecure, jeopardize the emotional bond with parents, and promote inappropriate behavior. Punishment and yelling are never good options.

You may be interested in: 6 Myths About Positive Education

Strict parenting

Many parents assume that strict parenting is the only form of discipline that works, but the reality is that it only makes children grow up unhappy, feel bad about themselves, and behave worse than other children.

Permissive parenting

Sometimes children express their desires in the form of commands, and it’s the parents’ job to learn to set limits when it’s not something that has to do with safety or covering basic needs. Children must learn to tolerate frustration in order to better manage their emotions. If children are allowed to do or have everything they want, it’s very likely that they’ll become “little tyrants.”

Two children standing on a bridge.

Hitting can never be an option

As a child, you may have received a slap or a spanking, and in the past parents, lacked many resources to know what type of parenting was the most appropriate, and not knowing what else to do, many of them used physical abuse. But fortunately, today we know that this isn’t a viable option and that there are many other ways to teach children with a form of discipline that works.

Children who are spanked or hit by their parents have more difficulty regulating their emotions, so this could cause problems in their relationships with others and with themselves. Besides, spanking is never an option!

A girl smiling.

Effective boundaries

For children to better regulate their behavior, they’ll need effective boundaries. This is the only way to make children feel safe and healthy and to relate in a healthy and successful way with others. If you do it right, children will be able to set limits themselves (self-discipline) and also regarding others.

More useful tips for positive discipline that works

In addition to the above, you need to keep in mind some useful tips regarding positive discipline in order for it to be effective at home:

  • Don’t impose or give in: Offer choices. Children need to feel that things aren’t imposed on them. That is, that they’re free to choose what they really want. You may have thought about the alternatives beforehand, and this way, they’ll be able to choose something that you already know will be right.
  • Help them express their feelings. Buried emotions will never be a good option for children (or adults for that matter). When children can’t figure out how to express their emotions and how to react to various feelings, they may behave inappropriately. Help them understand what’s happening to them and help them name their emotions.
  • Listen to your child. If you listen to your child, you’ll realize that they have a lot to tell you. Don’t focus only on your speech, and listen to what they have to tell you. It’s likely that you’ll be surprised by everything they have inside.
  • Agree on the consequences. For children to be aware that their behavior may have consequences, it’s best that you establish them together or at least let them know before behaving what the consequences of their actions will be. This way, they can be responsible for their actions and choose whether to behave appropriately or suffer the negative consequences (instead of the positive ones).

What to do if it doesn’t work?

Positive discipline is based on non-violence, is respectful, and adapts to the stages of child development; it’s focused on providing solutions. It integrates knowledge about healthy development, what’s known about effective parenting, and children’s rights.

It doesn’t imply being permissive or letting children do as they please. It doesn’t imply a lack of rules and, in particular, its action time or effectiveness isn’t measured in the short term.

Indeed, positive discipline has long-term goals. It’s based on creating behavioral strategies for children to develop self-discipline. In this regard, parents must clearly communicate their objectives, rules, and limits.

This form of discipline teaches useful skills for life; it teaches confidence and is comprehensively oriented towards non-violence, empathy, self-esteem, human rights, and respect. Positive discipline is an approach to parenting and, in general, a way of thinking.

Considering this, we can’t say, in the face of a specific or circumstantial misbehavior, that parental intervention based on positive discipline is effective or not. The specific moment has to be visualized in the long term and the actions of the moment have to be aimed at objectives that go beyond certain circumstances. Long-term objectives are understood as those that parents visualize for their children when they grow up.

Now, if as parents, we feel frustrated when faced with a tantrum, the time has come to learn some truly essential things: Stress management, respectful communication, non-aggression, and empathy. If parents remain under control, they’re teaching their children to control themselves and resolve conflicts without violence and without harming others.

Do you apply positive discipline at home?

If so, have fun with your child and tell him that you love them as often as you can. Show them that you trust them and acknowledge their efforts and successes. Read and tell them stories, encourage them when they face difficulties, and comfort them when they fall. Listen to them and try to see things from their point of view.

In short, give them warmth. In the long run, you’ll realize that positive discipline is the only form of discipline that works.

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