Discipline is often wrongly equated with control and punishment. Not only is this kind of discipline ineffective, but it can also damage your relationship with your child. However, positive discipline is discipline at its best and can also help to improve your relationship with your child. According to Dr. Peter Nieman’s research for the Canadian Paediatric Society, positive discipline is about teaching and guiding children, not just forcing them to obey. The study further points out that as with all other interventions aimed at pointing out unacceptable behavior, the child should always know that the parent loves and supports them. Trust between parent and child should be maintained and continuously built upon. Different cultures parent in different ways, but discipline is consistent in all of them.
Positive discipline plays a crucial role in the development of a child into a responsible and well-rounded adult. As your child’s first point of contact, you should strive to embody behaviors you want to see in your child. Your child watches you for cues more than they listen to what you say. It’s important not to expect too much too soon as you strive to be a model for your child. Some behaviors you might not like are simply a manifestation of your child’s age. It could simply be based on teaching your child how to respect others as well as themselves.
What Positive Discipline Looks Like and Why It’s Important
Based on the theories of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs, positive discipline was developed by Dr. Jane Nelsen, a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor and author of Positive Discipline. According to Dr. Nelson, positive discipline is guided by the following five principles:
- It leads the child to discover the full range of their capabilities and how to use their personal power constructively.
- It helps a child feel significant and gives a sense of belonging.
- It imparts essential social and life skills aimed at developing good character.
- It is at the same time firm and kind.
- It is not just useful short term but also long term.
The above five principles make up the foundation of positive discipline. But instilling this foundation begins with positive discipline techniques like communication, encouragement, and mutual respect between you and your child. The part about encouragement can often be overlooked because it’s not widely seen as a part of discipline. But your child is more likely to stick with good behavior if you regularly encourage praise or rewards.
This is important because the more you reinforce good behaviors, the fewer bad behaviors there are to iron out. Positive discipline teaches children to respect others, make appropriate choices, express emotions appropriately, build self-esteem, and become self-reliant. Here we discuss more about positive parenting.
Effects of Negative Discipline on a Child
Using negative discipline techniques like verbal shaming, yelling, spanking, and sarcasm can negatively affect your child’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being. Below are a few of those harmful effects:
- Encourages aggressive behavior. Children whose parents use spanking as a discipline technique are likely to display aggressive behavior. This is because their parents’ discipline technique has taught them to believe that it is okay to hit people. So it becomes their go-to way of resolving conflict with their siblings or other children.
- Damages their confidence and self-image. When parents constantly tell their children how bad they’ve been through sarcasm and hurtful remarks, it stays with the childlike an indelible scar. The child begins to see herself as a bad person, which can damage how the child views herself. The child may grow into an adult with very low confidence and self-worth.
- Discourages openness. Your child adopts evasiveness as a tactic when they know that telling you would result in spanking, hitting, verbal shaming, or yelling. They’d rather do everything they can not to tell the truth because they know what’s coming. If your child is always hiding even the little things from you, then perhaps it’s time to review your discipline techniques. That trust that allows your child to approach you might be broken or nonexistent.
- Physical injury. Spanking and hitting have been widely proven to be an ineffective discipline technique. Because of this, parents who hit their children become frustrated and crank it up until they eventually lose control. That loss of control means they don’t know when to stop. This often results in inflicting serious physical injury on the child. In most countries, this is now illegal, and if you find yourself doing this, you need to look for support. Here are some points for Techniques in Telling Off
What’s the Best Way to Discipline a Child?
Having understood the effects of negative discipline, now you might want to know how to discipline a child without yelling, spanking, hitting, or verbal shaming. The research by the Canadian Paediatric Society views time-out as the most effective discipline technique for young children. Time-out involves removing a child from a situation as a way to teach them self-regulation. It is effective because it prevents the child from receiving the attention that may reinforce inappropriate behavior. Below are other ways you can discipline your child:
- The behavior might be bad, but your child isn’t. It’s the fear that they might be raising a bad child that causes parents to sometimes lash out at their kids. But there’s no such thing as a bad child, only bad behavior. Making this distinction puts things in perspective and can help you remain calm when your child misbehaves. There have been several times when I have doubted this in my own professional life. However, when external agencies start to get involved and find the history, there is often a definite cause. A calm parent looks behind the bad behavior to see what the cause might be. If your child is throwing tantrums uncontrollably, it might be that the child needs or wants something, is hungry, stressed, tired, or in need of some sleep.
- Show your child instead of just telling. Telling isn’t wrong in any way, but showing goes further to demonstrate to your child what to do in the present situation. Use telling and showing at the same time and then give the child a path to redemption.That part about making amends is significant because it teaches accountability. For example, if your child kicks their sibling or another child, don’t just point out that the behavior isn’t right. Go further and ask the child to apologize. If the child isn’t ready to say it yet, give it some time. Don’t force it.
- Set boundaries and expectations and be consistent. When setting rules, it’s essential to use language and terms your child would understand and be consistent. Being inconsistent will result in the child not taking the rules seriously. Or finding loopholes to exploit. For example, if your child’s bedtime is 8 pm, and for some reason, you move it to 8:30, make sure you’re clear that it’s only for that day.
- Use positive reinforcement. Look to commend good behaviors as much as you look to correct bad behaviors. There are different ways to reward good behavior. You can use low-cost items, but it doesn’t always have to be something tangible. Examples of positive reinforcement include giving a high five, clapping, cheering, thumbs-up, a hug or a pat, and telling another adult how proud you are within the child’s earshot.
- Sit with your child and find an agreeable solution. You can sit down with your child to find a solution to a problem together. This doesn’t require any ceremony. The discussion can casually happen anywhere or even between chores. Talk about how you’re both feeling and then develop ideas on how to solve the problem. Then decide which ideas you both want to go forward with.
- Temporary loss of privilege. Taking away your child’s privilege can help your child understand that actions have consequences. However, ensure that the privilege is connected to the behavior and let the child know when they can get that privilege back. If applicable, frame your statement in such a way that allows them to earn back that privilege through corrective action.
Final Thoughts on Why Discipline Is Important
Through everything, it’s essential to pace discipline with your child’s ability to understand. This means employing age-appropriate positive discipline techniques at every stage. It is also vital to have it in mind that your child isn’t out to deliberately annoy you. Children can act in confounding ways due to their age, so patience and age-appropriate discipline are crucial. You might make mistakes sometimes in the heat of the moment. That’s alright. Take a moment and wait until you’re calm to apologize and explain to the child how you’ll handle things better in the future.