Positive Discipline

Here are a few FAQs about Positive Discipline language.

Does the positive discipline approach include Time-Out or 1-2-3 Magic? While I include both of these techniques in our Positive Discipline workshops, most do not catagorize these techniques as positive discipline. Both time-out and 1-2-3 magic along with reward systems and schedules are considered behavior modification tools. They are a more narrow and defined approach. I include them in our programs because if parents are choosing to use them, I want them to use them well. I want parents to know what all the pitfalls are and what is considered best practice.
What do I do when choices don’t work? Offering choices is an important piece of the positive discipline approach, but there are several ways they don’t work. Some children just won’t choose, or they choose one and then argue for the other, or they do choose but won’t follow through. When choices fail, you can choose for the child given a warning, you can slow down and walk them thru the pros and cons of each option, you can allow them a third option if they offer or you can move on to consequences. The idea is be flexible in the choices you give, be creative, so it’s not the same choices everytime.
What if I use empathy and my child gets more upset? When you first start using empathy the flood gates may open. You may get a child who shows greater upset because they feel someone is finally listening. This is common and should be worked through. Other children just don’t like empathy. They don’t want you labeling their emotions. If that is the case, you can try ‘story telling’, talk about a time when you felt that way or when someone else had a similar experiences. You are still understanding without focusing so heavily on their emotion. You might also try ‘wants and wishes’ which is talking about what the child wanted or wished would have happened rather than how they are feeling.
Is it okay if it is just one parent using this approach, not both? Clearly, it is beneficial if both parents are on the same page and sharing a similar approach. That said, one parent using positive discipline is better than neither. Hopefully the second will see the benefits over time. It may be helpful for that parent to read a book or take a workshop, so the push towards positive discipline isn’t coming from you but from an outside source. If there are real differences (unless it is abusive) still work to support each other rather than undermine in moments of discipline.
Positive Intent doesn’t feel natural, do I have to use each step? I know I messages, empathy and positive intent may feel unnatural to some people. It may not be the language you grew up with. It may feel like we are letting children off the hook when really we are laying foundation for the hook of discipline. In any case, no, I don’t think the positive discipline approach is made on any particular skills. There are so many techniques available that parents should be able to work around one or two.
How can I learn more about this approach? There are good books: Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Bailey, Positive Discipline by Nelson and The Discipline Book by Sears & Sears to name a few. There are many good places to find workshops. In the DC/VA/MD area, this includeds PEP (Parents Encouragement Program), SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now, which offers classes in English and Spanish) and JSSA (Jewish Social Services Agency). Of course, you can always join my program or use my workbook.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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