The Steps of Positive Discipline

The steps of Positive Discipline are not something I’ve created, these steps have been around for years.  Originally written in 1965, Dr. Haim Ginott introduced a version of these steps in Between Parent and Child.  Systematic Training for Effective Parenting or STEP classes desiged by Dinkmeyer and McKay have been in session since 1976.  These steps are covered in some variation in most all Positive Discipline parenting books.  We cover the steps of positive discipline in our one-day and eight hour evening series workshops.  Our full audio workshops are also available at www.askdrrene.com.  Here are the basics to get you started:

  • I messages – This is labeling your own or others emotions and blaming the behavior not the child.  When labeling your own emotions it sounds like “I am frustrated, no one is listening,” or “I am upset, this is a huge mess.”  Labeling others’ emotions sounds like “She is upset, she wasn’t finished with her turn,” or “She is angry, that hurt her.”  This shares emotions and avoids You messages which blame the child such as “I am frustrated, you never listen,” or “She is angry, you hurt her.”
  • Empathy – This is validating the child’s emotions as you enter into a discipline exchange, even when you disagree with the emotion at hand.  It is saying “Wow, you are mad, you didn’t like that game,” or “I see you are sad, it’s hard to be left out.”  It’s remembering to validate emotions and help find a calm before you address the situation or discipline.
  • Positive Intent – This refers to how we view the child’s behavior.  What we think and assume about their behavior shapes our tone and our reply.  This is thinking of those you love as tired or overwhelmed rather than lazy.  For the child having trouble waiting for a turn it is seeing them as excited, young and needing to learn patience rather than annoying or rude.
  • Choices – The idea is to offer the child two positive choices about how, when or where they can do the behavior you want them to do.  If you are wanting them to get homework done this might be, “Do you want to start with reading or math,” or “do you want to work before or after snack,” or “do you want to work at the kitchen table or your bedroom desk?”  These often work because they give the child some power.
  • Natural Consequences – This is what just might happen in life if the child continues the behavior.  These warn and encourage the child to think about the possible outcomes.  This sounds like, “If you don’t wear a coat, you might be cold,” and “if you do that, she might not want to play with you.”  These consequences start to make sense around three and a half years old.
  • Logical Negative Consequences – This is if the bad behavior then the bad related outcome.  “If you keep yelling, you will have to play in separate rooms,” or “if you grab a toy, you may not play with it for 5 minutes.”
  • Logical Positive Consequences – This is if the good behavior then the good related outcome. “If you can speak nicely, you can stay together,” or “if you can share the coloring books, I’ll get out the other markers.”
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Comments

  1. Dear Dr. Rene,

    This is great blog on positive discipline. Thank you for your efforts to promote attachment-based parenting.

    I wanted to share with you an incredibly important project for children and mothers.
    Would you please “like” our Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/protectchildrenfromviolence?ref=hl
    We are trying to produce a documentary to help raise awareness on the negative effects of spanking. Our website is http://stopspanking.org
    Thank you!
    Robbyn Peters Bennett, LMHC
    Child Mental Health Specialist

  2. I am having difficulty with positive intent with my almost 3 year old. I keep reverting back to “you listened the first time, good job.” instead of “you listened the first time, that showed ____” I can’t come up with anything. Or “you shared, why to go” when I should be saying “You shared, that was nice”. Can anyone give some suggestions?

    • This is the descriptor when catching good behaviors. I tend to think make a list of attributes you would like him to have such as brave, smart, friendly, cooperative, kind, gentle, nice, persistent, caring, thoughtful, helpful. Go wide with the language.

    • Hi Morgan,
      Sometimes I will say to my grand daughter, who is 4, “It is so hard to listen sometimes, isn’t it?” For her, she has difficulty not interrupting conversations. She gets so stressed out when others are talking and jumps in to say what she wants. It can be really irritating. It takes so much patience, because it really is hard for her (and me!). LOL!
      Robbyn

  3. Hi Robbyn,
    A few good children’s books on interrupting:
    Interrupting Chicken byu Stein
    My Mouth is a Volcano by Cook
    Lacey Walker Nonstop Talker by Jones

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