Guidelines for Using the Steps of Discipline

In our Positive Discipline workshop series, we spend three hours on the steps of positive discipline.  This language provides a framework for effectively working through a discipline exchange from managing emotions with I messages and empathy to using choices and consequences.  I have written about the steps and given examples of each in several previous blog posts which you can read: https://parentingbydrrene.com/?s=steps+of+positive+discipline

Once you’ve learned the steps of positive discipline, there are a few guidelines for using each.

I messages – are for when you are expressing negative emotions and laying blame.  Be sure you lay blame on the behavior or situation, not the child.  Sometimes there isn’t an emotion, if you are laying blame it is fine to use just the second part of the sentence.  If there’s emotion, this might sound like “I am upset, this is a mess.”   No emotion, “Wow, this is a mess.”

Empathy – is for when the children are expressing negative emotions.  The empathy, as needed, comes before the discipline or the fix of the situation.

The general idea for emotions is to consider on the way into a discipline exchange if either of these techniques are needed.

Positive intent – is helpful in every exchange.  While you don’t have to always say it out loud, the rule is at least think it every time.

Choices – come before consequences for all behaviors except aggression.  Aggression may work backwards.  If choices aren’t working, you can substitute challenges or jobs here.

Natural consequences – become fair game at 3 1/2 or 4 years old.  Remember you aren’t stopping behavior, you  are allowing the child to think through this and make a decision about the behavior.  Occasionally, it may be that you state a natural and then follow up with a logical consequence.

Logical consequences – are meant as an endpoint in discipline.  Positive logicals work more like choices, often with a more agreeable outcome.  Negative logicals may be met with upset but that likely means your consequence is meaningful (provided you didn’t go too big with intensity).

In real life, you wouldn’t use all of these steps at one time.  Most often, parents sing a few of the steps in combination to work through an exchange.  The best plan is to spend time focused on using each step, get comfortable with it and figure out which steps are most comfortable for you and work well with your child.

These steps are meant to be used in conjunction with proactive techniques and coaching good behaviors.

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