An expert interview on positive discipline tips and tricks for busy parents. What are the benefits of positive discipline and what does it mean?
Encouragement strengthens connection and invites the child to feel capable. It teaches valuable character and life skills
Positive parenting techniques can feel overwhelming to use, especially if they differ dramatically from our own upbringing.
However, studies have shown that in responding to, and dealing with, our child with respect and empathy and with a gentle lens, we can raise more secure children with positive self-esteem.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to discuss positive discipline techniques with three experts in the field to bring you more information on the topic, and to help you find positive parenting techniques to rely on.
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Positive Discipline for Parents
We asked 4 simple questions to the authors of the book, Positive Discipline for Today’s Busy (and overwhelmed) Modern Parent by Jane Nelson, EDD, Kristina Bill, and Joy Marchese, MA, CPDT, about positive discipline. Questions included a bit about positive discipline methodology, some quick wins for parents to focus on, and about praise and rewards.
Read the answers here, then scroll to the bottom of this post to enter to win your own copy of their book, Positive Discipline for Today’s Busy (and overwhelmed) Modern Parent.
What are the origins of the Positive Discipline methodology and how did you become involved in it?
Positive Discipline (PD) is based on the grounded philosophy of Alfred Adler, the grandfather of Individual Psychology. In a nutshell, Adler taught that all human beings (including children) deserve to be treated with human dignity and respect. He taught about the importance of social interest and the need for all human beings to feel belonging (connection) and significance (contribution/purpose).
Joy: I was introduced to PD 13 years ago (8 years into my teaching career). At the tie, I was teaching in Rikeres Island (a jail just off Manhattan in NYC). When I say that PD saved my life I mean it. I was teaching felony criminals and I was the only teacher that didn’t have armed guards in the classroom. This was a risk but it was the only way I could establish an environment of mutual respect (connecting before correcting). I was also one of the only teachers that never had a fight break out in her classroom.
Jane: I wanted to be a goof mother and didn’t know how. I took a class in child development at a university and was lucky enough to have a professor who said, ‘I’m not going to teach you a bunch of theories, but just one (adler/Dreikurs) that will help children learn self-discipline, responsibility, capability, and problem-solving skills. It worked so well for me with my 5 children (2 more came later) that I wanted to share what I learned with others.
How is Positive Discipline different from other parenting methodologies?
There are two kinds of parenting programs: those that depend on external motivation (punishment and rewards) that seem to work temporarily (wil lead to more Discouragement thus more behavior); and those (like Positive Discipline) that teach an integral source of motivation (Encouragement) – to do the right thing when no one is looking.
Positive Discipline focuses on the belief behind the behavior, not just the observable behavior. Think of an iceberg, the tip of the iceberg represents the behavior. The biggest part of the iceberg represents the belief behind the behavior. Just as the tip of the iceberg would not exist without the base, the behavior would not exist without the belief behind the behavior.
For example, if a child is whining, we do not look at the whinging as the problem and try to correct it by saying “Why are you whining? Stop it.” Instead, we would try to understand the belief behind the whining- which usually has to do with a mistake belief about how to experience belonging and significance (two basic needs according to Alfred Adler).
A positive discipline parent would instead try a number of tools to connect with the child before correcting (for example, ask for a hug, validate their feelings, or show empathy). The parent would then get to the underlying cause for the behavior for example by engaging the child in a dialogue to understand why the child is feeling discouraged. As Rudolf Dreikurs said, “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.”
“The parent would then get to the underlying cause for the behavior for example by engaging the child in a dialogue to understand why the child is feeling discouraged. As Rudolf Dreikurs said, “A misbehaving child is a discouraged child.”
What are some quick wins parents can focus on?
Help children feel capable and responsible by involving them as early as possible in life and home management. Through using routine charts and family meetings where they learn to focus on solutions, children will learn valuable social and life skills.
We believe that you should never do for a child what they can do for themselves, with plenty of training of course, to give them a chance to learn these skills. Remember age-appropriate behavior, and check that you are not expecting your child to engage in a level of complex thinking and decision making that they are not ready for.
Lastly, always check your own behavior, your modeling is your child’s greatest teacher.
What is wrong with praise and rewards? And, what are some alternatives?
One problem is that they will ‘work’. Kids love both praise and rewards and will often behave better to receive them. But, what are they teaching our children long-term? They are learning to ‘behave’ well to receive validation from someone else. This is called “external” control. What happens when those others are not around? The kids lack a strong sense of “self” and an internal locus of control – to do the right thing when no one is looking because if feels good.
The alternative is encouragement. Encouragement strengthens connection and invites the child to feel capable. It teaches valuable character and life skills. Praise would sound like this, “I’m so proud of you.” or, “All A’s you get a big reward.” Whereas encouragement, would sound like this, “You must be really proud of yourself.” or, “You worked hard, you deserve it.”
This doesn’t mean you can never tell your child you’re proud of him or her, but praise is like candy, a little bit is ok, but too much is unhealthy. And it can create “approval junkies”.
So, where are you going to start on your positive discipline journey? Be sure to enter the giveaway below to gain a chance to win a copy of the book Positive Discipline for Today’s Busy (and overwhelmed) Modern Parent to gain more actionable tips to help you out.
Jane Nelson, EDD, founder of Positive Discipline and coauthor of the bestselling Positive Discipline series, is a licensed marriage, family and child therapist and an internationally known speaker. Her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide.
Kristina Bill is active across the fields of business, arts and personal development. She holds a business degree and is a certified Life Coach and Positive Discipline Parent Education. She is a highly sought-after corporate coach specializing in leadership and personal impact.
Joy Marchese, MA, CPDT has worked as a trainer teacher and parent educator in various schools and corporate settings for over twenty years. In 2015 she launched Positive Discipline UK, spreading Positive Discipline across Europe and the Middle East.
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