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Practice Positive Discipline

Positive discipline is an overarching philosophy that helps a child develop a conscience guided by his own internal discipline and compassion for others. Positive discipline is rooted in a secure, trusting, connected relationship between parent and child. Discipline that is empathetic, loving and respectful strengthens that the connection between parent and child, while harsh or overly-punitive discipline weakens the connection. Remember that the ultimate goal of discipline is to help children develop self-control and self-discipline.

Not all Forms of Discipline are Safe and Effective

  • Threats and fear-based methods of discipline that scare children backfire. Children who are afraid, cannot learn to judge right and wrong on their own and cannot learn how to solve problems and conflicts. They simply learn how to avoid being afraid.
  • Studies show that spanking and other physical discipline techniques can create and drive the very behavioral problems they are intended to correct. 
  • Harsh, physical discipline teaches children that violence is the only way to solve problems
  • Parents who were spanked as children tend to be the most interested in learning about new ways to guide their children. It takes time to learn new things that work, but the payoff is happier and healthier families and children.  

A Gentler Approach to Discipline

  • Positive discipline begins at birth. The bonds of attachment and trust that are formed when parents consistently and compassionately respond to an infant's needs become the foundation of discipline
  • Positive Discipline involves using such techniques as prevention, distraction, and substitution to gently guide children away from harm
  • Help your child explore safely, seeing the world through his eyes and empathizing as he experiences the natural consequences of his actions
  • Try to understand what need a child's behavior is communicating. Children often communicate their feelings through their behavior
  • Resolve problems together in a way that leaves everyone's dignity intact
  • Understand developmentally appropriate behavior, and tailor loving guidance to the needs and temperaments of your child
  • Children learn by example so it's important to strive to model positive actions and relationships within a family and in interactions with others
  • When parents react in a way that creates tension, anger or hurt feelings, the next step is to reconcile and work to do better. 

Tools for Positive Discipline

This list is not all-inclusive, and some techniques described may not be suitable for children of a particular age or temperament. Please contact an API Leader near you for more information on these tools.

  • Maintain a positive relationship
  • Use empathy and respect
  • Research positive discipline
  • Understand the unmet need
  • Work out a solution together
  • Be proactive
  • Understand the child's developmental abilities
  • Create a "yes" environment
  • Discipline through play
  • Change things up
  • State facts rather than making demands
  • Avoid labeling
  • Make requests in the affirmative
  • Allow natural consequences
  • Use care when offering praise
  • Use time-in rather than time-out
  • Use time-in as a parent, too
  • Talk to a child before intervening
  • Don't force apologies
  • Comfort the hurt child first
  • Offer choices
  • Be sensitive to strong emotions
  • Consider carefully before imposing the parent's will
  • Use logical consequences sparingly and with compassion
  • Use incentives creatively with older children

Learning to use positive discipline may not come easily for many parents especially if they were raised in a more traditional, authoritarian environment. That's why it's so important to attend API support groups, talk with other parents, or seek professional help.

Research related to this Principle

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