When my friend was a child, her father only knew how to react to his kids. Anything could set him off, which meant he raised his voice at a moment’s notice. Why is it that when it comes to our kids, negative discipline is easy, and positive discipline is hard? Negative discipline is driven by our automatic reflexes: our children do something to make us angry, so we yell. Our children disobey us for the millionth time, so we lose our patience. Our children push our buttons when we’re tired or stressed out, so we say mean things we shouldn’t. Negative discipline focuses on our children’s bad behavior.
Positive discipline, on the other hand, focuses on our children’s good behavior. It’s praising them when they do something kind, encouraging them when they mess up and realizing that kids don’t get things the first time you tell them.
Another way to institute positive discipline is to have a well-developed plan for our overall discipline philosophy. Our 3 Discipline Basics are a great foundation for your positive discipline plan.
1. Non-negotiable Discipline
The first step in non-negotiable discipline is to set up consequences for misbehavior in advance. Once those are in place, explain the consequences to your child so they know what to expect. Then, when disobedience occurs, calmly relay the consequences. At that point, don’t negotiate consequences with your children.
A friend of mine recently took a privilege away from his daughter for willful disobedience. She lost the privilege of taking the car out Friday night. Well, she wasn’t going to take no for an answer and pleaded with her parents to let her wash, wax, and clean the car instead; but, her parents stuck with their decision. Establish clear, non-negotiable consequences for misbehavior ahead of time—then stick to them.
Establish clear, non-negotiable consequences for misbehavior ahead of time—then stick to them.
2. Private Discipline
Discipline is something that should be handled in private. Think about how you would feel if someone corrected you in front of other people. It’s not a very positive experience.
So when your child misbehaves, quietly acknowledge the misbehavior. Then, tell them that their consequences will follow when you get home. If you feel like you do need to address the issue right away, find a private place and handle it there. Disciplining in private is really a matter of respect. Even in moments of correction, we need to treat our children respectfully.
An exception to the above might be when we need to correct very young children, 5-years-old or younger.
3. Calm Discipline
Have you ever heard it said, “I was so angry, I couldn’t see straight?” There’s some physiological truth to that statement. In his book How to Assert Yourself, Listen to Others and Resolve Conflicts, Dr. Robert Bolton says, “Emotional arousal actually makes us different people than who we are in moments of greater calmness. When we are angry or fearful, our adrenaline flows faster and our strength increases by about 20 percent.”
It’s best to wait until the heat of the moment has passed. If you need to, physically remove yourself from your child. Go into the next room and calm down. Take some deep breaths or pray. If you can’t physically get away, resolve to hold your words until you are calmer. Then, clear your mind and review the consequences available for the current misbehavior. Once you have calmed down, share the consequences with your child.
Before you move forward on a discipline consequence, use iMOM’s Consequence Calculator to help you make your decision.
What do you think about positive discipline versus negative discipline?