Positive Discipline, Kind and Firm

Father and child hands

We all want to guide our children to become confident, independent people capable of self-discipline. It isn’t necessarily obvious for a parent to figure out how to get them there, though. As a parenting model, Positive Discipline seeks to give parents tools to build independence and confidence in their children, avoiding the fear that punishment brings and the self-indulgence that lack of boundaries brings. Positive discipline encourages adults to remain kind and firm with children in order to develop mutual respect.

Kind and Firm

Positive discipline developed through parenting and classroom management models of the early 20th century that sought to be respectful of children while still giving them the firm consistency they need. Positive discipline is most familiar today through a series of books by Dr. Jane Nelson and a long list of co-authors.

Now positive discipline is applied in a wide variety of settings where people want to step away from authoritarian to authoritative interactions. Positive Discipline schools help teachers and other adults to provide consistent and secure learning environments. Positive Discipline is one of the eight principles of Attachment Parenting International. I’ve seen it outlined as a practice in adult-to-adult settings such as the workplace as well.

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. ~“Practice Positive Discipline,” Attachment Parenting International

What Do Parents Need to Know?

Dr. Nelson outlines five criteria for effective discipline as:

  • Helps children feel a sense of connection.
  • Is mutually respectful and encouraging.
  • Is effective long – term.
  • Teaches important social and life skills .
  • Invites children to discover how capable they are.

For children of different ages, this means that different techniques will be needed to reach the goals of mutual respect. With a baby or toddler, for example, it doesn’t do much good to reason with them. They just aren’t developmentally capable of benefitting from our well-polished speeches on good behavior. The different books in the Positive Discipline series emphasize that the person in authority needs to adjust to the needs of children at different stages of development and people in different situations.

Amongst the countless parents and teachers who express their deep gratitude for the guidance that Positive Discipline gives, I’ve seen parents say this method doesn’t work. Like nonviolent communication, I am sure that this is a practice rather than an accomplishment. If we aren’t starting from birth, it may take a while to develop the foundations of mutual respect. Rather than focus on the points of practice, it is important to keep in mind that ultimate goal of helping children become good humans.


Image © Radkevich Siarhei | Dreamstime.com

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