There is mounting research showing the detrimental effects of spanking our children, yet many parents still resort to this discipline technique. What’s the alternative?
Positive Discipline. Although it may seem counter-intuitive at first, positive discipline methods really do work. They set boundaries for our children and guide them towards embracing our family values. Here are my top five tips to make positive discipline seem a little less confusing and a little more doable in your home:
1) Learn Appropriate Child Expectations
Research the appropriate and inappropriate expectations to have for your child. It’s easy to think that your child is not acting “her age,” when in reality, she may actually be acting appropriately for her particular stage in development. You also need to understand your child’s unique temperament. Just because your child is a little more rigid or energetic than her peers doesn’t mean there is something wrong with her. This may be your child’s unique personality — you can celebrate these differences and curb some of the challenging tendencies using positive discipline. Once you understand what is appropriate for your child’s development, you’ll know what to expect from her, and find different ways to resolve conflict in a healthy way.
2) Practice the Golden Rule
“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” This timeless saying is also the overarching theme of positive discipline. Literally, you treat your child as you would want your child, or anyone else, to treat you. This means: do not spank, yell, or engage in any other harsh reaction because you would not want anyone to act that way towards you. Living by the Golden Rule forces you to find a different alternative to spanking, because spanking simply does not fall under this life ethos.
3) Love Yourself
A hugely overlooked ingredient to making positive discipline work is self-care. You have to feel good about yourself, and have your emotional tank full, before you can even begin to tackle your child’s difficult behavior. If you’re really tired, touched-out, emotionally drained, and feel as flat as a doormat, you’re just not going to be able to respond gently to your child. You can’t give what you don’t have. So be kind to yourself and give yourself lots of love.
4) Make a Go-to List of Positive Discipline Ideas
One of the confusing things about positive discipline for newbies is that there are so many options for every scenario. It makes it seem hard for parents who are new to the concept of positive discipline. The idea isn’t that you have a list of 100 techniques and are supposed to pick the right one for the right situation, but rather that you develop your own repertoire of positive discipline techniques that work for you and your children. My favorite books for positive discipline ideas are: Discipline Without Distress, Parenting With Patience, and Raising Your Spirited Child.
5) Get Ready to Apologize
You will make mistakes, especially when you are first getting into positive discipline, but also when you are experienced and have been doing this for more than a decade (like me). Perhaps I jump to conclusions on who’s at fault before listening to each child’s story, or someone spills a bottle of olive oil and I freak out. Yeah, it’s happened. But we parents have this powerful, yet under-utilized, weapon against our child’s hurt feelings and our own guilt, and that’s saying, “Sorry.” Don’t be afraid to say it. It teaches our children that everyone makes mistakes, and shows them what to do when they make mistakes of their own.