Positive Discipline Skills Every Parent Should Know

Positive Discipline Skills Every Parent Should Know

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. You never know what you’ll get from one day to the next and constantly have to juggle ever-changing stressors, demands, and challenges on the path to raising your kids right. While there’s no manual for being a perfect parent who nurtures perfect kids, some strategies are better and far less dangerous than others. You don’t have to scream or hit your kids to teach them about right and wrong. All you need is to implement positive discipline skills like the ones below into your parenting strategy.

1. Say no and mean it.

Children are going to test your boundaries — as Pampers points out, this is part of normal growth and development. Don’t expect them to back down just because you say they can’t do or have something. You shouldn’t back down either from your rules or the consequences you promise to dish out if they don’t follow them. When they misbehave, warn them about what will happen if they continue. If they still refuse to behave, follow through on your warning immediately and enforce the consequences, even if they sulk and whine afterward.

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2. Criticize the behavior, not the child.

Portrait of upset woman sitting at home table after quarrel with husband and his parents

Remember and internalize the old saying about not throwing the baby out with the bath water. Your child’s mistakes are just mistakes. They don’t necessarily paint a picture of who they are or what they’ll grow into. You can call out their bad behaviors and correct them without trying to paint the child as the problem. They’re not bad, they just did a bad thing.

3. Set realistic expectations.

You can’t expect your kids to be perfectly behaved all the time. It’s probably not realistic to expect your toddler or preschooler to sit still for hours while you complete a video call or a grocery run. Asking them to is setting everyone up for disappointment. So when you create rules, make requests, or assign tasks, make sure it’s something they can realistically accomplish.

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4. Be clear on what the limits are.

Children, especially younger ones, cannot always fill in the gaps and deduce your real intentions, so your rules need to be as unambiguous as possible. Rather than telling them to clean up before bed and leaving them to figure out what you mean by that, ask them to shower and brush their teeth before going to sleep. Outline the important rules, but try not to have too many of them at once, or it might be difficult for them to follow.

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5. Shower them with praise and encouragement.

It’s important to catch your kids doing good and commend them for it as much as or even more than you call them out for bad behaviors. Don’t wait for big moments or achievements to praise your kids. Praise them for the little things like putting their toys away or doing the dishes without needing to be told. Receiving praise makes people feel special, loved, and appreciated, and when kids get praised, they’re less likely to engage in negative attention-seeking behaviors that require outright discipline.

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6. Use logical consequences.

Children need to learn that their actions influence the future, so something they do now can affect what happens later on. By connecting consequences to your child’s actions, you get to encourage them to behave better and teach them about accountability. For example, if you tell your kid to not make a mess and they do, you can discipline them by making them clean up the mess they made.

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7. Show them how to fix their mistakes.

The importance of this positive discipline skill can’t be overstated because rather than dwelling on the errors your kid made, you turn it into a teachable moment. Help them to think about what happened, where things went wrong, and what they could have done instead to keep the situation from repeating itself. Doing this will sharpen problem-solving skills and enable them to develop healthy coping skills for the future.

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8. Discipline by example.

Kids pick up a lot by simply observing the adults in their lives. Whatever it is that you do, you’re essentially telling them that it’s okay to do the same. You can’t tell your kids to stay calm and communicate their feelings when they’re mad, and then go about responding to stressful situations by screaming, slamming doors, or hitting any surface in sight. Start by demonstrating the behaviors and habits you want them to emulate.

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9. Utilize time in and time out.

Time-outs and time-ins are useful for getting your kid to calm down, reflect on the situation that prompted their behavior, and regulate their emotions before re-engaging with others. With time-outs, the child is left to accomplish this on their own. On the other hand, time ins require your involvement. Rather than isolating the child, you use the opportunity to connect with them, talk about how they’re feeling, and brainstorm ways to minimize their triggers and resolve the issue.

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10. Let them learn through natural consequences.

Some lessons are best learned via first-hand experiences, Parents notes. Your child may not understand why you insist on them balancing objects on a surface properly until their snack spills because they kept it at the edge of the table. They may not grasp your reason for not wanting them to jump on the couch until they fall off it. Evaluate the potential risk to the child and ensure it’s minimal before letting a natural consequence take its course.

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11. Take away privileges.

Yelling and verbal abuse won’t do much except terrorize your kids into submission and cause childhood trauma that they have to deal with for the rest of their lives. You can get a lot farther and positively influence their behavior by temporarily taking away privileges like weekend outings, screen time, internet access, extended curfew, or play dates as a consequence of bad behavior.

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12. Practice selective ignoring.

Selective ignoring means that you don’t respond when your child engages in attention-seeking behaviors. Rather than chastising them and trying to make the behavior stop, you simply pretend like you can’t see it. When the kid sees that their inappropriate behavior isn’t evoking a reaction from you, they’ll likely stop on their own and won’t bother repeating it in the future.

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13. Discuss the reason behind the misbehavior.

Kids spill their drinks, throw tantrums, skip classes, hit their siblings, or perform poorly at school for a reason. Rather than reaching straight for punishment, especially when the behavior is new or unusual, try uncovering why the child behaved the way they did. Ask the child about it, listen to what they have to say, and validate their feelings. Depending on the issue, you may not even have to stop or change the thing that’s triggering them. Giving them space to safely express their emotions alone can make a world of difference.

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14. Redirect or remove the kid from the situation.

Sometimes, removing your child from the environment, person, or thing that’s causing them to act out is all the discipline they need. You can also try redirecting them to another less emotionally intensive activity. This also works for when you want your kids to not do or stop doing something. Instead of rejecting their proposed activity outrightly, you shift their attention from the undesirable activity, providing another option.

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15. Let the kids collaborate with you to solve their problems.

The goal of positive discipline is to help your children develop valuable and healthy skills for navigating life and dealing with issues that arise. A great way to achieve this is by letting them have a say in finding solutions to conflicts rather than forcing your own solutions on them. Invite them to participate in problem-solving exercises and let them come up with suggestions on how to solve their issues.

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