Positive discipline is an approach that focuses on developing healthy relationships. This happens when adults help children cultivate a strong sense of belonging among everyone within a community (i.e. classroom, home, group, etc.). It emphasizes establishing clear boundaries and expectations that invest children in owning their decisions and communication skill development.
A core pillar of positive discipline is to be "kind and firm" with children, which demonstrates mutual respect. Rather than treat children as subordinates who are expected to "fall in line," positive discipline recognizes the humanity in children and encourages them to be connected members of the community/family. Additionally, this approach empowers children to develop their own social skills and learn to control their reactions to situations.
When positive discipline practices are implemented consistently, research suggests that children are less likely to engage in socially risky behaviors, tend to show increased academic achievement, and feel more connected to the whole.
Dr. Jane Nelsen identified five criteria that must be present for an adult's response to be considered positive discipline. Effective discipline:
- Helps children feel a sense of connection. (Belonging and significance)
- Is mutually respectful and encouraging. (Kind and firm at the same time.)
- Is effective long - term. (Considers what the child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding about themselves and their world – and what to do in the future to survive or to thrive.)
- Teaches important social and life skills. (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, and cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school, or larger community.)
- Invites children to discover how capable they are. (Encourages the constructive use of personal power and autonomy.)
Applying What You Learned
Whenever you're evaluating an adult's reaction to something a child did, ask yourself these five things:
- Does the adult's response help the child feel a sense of connection?
- Is the adult's response mutually respectful and encouraging?
- Does the adult's response foster a long-term change in the child?
- Does the adult's response teach important social and life skills?
- Does the adult's response invite the child to discover how capable they are?
If you can say, "Yes," to all five questions, then the adult's response to the child's action is positive discipline.
Read the two scenarios below and answer the questions to the best of your ability. Then, record important notes from this section in your workbook.
- What do you want to explore more?
- What did you learn that was an "ah ha" moment for you?
- What did you learn that is challenging your beliefs?