4 Examples of Positive Discipline

Spending time with your child is a simple way to reduce behavior problems.
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If you’ve never felt comfortable with traditional punishments for your child, then positive discipline might be the type of discipline you want to try. The goal of positive discipline is to use techniques such as prevention, distraction, and substitution to stop your child from doing things you don’t want him to do.

Proponents of positive discipline claim that this method can help strengthen the bond and increase trust between parents and children. It also removes the battle between the two of you, teaching your child that it is possible to respond to difficult moments without threats, bribes, yelling or physical punishment.

Here are four positive discipline strategies you can incorporate into your parenting strategies:

1. Redirection

Little ones have a short attention span, so it’s not too difficult to redirect them to another activity when they’re acting out. If your toddler is playing with an object that could be dangerous, introduce another toy that will grab his attention. If that doesn’t work, take him to another room or go outside to divert his attention.

Tell an older child what he can do, rather than what he can’t. So rather than tell him he can’t watch TV anymore, tell him he can go outside to play or he can work on a puzzle. Staying focused on the positive can reduce a lot of arguments and defiant behavior.

2. Positive Reinforcement

Praise your child’s good behavior. If your child shares a toy with a friend or sibling, tell her how generous she is. If your child extends kindness to someone else, point out what a great job she did.

This gives her positive attention for what she’s done right, rather than reinforced the things she did that are against the rules. When your child does break the rules, explain how she can make a better choice in the future.

3. Use Time-In, Not Time-Out

Time-out can be an effective consequence, but it's often overused. Placing a child in repeat time-outs may backfire and cause him to act out even more in an attempt to gain your attention and affection.

When your child misbehaves, sit down with him to read a book rather than sending him to time-out alone. Continue this until your child has calmed down and, if appropriate, is ready to apologize for his behavior.

4. Use Single-Word Reminders

Rather than making demands on your child (Stop running! Put your coat away! Share the toy!) say one word in a casual tone: Walk. Coat. Share. With this gentle reminder, she won’t get defensive but rather remember what the proper behavior is.

And sometimes, you need to pick and choose your battles. This might be considered a lack of discipline, more so than a method of discipline, so you want to invoke this wisely.

You’ll exhaust yourself (and your child) if you’re constantly redirecting him or telling him to do something else.

Therefore, when it’s a minor problem, it might be worth your energy to turn a blind eye. If there’s a way to prevent the behavior in the future (such as moving an object out of reach), then do so once the situation has passed.

Of course, use selective ignoring judiciously. It can, however, create a more relaxed atmosphere, particularly if you find that the household is getting tense.

Plus, if your child is prone to acting out to get negative attention, it shows the child that you’re not always going to respond. After all, the main tenet of positive discipline is that there are no bad children — just bad behavior.

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  1. Nelsen J, Tamborski MN, Ainge B. Positive Discipline for Today's Busy (and Overwhelmed) Parent: How to Balance Work, Parenting, and Self for Lasting Well-Being. Harmony. 2018.

  2. Drayton AK, Andersen MN, Knight RM, Felt BT, Fredericks EM, Dore-stites DJ. Internet guidance on time out: inaccuracies, omissions, and what to tell parents instead. J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2014;(35)4:239-46.  doi:10.1097/DBP.0000000000000059

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to use ignoring. Updated October 2017.

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