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Child Discipline: Positive Parenting & Positive Discipline
People don't generally believe me when I tell them that it is possible to raise a child without discipline or punishment of any kind. This involves no spankings, of course, but also no time-outs no lectures, and no grounding. It may seem like a utopian universe, but I know it is reality, because I raised my daughter to be a law-abiding, responsible, independent, reasonable, happy college graduate without the use of spankings, time-outs, grounding, or lectures. I did try these methods, but they simply did not work for us.
It is possible that I have the only child in the universe on which this methodology would work, but I would like to be able to take credit for raising her up properly using my philosophy, and truly believe that this strategy could work your kids as well.
Why Spanking Didn't Work For Me
As a new parent, although I didn't like the idea of spanking, I did hear advice that spanking is necessary to raise a child correctly. Spare the rod, spoil the child.
One day, I spanked my daughter who was two or three at the time. I don't remember what she did that deserved punishment. It was the first time I had ever spanked her. I told her I was spanking her so she wouldn't do that again, and then I hit her once or twice.
She said, "That didn't hurt." She was very young and maybe didn't realize that such a statement could cause a more painful spanking. I considered spanking her harder so that it would hurt, but my goal was to get her to understand that her actions were wrong. I decided that since my goal was not to inflict pain, that I wouldn't bother trying. That was the last time I spanked her.
Physically punishing a child sends the wrong message to the child. I don't want her to go around hitting people, even if they make her mad. Why should I be allowed to do it if it is unacceptable for her to do it?
Why Correction Didn't Work For Me
Since spanking was out, I thought needed to use other correction methods. I tried to put my daughter in time-out probably a total of five times. I found that it frustrated me to have her sit in the corner staring at the wall when she had done something wrong. Sure, it quieted down the situation and she was no longer doing the thing that bothered me. But since I hadn't talked to her yet, she wouldn't necessarily know what she had done wrong. Plus it meant I had to wait around an arbitrary amount of time just to explain it to her. The timeout is based on her age, and the punishment just didn't fit the crime.
I felt like I had to watch her to make sure she stayed in the corner and I was afraid I wouldn't let her out in time. (This was before I had a microwave with a timer.) This took valuable time out of my schedule. Since the results for me were the same whether or not she sat for the allotted amount of time, I simply stopped the time-outs.
When I had teenage foster children, the other correction method I tried was grounding. At this age, I thought that the children would know better than to do some of the things they did. This didn't work for us either, since it pretty much grounded the whole family when one child was grounded, and we all felt like we were being punished.
These seem like artificial consequences for the bad behavior. I would rather rely on natural consequences. Having someone be angry at their behavior was a natural consequence. They do feel bad when they do something wrong and get a natural consequence. You don't have to add additional consequences.
My Positive Parenting Philosophy
It is completely possible to be a positive parent and raise a responsible child when you consider the fact that children want to please their parents. Most people want to be liked, including children, and will be more than happy to do what you want and follow along with your wishes. The key is to make sure that your wishes are reasonable and clearly communicated.
The other important part of positive child rearing is to remember that children do not know how to do everything you are asking them to do. Instead of being a disciplinarian or a corrector, you can simply be a teacher.
Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool in raising children, and in dealing with adults. When they get attention and positive consequences for positive behavior, and very little attention for negative behavior, they learn to seek attention through positive means. By focusing on the positive behavior, some of the bad behavior naturally dies out.
The goal of a positive parent is to show the child how to live in the world, and become fully functioning adults. If you expect them to blindly obey you, then they are not learning how to evaluate their options, how to think through the consequences, and how to make decisions.
Setting Up for Success
You have to make sure that you can set up your environment to avoid the common struggles.
- Put away your highly prized possessions out of reach, where they cannot be damaged.
- Make sure you firmly adhere to the naptime, bedtime, and eating schedule for both you and the kids. All people who are tired or hungry are cranky.
- Put away other common sources of problems out of reach as well, such as the Vaseline, and the crayons and markers. Some things simply need to be out only when you can supervise their use.
Positive Parenting Resources on Amazon
Respect and Dignity
Treating a child with respect and dignity is an important part of being a positive parent. Your child's needs, wants, and opinions matter. By listening to her and treating her respectfully, you can avoid many of the power struggles that come with raising a child.
In addition, you are showing them that they are valued human beings, and that their needs matter. When they become adults, they will hopefully require proper treatment by others, and will be less likely to be victims of abuse and domestic violence. They will also know how to respectfully treat other people, since they have seen it modeled all their lives.
The biggest philosophy difference between the way I raised my daughter and the way I saw others raising their children had to do with my explanations. Whenever I made a decision, or asked her to do or not do something, I took the time to explain my reasoning to her. This helps the child fully understand the consequences of their action or inaction.
This did take a great deal of time, but probably not as much as you would think. It generally only required a sentence or two. "No, you can't have the cookie. I want you to have room in your tummy for the healthy food." In addition, over time, she could predict my response to her request based on my reasoning, and not bother asking for things she knew she would not get.
She learned that I generally have a good reason for my requests, and that most of the time, these requests are made because they are in her best interest. From that, she learned to trust my decisions, not because I told her to, but because they knew that I generally made good decisions. This also helped for the times when I was too tired to think through a reason. She generally accepted the rare "Honey, just do it this time. I'm too tired to explain it to you now; I'll explain it to you later okay?" based on that trust.
This also helped her with her communication skills. From my modeling, she learned proper ways to show anger and disapproval, as well as proper ways to ask for what she wanted.
When you see any inappropriate behavior, instead of simply telling her not to do it, I would help her find an alternative solution that does work.
If she had a temper tantrum, I would ignore her until she was calmer. Then when she was calmer, I told her what she could have done instead. She was allowed to express her frustration, but there are socially sanctioned ways in which she could do it. She could use words to tell me what she wanted and how much she wanted it. She could ask for help if she couldn't reach what she wanted.
Another difference in my parenting style was that I allowed my daughter to communicate with me. If she was unhappy with a decision I had made, I allowed her to voice her opinion. If she really wanted the cookie, even though I said no, she could appeal my decision. After all, I don't know when she really wants something, or when she is simply asking because it is there.
When I tell her that I didn't want it to spoil her dinner, if she really wants the cookie, a possible solution could be a compromise. We can buy the cookie now, and she can eat it after dinner. Then as we walk around the grocery store, and she finds something else she likes, I can tell her she can have that candy, but she needs to choose one. Which does she want more, the cookie or the candy? Once she understands that she will have to give up the cookie, she is willing to put back the candy. In fact, she generally stopped asking for other things during the trip as well, since it would involve losing the cookie.
It is also possible that I am not willing to compromise and still won't buy her the cookie. "No, I don't want you to get used to me buying you something every time we go to a store." or "No, I don't have money for that right now." or "Cookies are junk food and are not good for you." She felt respected because she was able to voice her concern and appeal the decision, and had a chance to receive additional reasons for my decision.
After saying no, I generally proposed an alternate as a substitute. "How about I let you choose a fruit instead. Should we buy bananas or oranges?" generally works to divert her attention from the cookie.
Sometimes she is still unhappy with the decision, but she is entitled to her opinion and her feelings, and simply needs to adjust to the reality that she cannot get what she wants.
Instead of blind obedience, she has learned how to negotiate and communicate her needs and desires. I think this is a good lesson for her to avoid peer pressure and child predators.
Punishment and Correction are Not Necessary
Punishment and correction are not necessary components to positive parenting. In fact, I believe they should not be components of parenting at all. When you are late for work, does your employer have to make you stand in the corner or otherwise punish you for being late? Usually, a simple statement is all that is necessary. You do the right thing, not because you will be punished for not doing it, but because it is the right thing to do.
There are natural consequences for most of actions, and creating additional consequences is really not necessary.
What did I do if an explanation didn't work? I tried a different explanation. If "Honey, don't hit me. That hurts me." doesn't work, then additional explanation is necessary. "People don't like being hurt, and they may want to stay away from you when you hit them." I found that as long as she wasn't tired or cranky, I was able to explain to her the consequences of her actions. If that doesn't work, in the case of hitting, I simply got up and walked away, not as a punishment, but as a way to protect myself, and a way to change the situation. I could continue to explain at a short distance, and the change generally changed the dynamics enough to get her to stop.
Let me give you another example. When "Honey, go to bed. It is time for your nap." doesn't work, "You get cranky when you don't get enough sleep. You don't like to be cranky, and I don't like you to be cranky, so how about you get some sleep now,." can be added. We had already discussed the fact that being tired makes us cranky when she was not tired, so this was was simply a reminder.
Please notice that this still isn't a lecture. Just an extra sentence or two.
Positive parenting helps children grow up in a world as individuals who can think for themselves. The children learn the proper tools of living in society, such as communicating their needs, expressing their disagreements respectfully, and thinking through the consequences of their actions. They learn to do the right thing, not because they are afraid of the punishment, but because they respect themselves and the others around them. They have the self confidence to avoid peer pressure and get out of abusive situations.
It truly is possible to raise a well-adjusted child to responsible adulthood without resorting to punishment or discipline strategies. I know, because I did it.