6 Positive Discipline Techniques to Improve Child Behavior

parenting Apr 13, 2021
6 Positive Discipline Techniques to Improve Child Behavior

As fathers — especially those of you taking on this life-changing role for the first time — one of your most important tasks is guiding your child’s behavior. You want your kid to build good character and to grow into a good, well-rounded person.

While this isn’t such an easy or straightforward task, remember that there are no bad kids — only bad behavior. Bad behavior can be corrected or shaped with time, patience, and the right strategies. For that, there’s nothing better than using positive discipline techniques.

Why Use Positive Discipline Techniques?

Many parents use punishment as their go-to method for addressing misbehavior or correcting mistakes. This is usually the case because it’s what others have advised or what they experienced themselves as children.

However, just because so many are doing it — or your own parents used it with you — that doesn’t make it right. Dealing with misbehavior using harsh or corporal punishment is never the answer.

This seemingly easy path can lead to a cycle of negative interactions or even trauma. Instead, it’s better to employ the power of positive discipline techniques.

What Is Positive Discipline?

Positive discipline is a parenting approach that emphasizes mutual respect, encouragement, and communication between parents and their children over punishment. This approach was started by Dr. Jane Nelsen, a renowned psychologist, educator, and author of numerous books on the topic.

Positive discipline is essentially about guiding your child towards making good choices rather than instilling fear or punishing them for negative ones.

Dr. Jane Nelsen developed five criteria for positive discipline:

  • Kind but firm: Positive discipline is not overly permissive, but it is also not severely punishing. Instead, it is respectful and encouraging.
  • Helps children feel a sense of connection or belonging: Positive discipline encourages mutual respect and understanding to help children feel valued, loved, and heard.
  • Effective long-term: Positive discipline offers long-term solutions rather than just curbing bad behavior temporarily.
  • Teaches important social and life skills: Positive discipline teaches children problem-solving, communication, respect, and more.
  • Helps children to discover how capable they are: Positive discipline invites children to figure out their strengths for themselves, allowing their capabilities to shine.

Now, let’s go over six techniques or strategies to help you improve your child’s behavior in a more positive and effective way.

1. Use Positive Reinforcement

More often than not, parents are quick to point out or even punish something their kids did wrong — but not when they did something right or good. Positive reinforcement revolves around acknowledging and praising good behavior to encourage its continuation. Basically, you verbalize your gratitude to your child.

When your child does something well or meets expectations, make sure to recognize it with specific, genuine praise. Say something like “Great job putting away your toys without being reminded!” or “Thank you for playing nicely with the neighbor’s kid.” 

This increases the likelihood of them repeating that good behavior and boosts their self-esteem and motivates them to continue making good choices in general.

2. Listen to Your Child

As with any relationship, communication is key. You can’t have healthy communication without listening to your child.

We’re talking about active listening — paying full attention and acknowledging what your child is saying, rather than just hearing them speak and letting it go out the other ear or brushing it off with a flippant comment.

When you actively listen to your child, they will feel heard and understood, which can prevent tantrums or acting out in order to get attention. Moreover, active listening helps create an open environment where your child feels safe to express their thoughts and feelings.

3. Ask Questions vs Telling

Positive discipline aims to help kids figure out their strengths and capabilities. One of the best ways you can do that while guiding them towards good behavior is to ask questions rather than telling or ordering them to do something.

Ask them questions that allow them to think for themselves and come up with solutions. For example, instead of saying “Clean up your room now,” ask your kid, “What do we need to do first before we can go play outside?” 

By asking questions, you’re giving your child the opportunity to think for themselves and hone their critical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than relying on you for all the answers.

4. Offer Them Choices

Allowing your child to choose what they want is great for developing their self-identity and discovering their likes and passions. Of course, this doesn’t mean giving them free-reign over everything.

What you can do is give them two choices that you’re happy with either way. This gives your child the opportunity to choose when they want to do something while still following through with the task at hand. It also empowers them to make their own decisions and teaches responsibility, while also feeling more in control and independent.

Just be careful about your wording. Avoid giving their choices as an ultimatum — instead, ask them nicely and, if possible, complement their choice.

5. Remove Rewards

It may seem counterintuitive, but rewards can actually hinder positive discipline. Yes, stickers or candy for good behavior gets them to do something now, but a reward system can create a sense of entitlement in children. It essentially trains your kid to do something only if there is something in it for them.

Children may become solely focused on obtaining the reward instead of understanding the value of good behavior. By removing rewards or external incentives, you’re instilling in them the value of doing something because it’s the right thing to do. This helps them develop their own internal motivation or drive to do good.

6. Model Good Behavior

Children are the epitome of “Monkey see, monkey do.” They learn through observation, so make sure to model the behavior you expect from them.

If you want your child to be respectful, patient, and polite, then you need to display those qualities as well. Your actions speak louder than words and serve as a powerful form of positive reinforcement for your kid.

You never know when your child might pick up a mannerism, behavior, or speech pattern. Always be mindful of your actions and your words when you’re with them.

The Bottom Line

It takes time, consistency, and patience to improve child behavior — especially when you’re using positive discipline. It may be the easiest approach, but in the long run, you and your child will thank your methods. Through positive discipline, you’re setting your child up for success and creating a loving and healthier relationship.

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