At times, parenting can feel like an endless series of conversations and battles. Taking a positive discipline approach to struggles and challenges can give more meaning to the interactions parents have during these challenging times with children.
The key is to keep the long-term goals for your child in mind by asking: Which characteristics would I like my child to have when he/she is 25? Common responses typically include characteristics such as: empathy, responsibility, independence, happiness, resilience, flexibility and effective communication skills. By focusing on the end goal, behaviour challenges can turn into wonderful opportunities to teach valuable social and life skills.
Typically, parents feel that misbehaviour requires some form of punishment. Although punishment for misbehaviour may indeed provide a temporary quick fix for the problem, it does not help the child develop future life skills. Punishment often leads to rebellion (“they can’t make me”) revenge (“I’ll get even”) and retreat (“I must be a bad person” or “I just won’t get caught next time”). In addition, when focusing on punishment, parents often overlook the core perception or mistaken belief that is causing the misbehaviour, which the child may not even realise.
Alternatively, using a positive discipline approach to misbehaviour can turn the experience into an opportunity to learn. Positive discipline is never humiliating, does not blame, shame or cause any pain. All mistakes are viewed as opportunities and therefore help children to grow and develop useful life skills. From this perspective, allowing our children to make mistakes while the price tag is small is favorable. Furthermore, positive discipline requires five criteria in order to be effective:
It should be both kind and firm at the same time; not too permissive yet respectful and encouraging.
It should help children feel a sense of belonging and significance.
It should be effective long-term.
It should teach valuable social and life skills.
It should invite children to discover how capable they are and to use their power constructively.
When experiencing a conflict with your child, take some time to notice the typical discipline methods used and reflect on what he or she is learning from these methods. Remembering to keep the end goal in mind will help parents make more thoughtful decisions and respond in a meaningful, empowering and respectful way.