In the last post, I wrote about the difference between discipline and punishment, an important distinction for positive parenting.
Some observers watch practitioners of positive guidance and in accurately label it as passive parenting. While positive guidance is anything but passive, I don’t doubt that some people who aspire to positive parenting end up in the passive category by default. They grasp the first concept — avoiding negative, punitive measures to control child behavior — but fail to build the tools for positive guidance. To remove the negative, but omit the positive would garner a neutral result. A passive approach.
In my ebook, Parenting with Positive Guidance, I introduce ten tools for guiding behavior (you can get a sneak peek here). This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a list of common tools I use almost every day. Different tools work better with different children and in different seasons.
Sometimes I find myself repeatedly stating limits and offering choices. Other times I need to redirect to more appropriate outlets. In some of my most frustrated moments I made a breakthrough when I finally learned how to appropriately disengage, while in other situations I simply needed to diffuse the moment with some humor.
But one thing remains the same. When I am more conscious of the tools I have to choose from, and more aware of my responsibility to guide and teach, I am better able to meet each child and each behavior in a meaningful, personal, effective way.
I’m sure each of you has your own bag of tricks for positively guiding child behavior, and each of us could always stand to add one more to the toolbox. So I’m asking you to share your secrets. What is one of your go-to tools for guiding child behavior? When and how do you use it? What approaches have surprised you with their effectiveness?
You never know when your old standard might be just the tool another person’s looking for.
Top photo by Evan.
Louise @ Tales from the Sandpit says
Hi Amanda, yes, you are right of course, different strategies for different children at different points in time – but I have found that a pleasantly disengaged response works with a couple of children whose refusal to participate or to comply with group requirements (nothing onerous and always framed in flexible and positive, encouraging ways) seemed only to be fueled by the extra encouragement and support previously offered on an individual basis. In other words, ” it’s your choice (when it really is) but the only person who is missing out is you”. Sometimes this can be verbalised as clearly as that. Obviously the child has to be at a certain age and level of cognitive and emotional and social development for the words to sink in, but the idea of “it’s your choice (when it really can be a choice) – your freedom to choose” – is actually a very powerful one.
Thanks again for your thought provoking articles!
I love your script for disengaging. I’ll have to use that one! Disengaging in the right way really has been just the thing for me, especially with those who really just want to argue or who are getting their “pay-off” by pushing your buttons. Disengaging in the right way (and especially in the way you described) reminds the child that there are boundaries, but the choice — and the consequences — are theirs to own. Great suggestion!
I am a big fan of humor as a means to diffuse a volatile situation, prevent a tantrum, or redirect attention. A well-placed zerbert can sometimes make the difference between a melt-down and a giggle fest. I also find that acknowledging my preschoolers’ emotions and giving them a chance to come up with ideas to “make it better” works well. For example, I often say things like, “Wow, you are really frustrated right now. I know it’s disappointing when we can’t (do the activity he/she wanted to do, etc). What is something else fun that we could do together?”
Thanks for being such a great resource! I always look forward to reading. Your “Discipline vs. Punishment” post was in my inbox on a day when I’d been criticized by a friend for not using spanking as a discipline tool and gave me some needed encouragement to continue being a positive parent. Thank you!
Abby, thanks for the great suggestions! Your sample script for validating emotions and coaching through problem solving is so spot-on. I’m glad these posts have been useful for you. Hearing your feedback makes it so worthwhile for me!
Elizabeth Merce says
Although I am not a parent, I am a preschool teacher and I try to lead my students to self-discipline through positive guidance. I have often taught classes to fellow teachers and parents on how to use the idea of positive guidance/ discipline in those situations where you feel the urge to run back to punishment. I was lucky enough to have attended Old Dominion University where one of my instructors actually came up with a list (that she now promotes in books, videos, etc.) on easy ways to use positive discipline. Here is a link to her “101s” http://www.odu.edu/~kkersey/101s/101principles.shtml. I have found that they give people a practical way to use a theory that they want to use, but which is not yet second nature. We suggest finding those that make you most comfortable and adding to your list as those become habit.
Thank you for your amazing website. I have shared it with many parents and teachers!
Thanks for the great link, Elizabeth. I think that may find its way to Weekend Reads this weekend! I especially love the “Connect Before You Correct” principle. Your advice to pick just a few to work on to create good habits is an important reminder. Small steps to big changes seems to be one of the best routes. Thank you for being an advocate for positive guidance. Your students, their parents, and your fellow teachers are fortunate to have you and your expertise.
Great suggestions! It cracks me up that many examples are given of how to also use the principle with your spouse! And even funnier that I have actually done some of them before.
I thought the same thing, Shereen! Made me chuckle. Just goes to show that really good principles are those that can be applied in many ways!
Elizabeth Merce says
I brought my husband to one of Dr. Kersey’s seminars and about half way through I noticed he was staring at me. When I asked him what was wrong he said “you use these on me!” I really think that positivity is for ALL areas of life and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. Needless to say he now uses some on me!
So funny….and so true!
I am a Masters in Elementary Ed student and I have two young children. I find your blog to be a wonderful resource. I loved your Dicispline and Punishment post yesterday. You explained the idea so concisely and respectfully.
Reading this post today made me think of one of my favorite articles:
It always makes me laugh when I read it, but it has some good advice.
That was an interesting article, Catherine. Thanks for sharing!
My favorite strategy is to give a new and creative perspective to difficult situations. I have two examples:
Once in an airplane a kid (bored and angry after 10 hours flight) turned round and started shooting at me with his hand and fingers from the front seat. I said “Oh! You´re showering your love on me in such a powerful way!” He looked quite puzzled for a second and then gave me the sweetest smile I´ve ever seen.
Last Sunday a child was very restless in a birthday party and he was pushing other kids inside the wooden play house in the backyard. I knew just asking him to calm down would not work, so I told him: “Listen, now all kids must get out of here because I´m afraid you might get hurt. I see you are strong and determined. Would you like to become a kind door guardian?” He loved the idea and happily accepted the challenge… for a few mintues! Then he left to continue playing with his friends and the danger situation was over.
A change in perspective can do wonders for all of us! Thanks for sharing your ideas!