Positive Discipline : How to Discipline a Child in a Way That Actually Works

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Let’s play a quick word association game.

I will say one word, and you will say the first thing that comes to your mind when you read that word. Don’t think for long. Just say the first word that occurs to you. OK, here we go.




Chances are, when you read “sky” the first word that came to your mind was “blue” or “high”.

When you read “night” you might think of the words “dark” or “day”.

What about “discipline”? What did you think of when you read that? In my case, I would probably have gone with “punishment” or “set right”.

The idea of discipline being synonymous with punishment is ingrained in our psyche. The first thing we think of when we hear the word “discipline” is usually something negative.

However, did you know that the word discipline originates from the Latin word ‘disciplina’ which means teaching, which in turn comes from ‘discipulus’ which literally translates to pupil?

Yet, I can bet that very few who tried the little exercise above would have thought “teach” when they first read the word “discipline”.

For whatever reason, over the years, discipline has gone from meaning “to teach” to “to punish”!

Today we explore “positive discipline” an idea that focuses on reverting things back to the roots – when children do something wrong, instead of punishing them, parents teach and guide them to set the behavior right.

So, how do we go back from “to punish” to “to teach”? In small baby steps, of course!

Here are a few tips to get started, and by following some of these (pick a subset of the ones that work for you), slowly we can change our perspective about “discipline”.

Think about that for a minute and you will realize how true the statement is. This is the basic premise of the positive discipline concept. Once we as parents recognize that inherently our kids are not bad, they are just behaving badly, the rest of it will slowly fall in place.

For instance, suppose your child hits another child. The first thing you feel is probably embarrassment and shame, followed closely by a fear that your child may have a “mean” streak. If you go with that feeling and call your child a “bad girl” or “naughty boy” you reinforce the negative image of your child both in your own mind and in your child’s.

Your child may just be hungry/sleepy/tired or any of the hundred different stress triggers that may have made her act out. In other words, something in your child’s environment is influencing your child to behave badly. When we accept that it was just a behavior that was bad, and the child herself is fine – For instance, instead of screaming, “Why did you do that? I don’t understand how you can be so mean sometimes” you will be in a much better situation to say “That wasn’t the best behavior – we do not hit our friends”.

At this point, I have to admit, I have a pretty strong-willed child and this will likely just get a “back answer” from her (or the water works, if she is already feeling guilty about it), but in her mind (and my own), I have planted the seed that she is not bad, it was just bad behavior, and it becomes easy for both of us to deal with it.

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