8 steps to positive discipline

Build healthier relationships and improve behaviour in the long term with a positive approach to discipline. Remember: when you are old your children will be caring for you.

Early Childhood Education

You catch more flies with honey than vinegar

Whether you are struggling to get your child to do their distance learning or just want to improve your day to day interactions with your child, the following ideas will help you maintain discipline without harming your long term relationship with your child.

1. Redirect your child’s attention

Solution written on chalk board

Instead of using the word ‘No’ straight away, try and redirect your child’s attention. If your child is going to do something you don’t want them to, before using ‘no’ try and redirect their attention to something else (make it sound exciting, so they are more inclined to do it). For example, when your child is about to throw something instead of saying ‘no don’t throw that’ try and use positive language like ‘Oh, you want to play with a car? Why don’t you roll it to me?” Showing children what they can do rather than what they can’t, focusing on solutions with your child as opposed to punishment is a step in the right direction for positive disciplining.

2. Tone, emotions and empathy

Meditating woman Keeping a calm, but firm tone when communicating during a tantrum or break down, will help you with your child. If you raise your voice or get angry, your child may continue to cry and get worse. However if you keep calm, it will help your child calm down and you will be able to communicate in a fair positive way.

3. Reflect and reason

Child looking in mirror If your child is old enough, it is really important to reflect on the situation after they have stopped a tantrum. Once they have had time to calm down and they are ready to listen and speak with you, you can say ‘When you throw that toy, it makes me feel sad, do you think it was a good idea?’ By asking them about the situation, they are able to reflect on their behaviour. You can use language like ‘thinking time’ or ‘reflection time’; being consistent with language will also support these situations. However once you have reflected on the scenario it is important to then let it go and do not continue to bring it up or hold a grudge.

4. Offer choices and positive attention

Road signs Children need to feel like they have choices, so if your child struggles in the morning with getting ready and choosing clothes try giving them choices. Keep in mind, though, that you don’t want your child to have too many choices as this could cause more problems! By limiting the choices (e.g. giving them 2 outfit choices, or choosing 2 toys) you are still letting them feel like they are in control but keeping their options within reason. Young children feel emotionally secure when they have your attention, so give your child small tasks to boost their confidence, say ‘I need your help, can you help me get the book.’ When children can contribute, they feel significant and capable and when they feel those things they are more likely to follow instructions and listen.

5. Consequences and consistency

Crying child Consistency is crucial to how your child will behave, react and express emotions. Using consistent language with your child will support them and help set those natural boundaries and expectations. It is also important that you are consistent with your reactions: although it can be difficult to always keep calm, making sure your reactions are consistent will support your child in the future. The other key tip is: if you are giving your child consequences you must follow through with them but also make sure they are reasonable; don’t make rash decisions. If your child is acting out and you tell them ‘That is very sad, because you hit your sister, we can’t go to the park.’ You then must follow through with the consequence, because if you don’t the next time you use the same consequence your child might not believe you will follow through because you haven’t before.

6. Give them a voice

Child speaking into microphone Children need to feel empowered and heard. By giving them the opportunity to voice and express their feelings, thoughts and questions you are encouraging open communication. Having open communication where children feel empowered to share their opinion may help in future melt downs. Reflecting is a very important skill for a child and their future; if they learn to reflect at a young age they will be able to incorporate it into their adult life.

7. Quality time

Woman reading to child

If you have just welcomed a new baby into the house, your other child might be feeling a little left out and therefore acting out (not their normal behaviour, which is understandable). Change is difficult for everyone, especially children, who sometimes don’t have the language to express their thoughts and feelings. Make sure that you set aside quality time for your older child, it can be just ‘their’ time with mummy/daddy. For example, set aside 15 minutes every evening before bed to sit with them independently and share a book.

8. Role model

Man and child holding hands You are your child’s biggest role model; children learn so much of their behaviour from you! When you engage with your child, express your feelings or react to situations keep in mind your child feeds off your feelings and is learning to react themselves.

Tip of the moment; whilst your child is at home doing ‘online learning’

Create a visual timeline with key routines for the day; getting up and changing into their clothes, online learning, lunch, play time. By doing this you are supporting your child using a visual timeline of their day. As the children aren’t at school at the moment it can be demotivating for them being out of their usual daily routine. You can use your own photographs (take photos of them doing the different routines) or draw them - both these ideas your child can be part of. These are some of the labels we use to build visual timelines for our classes at Avendale: Visual timeline labels