9 Tips for Practicing Positive Discipline With Your Kids

Mother holds her young child in a green snowsuit in her lap.


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Valerie L. Sizelove375
Freelance writer, mom of four.
There are all kinds of parenting styles out there.
Positive discipline focuses on reinforcing wanted behaviors, instead of punishing unwanted behaviors.
So, instead of being punished for messing up, kids receive attention and praise only for good behavior. This parenting style asserts that the child can’t be good or bad but can rather make good choices.

Is Positive Discipline Effective?

Dr. Jane Nelsen, counselor and "Positive Discipline Series" author thinks so. Basing her work on past studies of positive behavior reinforcement, she came up with her own positive discipline method. It lays out five necessary criteria for disciplinarians:
  1. Be respectful and encouraging.
  2. Build a connection with the child.
  3. Use effective long-term discipline.
  4. Teach social and life skills
  5. Help children discover their own power and use it positively.
Scientific studies show better behavior after positive discipline additions in classroom settings. In one study, students who struggled with behavioral problems decreased their negative behavior after a positive discipline program was started school-wide. 
So, if this positive parenting thing sounds like a good idea to you, you might be looking for ways to add it into your child’s life. We’ll give you some suggestions of how you can begin practicing positive parenting. From useful ways of thinking about discipline to examining different approaches, every parent can take away a better understanding of positive parenting.

Tips for putting positive discipline in practice:

1. Get to know the pros.

You can surely start by reading Dr. Jane Nelsen’s renowned book, "Positive Discipline," but I’d suggest branching your research to other influencers in the field as well. This way you can take a well-rounded approach to positive discipline. Here are some other books and branches of positive discipline:
  • “Transforming Parent-Child Relationships” by Naomi Aldort
  • “The 101s: A Guide to Positive Discipline” by Dr. Katharine Kersey
  • "Love and Logic," an approach by Jim Fay
There are other experts in the field as well, but you’ll probably find that the book market for positive parenting is flooded with books by Dr. Nelsen. Don’t be afraid to take the bits and pieces of different influencers that work best for you and your child.

2. Use positive discipline apps.

Did you know there is a whole host of smartphone positive discipline and parenting apps just waiting to be downloaded at your fingertips? 
We live in a world dominated by technology, so we might as well use it to our advantage. Here are a few apps that can help you put positive discipline changes into practice:
  • Positive Discipline App by Jane Nelsen. This app is available in Spanish and English and helps parents and kids come up with effective solutions to behavioral problems.
  • Today’s Parent. This is a catch-all parenting publication that offers lots of up-to-date tips on discipline, as well as crafts and other goodies for your relationship with your child.
  • Best of Parenting. A go-to guide for parents who need solutions quickly. It may not necessarily emphasize positive parenting, but you can pick and choose which advice you follow from over 500 tips.
  • WOW Parenting. The ultimate course that comes with videos, articles and courses to teach you how to (supposedly) better discipline your child.
Of course, there are many more apps out there that can help you with parenting, and they range from free to pricey in the app stores. The idea is that if you use technology to your advantage, you might be able to more easily implement positive parenting techniques.

3. Look at what's happening in school.

Schools are learning the beneficial effects of positive discipline on student behavior, studies say. 
Think about how many kids are managed at a school. You, as a parent, have just a few (some more than others). Regardless, if schools can manage large droves of children by using positive discipline, you can achieve positive behavioral effects with your brood, too. 

4. Find inspiration in examples.

We all know that feeling: we’re engaged in a power struggle with our child when suddenly we have no idea how to react. We’re ready to rip out our hair. It can feel like we are completely lost in this discipline thing. 
Some of the parenting apps may help you in this area. By studying up on example situations and positive responses, we can be better ready to react in a positive way when the situation arises. Think about common trigger situations, and how you might handle them in advance.

5. Make it age appropriate. 

No matter which discipline method you use, positive or otherwise, it needs to be age-appropriate in order to be effective. 
A toddler can’t be disciplined in the same way as an older child or teenager. Different levels of mental, emotional and social development impact how different forms of discipline impact children.
Make sure that the method you choose to try matches your child’s age and development profile. 

6. Be consistent.

Consistency is key. That’s the saying. Now follow it. 
You have to keep up the positive discipline for the long haul if you want to see results. It’s not about jumping on the parenting fad train and hoping for magical behavior in your children. 
No, it takes work, as any parenting task does. Your continued effort will support the forming of positive habits for both you and your child. 

7. Lead by example.

We’ve heard it a million times, but sometimes it’s easy to forget. Our kids are watching us. We can’t expect to carry out positive discipline if we don’t model the same behavior and treatment of ourselves as we expect from our children. 
Give yourself the same positive attention that you provide your child–this is likely one of the best ways to teach them your positive parenting goals. Watch your self-talk when you make mistakes; try not to punish yourself but instead, embrace positive discipline on yourself as well. 

8. Control yourself, not your child.

In a way, positive discipline is about changing yourself, your parenting style. Traditional authoritarian discipline methods involve anger and hurt, even when it’s not intentional. 
Positive parenting comes down to controlling your reactions to your child’s negative behavior so that the child doesn’t feel rewarded when they behave badly. 

9. Don't forget to have fun with your children.

Above all, positive discipline focuses on allowing yourself to enjoy life with your kids. Play with them, talk to them, have fun with them. It shouldn’t be all about punishment and strict discipline. That can cause mommy guilt (and nobody wants that). 
In the end, you only get one shot at raising them — make sure you find ways to enjoy that time. Positive discipline is an excellent tool in allowing that to happen.

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Valerie Sizelove is a freelance writer of blog posts, career guides and more. Her specialties lie in writing about mental health, administration and parenting. When she's not writing up a storm, you might find Valerie cooking a huge dinner for her family of 6 or tinkering around in her amateur vegetable garden. Books are pretty good, too. You can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.