If you asked a room full of parents to name their least favorite part of parenting, discipline is probably near or at the top of the list.

And yet making mistakes and acting out are a foundational part of a child’s development.

It’s so conflicting, isn’t it?

You want your kids to do better – but you don’t want to resort to traditional discipline methods like yelling, nagging, or lecturing to get there. 

If only there were some positive parenting tools you could use to help kids understand the consequences of their actions and do the right thing…. that’s where positive discipline comes in!

This is a parenting philosophy based on encouragement, empowerment, and mutual respect. The focus is on finding solutions to misbehavior other than punishment.

It’s about helping kids learn from their mistakes.

 

“When you know better, you do better.”

– Maya Angelou 

 

When traditional punitive discipline is used, a child is often so focused on their parent’s anger they can’t absorb the lesson you’re trying to teach.

Plus it’s hard for kids to learn how to manage emotions effectively if their parents are not modeling this for them. 

Research shows that children raised with negative discipline tend to be more anxious, depressed, and aggressive. They also struggle socially and academically. 

Bottom line, punishment focuses on what not to do, while positive discipline teaches children what to do in a kind, respectful, and empowering way. 

These positive discipline tools can turn mistakes into teachable moments that help kids understand consequences and make better decisions.

 

Positive Parenting Tools For Gentle Discipline

 

Replace ‘Time-Out’ With ‘Time-In’:

Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual, so many of us resort to the parenting techniques our own parents used on us. 

The traditional practice of sending a child off to their room or a corner to “think about what they’ve done” is one such method.

Trouble is, research has shown that children experience time-outs as rejection. And it’s feeling CONNECTION, not rejection that makes kids want to behave. 

Time-outs also tell kids you only want to be around them when they’re on their best behavior, which we’re pretty sure isn’t true. It can make a child feel like they have to act a certain way to deserve your love.

 

“Being a positive role model is a choice to love with no agenda.”

– Lauren Magers, @thelaurenmagers

 

One of the positive parenting tools experts suggest trying instead is a TIME-IN. 

This involves a parent sitting with their child who is removed from the situation while talking to them about what happened. 

By doing this you’re showing your little one you won’t reject them because they broke a vase or scribbled on the table. And they have a quiet space to calm down and talk about how to make better choices next time.

 

Explain ‘The ‘Why’:

When we discipline our children, it’s important to explain the WHY.

Children need to learn from their mistakes. And in order to do that, they need to understand why we expect certain actions and why their actions have CONSEQUENCES. 

Instead of “Sit down in that chair!”, try saying…  “You need to sit on the chair because if you stand you might fall and get hurt.”

If we tell kids not to do something without explaining the why, we’re missing out on the critical teachable moment of the instruction. 

 

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A great parenting tool that encourages kids to do the right thing is to Take Time For Training!  

Show kids how to behave appropriately, discuss what’s expected and explain why they should do it. 

Yes, training takes extra time – but it helps kids understand the value of a behavior and it will mean less disciplining for you in the long run.

 

positive parenting tools
Getty Images

 

Allow Natural Consequences:

Allowing natural consequences to occur is another powerful positive parenting tool. 

What we mean by this is any consequence that happens naturally, with no adult interference.

For example, if you forget your homework – you get a zero on that assignment.

The trick for using natural consequences effectively is to not do anything that adds more blame, shame, or pain than the child might experience naturally from the experience. 

Many parents have a bad habit of piling a lecture or punishment on top of the consequence, which invalidates the lesson. 

Instead of making the connection between their action and the consequence, your kids will focus more on the guilt of letting you down, or on defending themselves from blame.

 

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Show empathy and understanding for what your child is experiencing: “I’ll bet it was hard to get a zero on that assignment.”

When it seems appropriate, you could add, “I love you and know you can keep this from happening again.” 

In this way you encourage your child to be accountable and develop a sense of capability. They’ll avoid the same missteps next time to prevent the same natural consequence from happening.

It’s hard sometimes as a parent to step back and let kids discover natural consequences, but it’s one of those valuable parenting skills worth cultivating.

 

Frame Mistakes As Opportunities:

Think back to your own childhood. What was the message your parents and teachers gave you about mistakes?

Was it okay to make them? Or were you “stupid”, “wrong”, or “bad” for not doing what they expected?

When parents and teachers give children negative messages about mistakes, they usually mean well. They think they’re motivating that child to do better next time.

But are they? Is feeling stupid, wrong, or bad truly motivational? We don’t think so.

A lot of the traditional way of thinking about mistakes comes from fear.

Parents are afraid if they don’t inflict guilt, blame, shame, etc. they are being permissive, and allowing negative behaviors to continue. 

But there is another way!  It’s not permissive, and it motivates children to make better choices without damaging their self-worth.

Teach children to see mistakes as great opportunities to learn.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for kids to hear an adult say, “You made a mistake, that’s totally okay. What can we learn from it?” 

And yes, I meant “we”.  Lots of mistakes happen because we didn’t take the time to set clear expectations or offer training and encouragement. 

Children need consistent exposure to the value of mistakes, and the opportunity to learn from them in a safe environment. 

This is how kids develop resilience, better decision-making skills, and the courage to try new things … when they can connect with us and learn from their mistakes.

 

RELATED: Raising kids who don’t quit – growth mindset parenting

 

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