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Positive Discipline

disciplineSept 25, 2013 Positive DisciplineHow do young children learn self-control, self-help, ways to get along with others, and family and school procedures? Such learning occurs when parents and teachers of infants, toddlers, or preschoolers are continuously involved in setting limits, encouraging desired behaviors, and making decisions about managing children.

When making these decisions, caregivers often ask themselves these questions: Am I disciplining in a way that hurts or helps this child’s self-esteem? Will my discipline help the child develop self-control? This digest suggests methods and language that can be used in handling common situations involving young children.

Methods of Discipline that Promote Self Worth

Show that you recognize and accept the reason the child is doing what, in your judgment, is the wrong thing:

  • “You want to play with the truck but…”
  • “You want me to stay with you but…”

This validates the legitimacy of the child’s desires and illustrates that you are an understanding person. It also is honest from the outset: The adult is wiser, in charge, not afraid to be the leader, and occasionally has priorities other than those of the child.

State the “but”:

  • “You want to play with the truck, but Jerisa is using it right now.”
  • “You want me to stay with you, but right now I need to (go out, help Jill, serve lunch, etc.).”

This lets the child know that others have needs, too. It teaches perspective taking and may lead the child to develop the ability to put himself in other people’s shoes. It will also gain you the child’s respect, for it shows you are fair. And it will make the child feel safe; you are able to keep him safe.

Offer a solution:

  • “Soon you can play with the truck.”

One-year-olds can begin to understand “just a minute” and will wait patiently if we always follow through 60 seconds later. Two- and three-year-olds can learn to understand, “I’ll tell you when it’s your turn,” if we always follow through within two or three minutes. This helps children learn how to delay gratification but does not thwart their short-term understanding of time.
Often, it’s helpful to say something indicating your confidence in the child’s ability and willingness to learn:

  • “When you get older I know you will (whatever it is you expect).”
  • “Next time you can (restate what is expected in a positive manner).”

This affirms your faith in the child, lets her know that you assume she has the capacity to grow and mature, and transmits your belief in her good intentions.
In some situations, after firmly stating what is not to be done, you can demonstrate how we do it, or a better way:

  • “We don’t hit. Pat my face gently.” (Gently stroke).
  • “Puzzle pieces are not for throwing. Let’s put them in their places together.” (Offer help).

This sets firm limits, yet helps the child feel that you two are a team, not enemies.

Toddlers are not easy to distract, but frequently they can be redirected to something that is similar but OK. Carry or lead the child by the hand, saying,

  • “That’s the gerbil’s paper. Here’s your paper.”
  • “Peter needs that toy. Here’s a toy for you.”

This endorses the child’s right to choose what she will do, yet begins to teach that others have rights, too.

Avoid accusation. Even with babies, communicate in respectful tones and words. This prevents a lowering of the child’s self -image and promotes his tendency to cooperate.

For every no, offer two acceptable choices:

  • “No! Rosie cannot bite Esther. Rosie can bite the rubber duck or the cracker.”
  • “No, Jackie. That book is for teachers. You can have this book or this book.”

This encourages the child’s independence and emerging decision-making skills, but sets boundaries. Children should never be allowed to hurt each other. It’s bad for the self-image of the one who hurts and the one who is hurt.

If children have enough language, help them express their feelings, including anger, and their wishes. Help them think about alternatives and solutions to problems. Adults should never fear children’s anger:

  • “You’re mad at me because you’re so tired. It’s hard to feel loving when you need to sleep. When you wake up, I think you’ll feel more friendly.”
  • “You feel angry because I won’t let you have candy. I will let you choose a banana or an apple. Which do you want?”

This encourages characteristics we want to see emerge in children, such as awareness of feelings and reasonable assertiveness, and gives children tools for solving problems without unpleasant scenes.




Focus as a whole can be divided into two different categories. The first could be referred to as single-point focus. This is the kind of focus that you need in a combat situation or something similar, which is why it is taught so prevalently in the martial arts. This kind of focus is about putting all of your attention on a single thing that is happening in the present. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about combat. It could be driving or finishing your homework. The point is, you are placing all of your attention on the specific skills necessary to complete the task at hand.

Jonathan Metcalf http://www.integritymartialarts.com/


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Focus as a whole can be divided into two different categories. The second type of focus is similar, but it is more long term. This kind of focus is about sticking with a goal until the task is completed. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a goal that is years away. It could be about completing a task that takes five minutes. It’s not uncommon for children to lack this kind of focus. A parent might as their child to put their shoes on and get ready to go for a drive, and ten minutes later they will discover that their child is reading a magazine with one of their shoes on. This is the kind of focus that allows an individual to complete one short term task, and it is also very important. Jonathan Metcalf http://www.integritymartialarts.com/

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