The very word “discipline” evokes different emotions in adults. We often associate it with experiences of our own childhood, where orders and prohibitions were accompanied by fear. Although the intention of the discipline is to change behaviour for the better, improperly issued messages can harm the relationships with our children and in the long term, bring about the opposite effect to the intended one.
When we think about discipline in the context of children’s behaviour, we usually imagine a general introduction of principles and order according to our rules. However, can discipline be administered with respect, understanding and cooperation from the beginning? Can we discipline without threats, criticism and ruthless enforcement of demands?
Positive discipline according to Jane Nelsen
Jane Nelsen is the author of the book “Positive discipline”. According to her, love and mutual respect are the foundations of effective discipline, accompanied by courtesy and firmness. In turn, adult-child interaction is based on the law of freedom and order, assuming that instead of removal of choice (which is extremely typical in “classical” upbringing methods), the child has limited choice, which takes into account the boundaries of other people.
The most important tasks of positive discipline are noticing and emphasizing the abilities and competencies of our children. This is opposed to the assumption that for children to behave better (according to our pattern), they must first feel worse (they are criticized, have a sense of guilt, are afraid of our reactions). The positive concept encourages the creative creation of rules together with adults, and not following their specific (unknown to the child) plan. By implementing this model, children have a sense of co-creation, participation and belonging to a group. In this way, among other things, they learn that their perception is important, and they know why.
4 criteria for positive discipline
Shaping a sense of belonging and meaningfulness
We all need to feel loved and that we belong. Since man is first and foremost a social being, all our behaviours, including those inappropriate, are ordered, purposeful and focused on achieving social acceptance. If we meet these two basic needs of our child on a regular basis, it is likely that many behaviours considered by adults to be inappropriate will simply disappear. Why on a regular basis? Let’s not forget about the child’s perspective – if one day the mother hugs and is nice, and the next day she screams and is offended, the toddler feels he is in a state of danger, which must be immediately addressed.
Courtesy and firmness
Kindness is an expression of respect for our child, and firmness means respect for ourselves. It is also the ability to adapt to the current situation. Courtesy without firmness leads to excessive indulgence while being firm without politeness expresses the need to control the situation and lacks respect for the child. Courtesy is to a large extent simply expressing understanding of the child’s feelings and being empathetic.
Learning life and social skills
Learning social or life skills is not a goal that we can postpone. As we operate in groups from a very small age, instilling values from an early age will make functioning in our group more pleasant and useful. Positive discipline helps children grow up with a sense of mutual respect, teaches them how to solve problems, how to cooperate with others and communicate their own needs. It is also learning how to be useful at school and at home, and thus building a sense of being needed.
As well as learning to live in society, it is extremely important for our child to be able to identify as an individual. After all, no parent wants their child to blindly follow the views of others. Positive Discipline encourages children to build their own resilience and autonomy and to use these constructively. It teaches them to invent their own solutions and to creatively use all their resources and skills.