Positive Descipline

 Parents use a variety of techniques to enforce rules and to elicit cooperation from their children; some of these techniques are more effective than others. Physical punishment, such as spanking, is generally not effective. It may stop the behavior temporarily, but it tends to breed resentment that leads to even more misbehavior. 

 A more positive approach is to focus on rewarding “good” behavior. Rather than waiting for kids to act out and then jumping at the chance to scold them, try to “catch them doing something right.” Look for opportunities to praise them: “Great job getting your homework done on time,” “Thanks for waiting quietly while I was on the phone,” etc. Everyone knows the old adage that you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, but how many of us apply it on a daily basis? 

 Still, it’s inevitable that your children will misbehave on occasion. When that happens, there are a number of things you can do: 

  • Ignore the behavior  . Surprisingly, if you can manage to ignore relatively minor misbehaviors (e.g., whining) and reward their absence, they will often go away. Naturally, you wouldn’t do this with more severe behaviors (e.g., stealing).
  • Offer a positive incentive  : “If you will stop yelling, we can stay in the store a little longer.”
  • Allow natural consequences to take effect . If a child breaks a toy, it’s not as much fun to play with. If a child is rude to his classmates, they won’t want to play with him. These consequences may be enough to discourage the behavior.
  • Talk with your children  . Give them a chance to explain why they did what they did. Ask them what would be an appropriate consequence; they may actually have good suggestions. Of course, the final decision is up to you.
  • When possible, make the consequence relevant to the behavior : “Since you don’t seem ready to play with that toy responsibly, I’m going to put it away until you’re ready to handle it.” 


    It’s a good idea to set enough limits that your children don’t “run wild,” but not so many that they feel constantly restricted. This can be a tricky balance to achieve, and is one of the many things that makes parenting so challenging.