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Positive discipline means thinking of discipline as a way to guide and teach your child about positive ways to behave. It uses discipline proactively. The goal is to use techniques that encourage your child's sense of responsibility, nurture self-esteem, and strengthen your relationship with your child. This may involve setting limits, explaining why a certain behaviour is wrong and what can be done instead, discussing values, and using distraction, time-out, and natural and logical consequences.
No one technique of discipline works for all situations. The wise parent develops a variety of skills and approaches. Here are some techniques you can try that use discipline in a positive way.
Ignore behaviour that will not harm your child, such as bad habits, whining, and tantrums. Never ignore potentially dangerous behaviour. While it is hard to do nothing, this lack of attention takes away the very audience your child is seeking. Recognize, though, that ignoring annoying behaviour works best if you notice and thank your child when your child behaves well. Behaviour that you ignore tends to decrease, and any behaviour that you pay attention to tends to increase.
Facial expressions and body language can let your child know how disappointed you are in their inappropriate behaviour. Older children can be told that their behaviour has made you feel upset, sad, or angry.
Let the consequence make the point. For example, take away privileges that closely match a child's inappropriate actions.
Try distracting a child who is starting to misbehave. This is sometimes called redirecting. For example, if your child has trouble taking turns with a toy, show your child another toy.
Establish rules and expectations clearly. Then reward your child when rules are followed. For example, when the toys are picked up, you and your child can have story time. When your school-age child comes home from school on time, they can have a friend over.
Help your child to meet your expectations by giving them helpful tools. For example, rearrange space where items regularly are not picked up, such as adding baskets and low hooks for easier cleanup.
Patiently show your child the right way to behave or do a chore.
You can use time-out to respond to dangerous and harmful behaviour such as biting, hitting, and purposeful destruction. It's best to use time-out only when your child is able to understand its meaning. This is usually around age 3 years. Have the child sit in a place where there are no distractions. Explain what they did wrong and how to behave appropriately next time. Keep time-out to 1 minute for every year of age, up to a maximum of 5 minutes. Use a timer. After a time-out, acknowledge when the child behaves correctly.
It is important to continually learn and practice good parenting techniques, using different discipline strategies as your child grows and develops. All discipline techniques must be age-appropriate so that the child understands the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. Babies younger than age 18 months cannot understand these concepts.
Contact your child's doctor if:
You can get other parenting tips from your child's doctor, a local hospital, and national parenting groups.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: John Pope MD - PediatricsKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineLouis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Louis Pellegrino MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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