Positive discipline is about teaching and guiding instead of punishing. When parents use loving guidance and positive discipline their children are more likely to behave in positive ways.
In order to use loving guidance and positive discipline, parents must:
- Know what behaviour to expect for their child's age and stage
- Create a positive learning environment by responding to their child's needs
- Listen to their child and encourage their child to share their feelings
- Provide a safe and interesting environment
- Take care of themselves so they have the energy to be patient and consistent
The most important thing for parents to remember is to relax and not worry about making mistakes. All parents learn by trial and error. Parents should try to respond to their child in a warm and sensitive way most of the time.
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Positive Discipline Tips
Babies want to explore their environment. This is a part of growth and development and not a way of misbehaving. Babies cannot understand the difference between right and wrong so they cannot "misbehave" on purpose. Parents can start using loving guidance and positive discipline when their child is still a baby.
Create a Safe and Interesting Environment
The environment that a baby spends most of their time in should be baby-proofed, especially when they begin to crawl. This creates an environment where parents can be relaxed and babies can explore without the risk of getting hurt.
Try to Anticipate a Baby's Needs
Parents should look for signs that their baby is hungry or tired or that they need less or more stimulation. This will allow parents to be prepared before their baby's behaviour and emotions get out of control.
Distract Babies Instead of Setting Rules
Babies have short attention spans and can usually be distracted from an activity or object that's not allowed.
Babies experience less stress when routines are followed. They are calmer when they know what will happen next. Setting routines with babies and children will help them feel safe and secure.
Have Realistic Expectations
Babies do not deliberately misbehave. They are only responding in a natural way.
Help Babies Deal With Separation Anxiety
Between eight months and a year, babies may start to be afraid when they are apart from their parents. Parents can teach babies that they will always come back by:
- Playing peek-a-boo to help develop their baby’s memory
- Letting their baby explore and make their own choices to develop independence
- Singing or talking when they are in another room
- Starting with short separations and gradually staying away longer
- Being patient and encouraging
- Developing a goodbye routine:
- Say goodbye, then leave promptly
- Do not show signs of guilt, hesitancy or uncertainty about leaving
- Stay calm
- Make a happy return
One to Two Year Olds
At this stage, most children want to be independent. They will want to make their own decisions and do things on their own. Parents should continue to use loving guidance and positive discipline.
Set Reasonable Expectations
Parents should try to use parenting strategies that match their child's stage of development, personality and needs.
Use Positive Language
Instead of saying "You can't go outside until you put on your hat," parents can say "You can play outside after you put on your hat." Using positive words in place of negative words makes it more likely that a child will respond in a positive way.
Set Predictable Routines and Rituals
Consistent routines help children learn to expect what comes next. Children of this age are more likely to co-operate with a familiar routine.
Keep Requests Simple
Children are not capable of complex reasoning at this age. If a child does not understand a request, parents should rephrase it so their child can understand.
Distract Children Instead of Getting Upset
Parents can develop a positive relationship with their child by redirecting and distracting them when they misbehave.
If a child is about to touch something they should not touch parents should:
- Go to them
- Take them by the hand
- Look them in the eye and get their attention
- Talk to them in a calm, firm voice and offer another activity
Sibling rivalry is normal and happens more often if children are less than three years apart in age. Parents should allow normal bickering and play fighting between siblings. Eventually they will learn to get along and will protect each other.
The Good News About Sibling Rivalry
Sibling rivalry helps children learn how to:
- Handle arguments
- Talk out problems instead of fighting
- Handle frustration and anger
- Understand how others feel
Help a Child Accept Their New Sibling
Children may be jealous when a new baby is brought home. This is normal. Parents can help their older child by making sure that they know they are still important.
Parents can help their older child accept their new baby by:
- Trying not to change the older child's routine right before or after the birth of a sibling
- Telling the older child how much the new baby loves them
- Asking the older child to help care for the new baby
- Continuing to set up play dates for the older child
- Spending time alone with the older child each day
- Not using the new baby as a reason to change plans with the older child
Help Siblings get Along
Parents can use positive discipline and loving discipline to help their children get along by:
- Praising their children when they play nicely and work out their disagreements peacefully
- Not taking sides in disagreements
- Not asking who started the argument or placing blame
- Encouraging their children to talk to each other about their feelings
- Encouraging their children to work together to solve problems
- Setting a good example by problem solving with their partner
- Not showing favouritism
A child cannot really understand how to share until age four. It takes time for children to learn how to share.
Sharing With Toddlers
Young toddlers believe that everything belongs to them, even if it does not. Toddlers will grab whatever they want and cannot understand the needs of others.
Parents can encourage their toddlers to learn to share by letting them play beside other children. This will teach children that some things belong to them and some things belong to others.
Sharing With Preschoolers
By age three, preschoolers spend a lot of their play time deciding who will have what, who will do what and who can play together. This type of play forms the social skills needed for friendship.
By age four, preschoolers start to enjoy sharing. They can understand the concept of "now" and "later" and are able to wait for their turn. Preschoolers can now control their need to grab something from another child. They can also understand another child's point of view. They can now share.
Teaching Children to Share
Parents can encourage their children to share by:
- Sharing with their child so that they can see how nice it is
- Letting their child see them sharing with others
- Letting their child play beside other children (with enough room for each child to play alone with their toys)
- Praising their child when they allow other children to play with their toys
- Encouraging their child to share a different toy if they do not want to share the one they are playing with
- Giving their child another toy to play with when they want the toy of another child
- Putting away toys that are special to their child when other children are visiting
- Being patient
Temper tantrums normally happen when children are one to three years of age. Some children have tantrums all the time and other children only have tantrums once in a while.
Causes of Temper Tantrums
Children have tantrums when they start to become independent. They still need their parents, but they also want to have their own way.
A child may have a tantrum because:
- They do not understand why their parent wants them to stop doing one thing and to start doing another
- They do not know how to talk about their feelings so they show them physically
- They feel over stimulated, tired, hungry or frustrated
- They want their parent’s attention
- They have learned from past experience that they will get what they want when they have a tantrum
Avoiding Temper Tantrums
Parents can reduce the chance of a temper tantrum by:
- Making sure their child doesn't get too tired or too hungry
- Making sure their child does not get bored
- Encouraging their child to talk about what they are feeling, especially if they are getting restless
- Giving their child a few minutes warning before changing activities
- Talking in a gentle but firm voice and ignoring their child’s protests
- Creating a safe environment for their child to explore and learn in
- Consistently enforcing rules, especially rules that protect their child’s safety
- Rewarding their child’s good behaviour with plenty of praise and attention
- Remembering to manage their own feelings
It is normal for children to have fears. Learning how to handle them is an important part of a child’s development. Parents can help their children cope with fear by making them feel safe when they are afraid.
Helping Children Deal With Their Fears
Although a child's fears may not be rational, parents must take them seriously because they are real to the child.
Parents can comfort their child and make them feel safe by:
- Staying calm because getting upset will only make their child more afraid
- Placing a night light in their room if they are afraid of the dark
- Keeping babies away from sudden loud noises
- Praising their child when they face their fears successfully
- Comforting their child when they are afraid by hugging them and being close by
- Reading stories or acting out situations that will help their child deal with their fear
- Talking to their child about their fears
- Avoiding movies and television that could make their child afraid
- Helping their child to understand that movies and television are not real
Nightmares and Night Terrors
Anything that upsets a child can give them nightmares and night terrors.
What to do When a Nightmare Happens
Parents can help calm their child down after a nightmare by:
- Immediately going to their child and comforting them
- Staying calm because getting upset will only make their child more afraid
- Telling their child that the dream is not real and that they are safe and protected
- Staying with their child until they fall asleep again
What to do When a Night Terror Happens
If a child has a night terror, parents should be careful not to wake them. Parents can help their child by:
- Turning on the lights and telling their child softly that they are safe
- Gently guiding the child back to bed if they get up and start walking
- Staying close by and keeping their child safe
- Not trying to wake their child, this will frighten them more and make the night terror last longer
Preventing Nightmares and Night Terrors
Parents can help their child have a better sleep by:
- Making their child's bedtime routines quiet and calm
- Reading books with pleasant topics
- Talking with their child about good things that happened during the day
- Using a night light and keeping the door to their child's room open
- Reassuring their child that they are safe
- Checking the places where their child thinks monsters are hiding