Summary: Positive Discipline is a program based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs and designed to encourage young people to become responsible, respectful and resourceful members of their communities. Based on the best selling Positive Discipline books by Dr. Jane Nelsen, Positive Discipline employs non-punitive methods for teaching valuable social and life skills in a manner that is respectful and encouraging for both children and adults (parents, teachers, childcare providers, youth workers, and others).
Try a silent (secret) signal. (Kids love the secret part—especially when they have helped create it.) Creating silent signals can be part of “taking time for training” (another great tool card).
The Positive Discipline Tool Card of "Control Your Behavior" is sometimes easier said than done. Have you ever lost control of your behavior with your children? Listen to the following audio excerpt from Building Self-Esteem Through Positive Discipline as I discuss a time when I completely lost control with my daughter.
Imagine you are an employee who has made a mistake, and your boss comes to you and says, “You go to time-out and think about what you have done. And don’t come out until I say you can.” Or, if you are married, imagine your spouse coming to you and saying, “I don’t like your behavior. You are grounded for a week.” In either of these scenario’s what would you be thinking, feeling, and deciding. Is there any chance that you would say, “Oh, thank you so much. This is so helpful. I’m feeling so encouraged and empowered and can hardly wait to do better.” Not likely.
One of the most encouraging things parents can do for their children is to spend regular, scheduled special time with them. You may already spend lots of time with your children. However there is a difference between have to time, casual time, and scheduled special time.
Have you ever tried talking with your children only to be frustrated by one word, unenthusiastic, totally bored responses? Many parents become discouraged when they ask their children, “How was your day?” and their children say, “Fine.” Then they ask, “What did you do today?” The response is, “Nothing.” Try closet listening.
Some of you may know that a Hug is one of my favorite Positive Discipline Tools. During this podcast you will understand why as I interview Beth Whitehead after she sent me the following success story.
Extensive research shows that we cannot influence children in a positive way until we create a connection with them. It is a brain (and heart) thing. Sometimes we have to stop dealing with the misbehavior and first heal the relationship.
When your child becomes a teenager, it is not uncommon for them to become defiant. They will often contradict you and even try to sabotage your best efforts to create a harmonious family life. This can be very discouraging to parents and usually results in constant power struggles.
A Positive Discipline Tool Card Rudolf Dreikurs taught, “A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.” In other words, encouragement is essential. Children may not die without encouragement, but they certainly wither. Since encouragement is so essential, it would be good for parents to know what encouragement means and how to do it. Let’s start with the difference between praise and encouragement. It would be helpful to download the file "Differences Between Praise and Encouragement". Is it Praise or Encouragement? Research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. a professor at Columbia University, has now proven what Adler taught years ago. Praise is not good for children. Dweck found that praise can hamper risk taking. Children who were praised for being smart when they accomplished a task chose easier tasks in the future. They didn’t want to risk making mistakes. On the other hand, children who were “encouraged” for their efforts were willing to choose more challenging tasks when given a choice. As Dreikurs said, “Encourage the deed [or effort], not the doer.” In other words, instead of, “You got an A, I’m so proud of you,” try, “Congratulations! You worked hard. You deserve it.” A subtle difference, but it will change the perception of your child. The differences between encouragement and praise can be difficult to grasp for those who believe in praise and have seen immediate results. They have seen children respond to praise with beaming faces. However, they don’t think about the long-term effects. Praise is not encouraging because it teaches children to become “approval junkies.” They learn to depend on others to evaluate their worth. Encouragement leads to self reflection and self evaluation. Now let's get back to the fact that children like praise. (So do I.) Praise is a like candy. A little can be very satisfying. Too much can cause problems. Awareness is the key. Notice if your kids are becoming addicted to praise—need it all the time. Those who want to change from praise to encouragement may find it awkward to stop and think before making statements that have become habitual. It will help to keep the following questions in mind when wondering whether the statements you make to children are praise or encouragement: Am I inspiring self-evaluation or dependence on the evaluation of others?Am I being respectful or patronizing? Am I seeing the child’s point of view or only my own? Would I make this comment to a friend?I have found the last question especially helpful. The comments we make to friends usually fit the criteria for encouragement. How to Encourage Encouragement is helping your children develop courage—courage to grow and develop into the people they want to be, to feel capable, to be resilient, to enjoy life, to be happy, contributing members of society, and, as Dreikurs said, “To have the courage to be imperfect;” to feel free to make mistakes and to learn from them. Positive Discipline tools such as the following are designed to be encouraging to children: Family Meetings where children learn to give and receive compliments and learn to brainstorm for solutions to problems.Curiosity Questions to invite children how to think instead of what to think—and to give them a sense of choice to use their personal power for social responsibility.Letting Go so children have opportunities to learn and grow—mistakes and all.Show Faith in children so they can develop faith in themselves.Spending Special Time to make sure the message of love gets through.The successful use of encouragement requires adult attitudes of respect, interest in the child’s point of view, and a desire to provide opportunities for children to develop life skills that will lead to self-confident independence from the negative opinions of others. Subscribe to Positive Discipline by Email
When children are misbehaving, they are speaking to adults in code? A misbehaving child is a discouraged child. The primary goal of all children is to feel a sense of belonging and significance. Too often they form a mistaken belief about how to seek belonging and significance—as explained in the Mistaken Goal Chart. Unless adults know how to break the code—children usually experience the opposite of belonging and significance. Click on this link: Mistaken Goal Chart so you can follow along as I explain the code. How you “feel” in response to the misbehavior provides the first clue to your child’s discouragement. You heard right. Your feelings help you break the code to your child’s mistaken belief about how to achieve belonging and significance—the true goal of all people. For example, when you feel irritated, annoyed, worried, or guilty, it is likely that your child’s mistaken goal is Undue Attention, based on the mistaken belief that, “I count (belong) only when I’m being noticed or getting special service. I’m important only when I’m keeping you busy with me.” The second clue is your reaction to the misbehavior. Again, you heard right. The third column of the Mistaken Goal Chart summarizes adult behaviors that actually feed a child’s discouragement. Let’s take an example. Suppose your child is interrupting. You feel annoyed. You scold your child for interrupting. She stops for a few minutes (your third clue that the mistaken goal is Undue Attention per the fourth column of the Mistaken Goal Chart). By scolding, you have reinforced the discouragement. In a few minutes your child will try harder to get undue attention. Once you have the three clues, you can break the code and understand what your child really needs to feel encouraged, “Notice Me. Involve Me Usefully.” Suggestions for what this kind of encouragement would look like are in the last column of the Mistaken Goal Chart. For example, one mother shared that her four-year-old constantly interrupted her the minute she got on the phone. This mom decided to encourage her daughter by choosing to “redirect by involving her child in a useful task to gain useful attention.” The next time the phone rang, Mom told the caller to excuse her for a minute. She knelt down eye level to her daughter and took off her watch. Mom told her daughter to watch the second hand and let her know when it went around and past the 12 three times so she could end the phone call. Her daughter followed the second hand intently. Her mom hung up before the second hand went around three times and she said, “Mommy, mommy. You had more time.” The daughter stopped interrupting and gained attention by contributing instead of annoying. This could be the beginning of changing her belief of something such as, “I belong when I am helping others,” instead of, “I belong only when others make me the center of the Universe.” Change the Belief, Not Just The Behavior Most parents don’t understand that there is a belief behind every behavior. Thus they make the mistake of trying to change just the behavior. The behavior will stop only when the belief behind the behavior is changed. Breaking the code helps you understand the discouraging belief behind the behavior and what the child really needs to feel encouraged enough to change his or her belief. You have read an example of breaking the code for the mistaken goal of Undue Attention. The following activity will help you break the code for specific behaviors that are challenging to you so that you can be encouraging to your child and to yourself. Break the Code Worksheet 1. Describe a challenging behavior you are experiencing with your child. 2. Identify your feelings. Remember that a feeling can be described with just one word. (Frustrated doesn’t count because it is a generic feeling that can be narrowed down to a more specific feeling. In the beginning you may need to look at the second column of the Mistaken Goal Chart to find t
A Positive Discipline Tool Card Have you ever tried talking with your children only to be frustrated by one word, unenthusiastic, totally bored responses? Many parents become discouraged when they ask their children, “How was your day?” and their children say, “Fine.” Then they ask, “What did you do today?” The response is, “Nothing.” Try closet listening. Closet listening means you find times to be near your children, hoping they will talk with you, but not being obvious about it. I tried this with my daughter, Mary, when she was a teenager. While Mary was getting ready for school, fixing her hair and makeup at the bathroom mirror, I would go in and sit on the edge of the tub. The first time I did this, Mary asked, “What do you want, Mama?” I said, “Nothing, except that I just want to spend a few minutes with you.” Mary waited to see what would come next. Nothing did. She finished fixing her hair and makeup and said, “Bye, Mama.” I continued to do this every morning. It wasn’t long before Mary got used to having me there. I didn’t ask any questions, but before long, Mary would chat away about all the things that were going on in her life. Children often feel interrogated. You may be ready to talk when your child isn’t. Experiment by serving cookies without asking, “How was your day?” Just sit there. Perhaps children who resist questions will respond when you make yourself available and just listen. Click on the link below to listen to Dr. Jane Nelsen talk about Closet Listening Click Here if you do not see the MP3 player.Subscribe to Positive Discipline by Email
Try a silent (secret) signal. (Kids love the secret part—especially when they have helped create it.) Creating silent signals can be part of “taking time for training” (another great tool card). My daughter, Mary Nelsen Tamborski, took time for training with four-year-old Greyson about interrupting. (Remember, that time for training takes place during calm times—not at the time of conflict.) They decided on a secret signal and then they practiced. When Mom is talking to someone else, Greyson squeezes her hand to let her know he wants to say something. She puts her hand on his shoulder to let him know she will finish as soon as she can and listen to him. Greyson seldom interrupted after that. It was obvious that he felt pleased about their secret code. Silent Signal PodcastClick Here to Listen The silent signal illustrated on the Positive Discipline Tool Card is to point to your watch when you have agreed (together) on a specific time that something should be done. Remember to smile while you are pointing. Following are some more examples of using Silent Signals. Mr. Perry, a principal, decided to attend a parent study group at his school. He made it clear to the group that he was attending as a parent who would like to learn some skills to use with his own children. One night he asked the group to help him solve the problem of getting his son, Mike, to take out the garbage. Mike always agreed to do it, but never did without constant reminders. The group gave Mr. Perry several suggestions, such as turning the television off until it was done or giving Mike a choice as to when he would do it. One parent suggested they try the silent signal of turning Mike’s empty plate over at the dinner table if he forgot to take the garbage out before dinner. Mr. Perry decided to try this. First, the family discussed the garbage problem at a family meeting. Mike again reaffirmed that he would do it. Mrs. Perry said, "We appreciate your willingness to help, but we also realize how easy it is to forget. Would it be okay with you if we use a silent signal so that we can stop nagging?" Mike wanted to know what kind of signal. Mr. Perry explained the idea of turning his empty plate over at the dinner table. If he came to the table and saw his plate turned over, that would remind him. He could then empty the garbage before coming to the table. Mike said, "That’s okay with me." It was eight days before Mike forgot to empty the garbage. (When children are involved in a problem solving discussion, they usually cooperate for a while before testing the plan.) When he came to the table and saw his plate turned over, Mike started having a temper tantrum. He whined, "I’m hungry! I’ll take the garbage out later! This is really dumb!" I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it was for Mom and Dad to ignore this rebellious behavior. Most parents would want to say, "Come on, Mike, you agreed, now stop acting like a baby!" If Mike continued his misbehavior, they would want to forget the plan and use punishment (which would stop the present rebellious behavior, but would not solve the problem of getting the garbage emptied and allow Mike to learn responsibility). Mr. and Mrs. Perry continued to ignore Mike’s temper tantrum, even when he stomped into the kitchen, got the garbage, slammed the garage door on his way out, and then sulked and banged his fork on his plate all during dinner. The next day Mike remembered to empty the garbage and was very pleasant during dinner. As a result of their consistency in following the agreed upon plan, Mike did not forget to empty the garbage for two more weeks. When he saw his empty plate turned over again, he said, "Oh, yeah." He then took the garbage out, came to the table, turned his plate over, and pleasantly ate with the rest of the family. Another reason it is difficult for parents to ignore rebellious misbehavior is the feeling that they are letting children get away with something. They feel they are neglecting thei
The Positive Discipline Tool Card of "Control Your Behavior" is sometimes easier said than done. Have you ever lost control of your behavior with your children? Listen to the following audio excerpt from Building Self-Esteem Through Positive Discipline as I discuss a time when I completely lost control with my daughter. (Click Here if you cannot see the audio player.) Fortunately we can use the parenting tool of "Mistakes" to recover when we lose control of our behavior. But it is always better if we can find ways to avoid losing control in the first place. The suggestions listed on the tool card are: 1. Create your own special time-out area and let your children know when you need to use it. Some parents are uncomfortable with this solution, especially when dealing with younger children. But if your children are older and you can set up this system in advance, it can be quite effective. It is nearly impossible to solve problems at the time of conflict when both the child and the parent have flipped their lid. The result is distance and hurt feelings. Usually followed by guilt! Why not let your children know that you are taking a time out. Remove yourself from the situation and get centered before attempting to solve the problem. How you take your time-out is up to you. Maybe you will go to your room. Maybe you will go for a walk. Maybe call a close friend and discuss the problem. Whatever you decide, the important thing is to take time to cool off before addressing the problem. 2. If you can't leave the scene, count to 10 or take deep breaths. This is a good solution if you have younger children or the situation requires your presence. It is also okay to share what you are feeling. "I'm so angry right now, I need to calm down before we talk." Kids need to know that what they feel is always okay, but what they do is not always okay. You model this by sharing your feelings without reacting to them and without blaming your children for your feelings. Avoid saying, "You make me so angry." 3. When you make mistakes, apologize to your children. As you heard in the podcast above, I eventually calmed down and apologized to my daughter. Children are wonderfully forgiving when we take time to sincerely apologize when we lose control. During lectures I ask, "How many have you have apologized to a child?" Every hand goes up. I then ask, "What do they say?" The Universal response from children when parents apologize is, "That's okay." By apologizing, you have created a connection (closeness and trust). In this atmosphere you can work together for a solution. Once again you have demonstrated that mistakes are opportunities to learn and that you can then focus on solutions. Subscribe to Positive Discipline by Email
By Jane Nelsen, author and co-author of the Positive Discipline series A Positive Discipline Tool Card (available at www.positivediscipline.com) This tool card provides an example of asking for a hug when a child is having a temper tantrum, but that is certainly not the only time a hug can be an appropriate intervention when you understand the principle of hugs. Later, I’ll share where the example on the card came from; but first I want to share another example illustrated in a story shared by Mary Wardlow: The Power of a Hug My daughter Madisyn, who is a wonderfully strong-willed six-year-old child, didn't want to get up and get ready for school one morning. Being a strong-willed individual myself, I could sense a battle of wills brewing—though I was determined to avoid it. I repeatedly asked her nicely to get up and get herself ready. I even picked out her clothes so she could move a little faster [a mistake that will be explained later]. Still, she refused to move. I reminded her, still nicely, that the bus would be at our house soon, and if she didn't get dressed she was going to miss it. She sat up, looked at her clothes, and screamed, "I don't want to wear that!" Her tone was so nasty that I found it hard to keep myself composed, but I went to her room and picked out two other outfits so she could choose which one she wanted to wear. I announced to her, "I laid out three sets of clothes. You need to pick one and get dressed." I had almost made it to the bedroom exit when she fired back "I WANT FOUR!" I was so angry at that point; and what came next surprised both of us. I walked over to her and said, "Madisyn, I am going to pick you up, hold you, hug you and love you...and when I am done you are going to get up, choose an outfit and get dressed." When I picked her up and put my arms around her I felt her just melt in my arms. Her attitude softened immediately and so did mine. That moment was amazing to me. A volatile situation turned warm in a few seconds—just because I chose to hug a child who was at that moment so un-huggable. In your lecture you talked about the power of a hug to calm down an out-of-control child. I've learned first-hand that you were absolutely right. Thank you for teaching others about the power of a hug! Later Mary learned that the morning hassles could be reduced if her daughter picked out her own clothes the night before as part of her bedtime routine. This would help her feel capable instead of being told what to do, which invited rebellion. This example illustrates that even though hugs work to create a connection and change behavior, some misbehavior can be avoided by getting children involved in ways that helps them use their power in useful ways—for example picking out their own clothes. Tantrums and Hugs Now for the story that led to the example of asking for a hug when a child is having a temper tantrum. I watched a video of Dr. Bob Bradbury, who facilitated the “Sanity Circus” in Seattle, WA for many years. During Sanity Circus, Dr. Bradbury would interview a parent or teacher in front of a large audience. During the interview he would determine the mistaken goal of the child and would then suggest an intervention that might help the discouraged child feel encouraged and empowered. Bob shared the following example (which I am now telling in my words from my memory of what I saw on the video). A father wondered what to do about his four-year-old, Steven, who often engaged in tempter tantrums. After talking with the father for a while, and determining that the mistaken goal was misguided power, Dr. Bradbury suggested, “Why don’t you ask your son for a hug.” The father was bewildered by this suggestion. He replied, “Wouldn’t that be reinforcing the misbehavior?” Dr. Bradbury said, “I don’t think so. Are you willing to try it and next week let us know what happens?” &nbs
Many parents and teachers have reported that power struggles are greatly reduced when they focus on solutions. Focusing on solutions creates a very different family and classroom. Your thinking and behavior will change, and so will the thinking and behavior of your children. The theme for focusing on solutions is: What is the problem and what is the solution? Children are excellent problem solvers and have many creative ideas for helpful solutions when adults provide opportunities for them to use their problem-solving skills. The Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions are the same as the Three Rs and an H of Logical Consequences. In fact, the first 3 are identical. They are presented again here to help change the tendency toward the use of Logical Consequences in favor of Focusing on solutions. The Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions: 1. Related 2. Respectful 3. Reasonable 4. Helpful The following is an excerpt from the book Positive Discipline in the Classroom that illustrates the amazing difference in brainstormed suggestions when students first focus on logical consequences and then focus on solutions: During a class meeting, students in a fifth-grade class were asked to brainstorm logical consequences for two students who didn’t hear the recess bell and were late for class. Following is their list of consequences: 1. Make them write their names on the board. 2. Make them stay after school the same number of minutes they were late. 3. Take away from tomorrow’s recess the same number of minutes they were late today. 4. Take away all of tomorrow’s recess. 5. Yell at them. The students were then asked to forget about consequences and brainstorm for solutions that would help the late students get to class on time. Following is their list of solutions: 1. Everyone could yell together, "Bell!" 2. The students could play closer to the bell. 3. The students could watch others to see when they are going in. 4. Adjust the bell so it is louder. 5. The students could choose a buddy to remind them that it is time to come in. 6. Someone could tap the students on the shoulder when the bell rings. The difference between these two lists is profound. The first looks and sounds like punishment. It focuses on the past and on making children pay for their mistakes. The second list looks and sounds like solutions that focus on helping the students do better in the future. The focus is on seeing problems as opportunities for learning. In other words, the first list is designed to hurt; the second is designed to help. Subscribe to Positive Discipline by Email