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Tired of shouting? Five easy steps to positive discipline

Posted 4 months ago
by Kelly Warren
jenn evelyn ann 112980

Let’s face it, sometimes our children’s behaviour can send our blood pressure through the roof in a matter of seconds. Anyone who is a parent knows that our job can be exhausting, infuriating and just down right HARD. With no parenting manual accompanying the arrival of our new born baby, we really just do the best we can with what we know.

Think about the attributes, social skills and the self-control that you want your child to have when they face their future challenges and eventually leave home (scary, right!). Controlling, bribing, threatening, manipulating, shaming, time-outs, and harsh punishments may work in the short-term, but think about it - what are we actually teaching our children using this style of parenting?  To comply?  To be fearful? To feel ashamed of themselves?  To manipulate and bribe others to get what you want?

Finding the balance between being too punitive/harsh (brick wall parenting) and too permissive/indulgent (jelly fish parenting) is a tricky task, right? Incorporating a positive discipline model of parenting finds the middle ground.

We have put together some easy steps to empower our parents (and children).

Step 1: Use language to describe what you WANT 
We usually say things such as:
“Stop running inside”
“Stop hitting”
“Don’t jump on the couch”
“How many times have I told you not to hit the cat?”

Sound familiar? Not only do we feel like an obsessive nagger, but children tend to block out every word after the word “Stop”. Tell children what to do instead of what not to do. Try to eliminate "stop" from your statements to children.  Save these words for emergency situations, i.e.: running across the road.  As parenting commentator, Amanda Morgan states in her website, our language paints a picture for our children. We want our children to picture the behaviour we WANT.

Here are some examples of ways to rephrase your language (firmly and kindly state):

“Be gentle with the cat please”
“Walk inside please”
“Sit on the couch please”

Step 2: Focus on the behaviour not the child
“That’s naughty”  “You are so bad”  “You are so lazy”
“You are such a horror”  “Why can’t you be good like your brother?”

All of these statements focus on the child. Consider what your child is thinking, feeling and deciding after continually hearing these types of statements?  These types of judgements can be damaging for your child’s self-esteem and more importantly, their image of themselves as a person and a learner. When a child is consistently worried about others judging them it is unlikely they will be able to empathise with others, because they are too worried about themselves.

Turn it around and describe the behaviour (be specific) that you do not like.  
Take this scenario: Your child hits you on the arm, “Oh STOP!  that’s naughty, don’t” 
Compared with: “When you hit me it hurt. Please use your gentle hands with me”.
When they comply, provide authentic and genuine praise:
“Thanks for being gentle”

Step 3: Offer choices
Offering choices gives children some control over their own behaviour, empowers them, shows respect for them as individuals, and encourages independence. When children are given options to choose from, they are more likely to co-operate and meet our expectations.

"It's time to clean up the play room. Which will you put away, the dishes or the dolls?"
“Time to brush your you want to walk or shall I piggyback you?”

Step 4: Be aware of instruction traps
Triple P Parenting (2013) affirms that the way we give instructions influences our children’s willingness to  comply.   

  • Bad timing. Don’t ask your child to brush their teeth if they have just started playing with their favourite toy! Give them a warning before asking for tasks to be complete “In five minutes we are going to the supermarket” 
  • Your instruction sounds like a question. “Do you want to brush your teeth?”
    (we are just asking for a “NO”!)
  • Too far away. Yelling from across the room to your child is not effective.  Go up close to your child, use their name to get their attention “Grace…” Once you have their attention give the instruction “Time for breakfast please”.
  • Too many instructions. “Put your toy away, put your shoes on, get your bag, and then have breakfast”. There are four opportunities in this instruction for your child  not to comply.  Depending on the age of your child, it is also likely that they will not be able to remember all of those instructions.   
  • Instructions are not clear enough. “Stop being silly”, “Be nice”.
    Define what it is you don’t like “You are running inside, I need you to walk please”

Step 5: Focus on the positive (reinforce the behaviour you like)
It is so easy to get caught up in all the bad behaviours. 
Turn it around! Remind yourself about all the things you love about your child. Perception is everything. Catch your child behaving well and acknowledge the behaviour through social reinforcers (smiles, hugs, winks, thumbs up, high 5’s). These behaviours are then more likely to be strengthened and repeated.  For some of us, this may feel weird and unnatural (particularly if we were not given much encouragement as a child).

Avoid generic, overused, mechanical praise, such as: “Good girl”, “Good job”.
Describe the behaviour you liked using effective praise (encouragement):
“You helped me tidy up, thanks so much Grace”

This may sound crazy, but talk to your child like a friend/colleague or as Nathan Wallis (neuroscientist) mandates, as an apprentice (with less experience than you).

If a work colleague did something you appreciated - imagine saying  “Good girl!” (laughable right?).

So, next time you feel your blood pressure peaking – take a deep breath and try to these five steps:
1. Use language that describes what you want
2. Focus on the behaviour not the child
3. Offer choices
4. Be aware of instruction traps
5. Focus on the positive 

Turn the situation around and watch your child flourish. 

To read more of our blogs and learn about what we offer at our New Shoots Children's Centre's please visit our website, where you can:

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-  Discover our curriculum, vision and foundation principles

-  Check out our 'A Day in the Life' scale, where you can see what your child might get up to during the day with us.

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For more information of positive discipline head over to
Listen to this clip from Nathan Wallis regarding what 3-7 year olds need to learn