Positive discipline recognized that most of the behaviors we do in everyday life are learned through others' modeling and response to them. Children relish attention, regardless of verbal message. As a result, bad child behavior is often unintentionally reinforced, because of all the attention it derives. If you say "no" to something, but eventually give in to the whining, you'll teach your child that whining is an effective way to get what he/she wants.
The key, therefore, to positive discipline is to focus on the behaviors you want children to develop rather than the ones you don't. For example, instead of saying "no hitting," say "play gently." Rather than constantly demanding "stop throwing your food on the floor," say "please keep your food on the table."
When you tell your child what to do, you are being clear about exactly what you expect and your child will be more likely to change his/her behavior accordingly. On the other hand, when you tell your child what not to do, as you have probably noticed, you often end up with even more unwanted behavior. You say "stop yelling at your sister," only to turn around and see the child hitting or pulling hair instead. A child who is told to "play nicely with your sister and use an inside voice," is more likely to do so.
- Praise behavior you like! Be specific, descriptive, enthusiastic and affectionate. Catch your child being good!
- Ignore minor misbehavior. Ignoring minor misbehavior (that isn't dangerous) can effectively extinguish that behavior.
- Redirect and distract when your child begins to misbehave.
- Be clear about directions. Give commands that are statements, not questions (and use the word please!).
- Stay calm and cool so you don't unintentionally reinforce behaviors by becoming overly emotional in response to them.
- Model good behavior. Children learn by copying, so always ask yourself what you are teaching your child by your own behavior.
- Spank or hit. This escalates bad behavior, models aggression, and instills fear in your child.
- Attend to negative behavior by reprimanding and lecturing, it doesn't work.
- Repeat a command multiple times. It loses its power and teaches your child that he doesn't have to listen the first time.
The trick is to catch good child behavior and to let him or her know how much you like it! Positive discipline makes a child feel safe and happy because it teaches what to expect and what is expected. Positive discipline builds a relationship based on respect and love.