Positive Discipline with Children

Most parents don’t enjoy disciplining their child – even though correcting bad behaviour is a necessary part of parenting. Positive discipline is a way of setting limits on children without damaging their self esteem. As a parent, it’s important to know how to set limits effectively, without harming your child’s self-esteem. This is done through positive discipline.

Psychologists say this is the best approach to use with children when they misbehave and the key is to focus your attention on the behavior and not on the child. Parents also need to distinguish between deliberate behavior and unintentional behavior to know how to handle each. Deliberate behavior includes such actions as biting, pushing, or hitting, and you should tell your child that this action is not acceptable.


The words you use and how you use them, including your tone and your body language can easily be picked up on, by children. Experts advise refraining from using the word ‘you’ when admonishing a child. For example, when you feel like saying “You are so messy,” instead try saying “I don’t like what you’re doing to your toys.” This takes the emphasis off of your child and instead focuses on their actions and your reaction to those actions.


Positive discipline also involves letting the small stuff go. Kids are naturally curious in nature, but they also are not yet at an age where they can consciously follow rules. Setting too many rules for young children to follow will only frustrate you. A simple but effective strategy is to designate a large area in your home that is childproof, so there is a lower chance of your child getting into trouble and therefore less need to admonish them. You can also try to look for alternatives to distract them from doing something that you don’t want them to do. For example, if you don’t want your kids jumping on the sofa, you can put them down and tell them that they can jump on the floor. Or, the two of you can even jump together. Kids, especially toddlers, need to be allowed to be silly, to run, jump and laugh because this is how they are naturally.


Providing reinforcement when your child does something good is a way to affirm their worth and boost their self-esteem. It’s also important to verbalize your appreciation. Saying “Thank you, I admire that, or Good work” will further boost their confidence and help them to equate performing acceptable behavior with positive feedback from you. Some parents like to give their child a treat when they do something good. However, the best reinforcement to give any child is your time. Going to the park, to the zoo, watching a movie together, or building a fort after they’ve done all their chores for the day are all good ways to reward your child with your time.


Although a long time parenting tactic that many parents will report as being successful, negative reinforcement, which is imposing undesirable consequences for bad behaviour, whether in the form of words or actions such as spanking, yelling, etc. can lead to a number of behavioral problems in children. Be aware of when and how you use this strategy because the end goal is to stop the bad behaviour not to damage your child’s emotional health – which can happen in some circumstances.

Parenting is a tough job!  Insight has therapists with expertise and experience in parenting and can support you. Contact us!