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How to use positive discipline for better mental health and a happy childhood

Positive parenting is not controlling but problem solving

Positive parenting is not controlling but problem solving

Published Nov 23, 2021


Whether you are dealing with a screaming toddler or an angry teenager, controlling your temper can be hard. I do not know any parent that wants to find themselves in situations where they need to shout and use physical violence to discipline their children.

The word discipline is defined as imparting knowledge and skill, in other words, to teach. The goal of positive parenting is not to “control” but rather to problem solve together as a family. There are other, more effective ways and one of them is positive discipline.

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Professor Lucie Cluver, Child and Family Social Work, from Oxford University, unpacks how parents can help build positive relationships with their children and teach skills such as responsibility, cooperation and self-discipline.

  • Shouting and hitting simply does not work and can do more harm than good in the long run. Instead, remove the child from the situation.
  • Use the child’s name and get on their level to make sure you have their attention. Speak softly, so they have to listen closely. Offer a consequence: “If we can’t get you dressed soon, we won’t have time to play today”.
  • Give your child a chance to do the right thing by explaining the consequences of their bad behaviour. If they don’t stop, follow through with the consequences calmly and without showing anger, adds Professor Cluver.
  • Praise the positives. Children thrive on praise. It makes them feel loved and special.
  • Set clear expectations. Telling your child exactly what you want them to do is much more effective than telling them what not to do,” says Professor Cluver. For example: When you ask a child to not make a mess, or to be good, they don't necessarily understand what they're required to do. Clear instructions like Please pick up all of your toys and put them in the box set a clear expectation and increase the likelihood that they'll do what you’re asking.
  • Distract creatively. When your child is being difficult, distracting them with a more positive activity can be a useful strategy. Distraction is also about spotting when things are about to go wrong and taking action.

Like younger children, teenagers also seek praise and want to be thought of as good. One-on-one time is still important to them. “They love it if you dance around the room with them or engage in a conversation about their favourite singer,” concludes Professor Cluver.