If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know by now that I discourage the use of imposed punishments, rewards, and telling as discipline strategies, and instead take a more stress-free approach to teaching and parenting. In fact, my parenting and teaching model is called Discipline Without Stress, and the three tenets of the model are positivity, choice, and reflection—all of which need to be fed. Doing so not only reduces stress, but it also increases parental and/or teacher effectiveness and improves relationships. Why? Here’s a brief synopsis of each.
- Practice Positivity: Negative comments prompt negative feelings. Positive comments engender positive feelings, reduce discipline issues, and promote responsible behavior. Parents and teachers who are effective in influencing their children to positive actions phrase their communications in positive terms. Positivity creates an atmosphere in which children feel valued, supported, respected, motivated, capable, and proud.
- Offer Choices: Either consciously or nonconsciously, people are always choosing how to respond to any situation, stimulus, or impulse. Teaching young people about choice-response thinking—that they never need think of themselves as victims—is one of the most valuable thinking patterns you can give them. This type of thinking teaches the difference between optimistic and pessimistic thinking, empowers young people, and continually fosters hope—the greatest of motivators.
- Encourage Reflection: Reflection is the most powerful strategy for prompting change because reflection engenders self-evaluation. This is particularly important for parents and teachers to understand because adults, while well-meaning, cannot change children. Although an adult can control a child, no one can change another person. A person can only change oneself. The key to actuating a change in behavior is asking reflective questions. Asking these types of questions is a skill that is developed through practice and that anyone can learn in order to prompt young people to make responsible decisions.
In most discipline situations, especially if your child is extremely independent, you will have more success—and reduce stress on everyone’s part—if you aim at empowering, rather than overpowering your child. When a young person feels overpowered by a demand for obedience (which is what traditional discipline approaches aim for), then defensive behavior often results in both resistance and resentment. In contrast, when you aim at promoting responsibility by using the three practices of positivity, choice, and reflection, obedience follows as a natural by-product.