A More Positive Approach to Discipline

Unlike permissive styles of parenting, which doesn’t provide many expectations or boundaries for the child, taking the positive discipline approach means being both kind and firm. Positive discipline looks for solutions rather than punishment. As such, it is different from authoritarian styles of parenting, whereby the child is punished for disobeying the rules of the parents. Positive Parenting, Positive Discipline, Parenting Blog, Lifestyle Blog

When you are choosing a school for a child, asking about their style of discipline can give a lot of insight into how the school works. Now in Jeddah, there are a few schools that have adopted this approach, including the British International School and Nun Academy. Positive discipline, sometimes known as “positive parenting,” is based on respect for the child and adult. If you’re fed up of hearing yourself shout “no” at your children, positive discipline could help change your parenting style.

Central to positive discipline is the idea that humans are naturally sociable creatures, with a desire to connect with others. When children feel engaged, respected, and supported in their community, they behave better.

Where does Positive Discipline come from?

Adolf Adler was an Austrian psychologist, who co-founded the psychoanalytic movement with the likes of Sigmund Freud in the early 1900s. However, he developed ideas that were markedly different from Freud’s.

One of Adler’s key ideas was that humans are driven by a need for connection and a sense of worth with those around us.

Rudolf Dreikurs, a fellow Austrian, took some of Adler’s core ideas and built on them. He moved to the USA, where he spread these ideas. He believed that children misbehave when they feel like outsiders. They learn that playing up will get them attention, even if it’s not for the right reasons.

Decades later, in the 1980s, Dr. Jane Nelsen wrote Positive Discipline which expanded on the work of Adler and Dreikurs. Together with Lynn Lott, they collaborated on further titles about how positive discipline can be used at home and school.


How is positive discipline different from other styles of parenting?

Unlike permissive styles of parenting, which doesn’t provide many expectations or boundaries for the child, taking the positive discipline approach means being both kind and firm.

Positive discipline looks for solutions rather than punishment. As such, it is different from authoritarian styles of parenting, whereby the child is punished for disobeying the rules of the parents.

What are the features of Positive Discipline?

The following are five hallmarks of the positive discipline approach:-

Encouraging the Child

Rather than praising the child, which often just applauds the end result and not effort, encouraging the child is a key tenet of positive discipline.

This helps a child learn to focus on the process of what they’re doing, rather than worrying about achieving perfection.

Over time, encouraging a child grows their self-esteem.

Productive discipline

Rather than punishing a child for wrongdoings, the adult is kind but firm with the child. If a child does something they shouldn’t have, the parent teaches the child how to avoid making the same mistake.

When a child is taught to look for solutions rather than punishments, they have the opportunity to become accountable and learn to behave differently next time.

This approach fosters self-awareness and accountability in children, letting them know that they have choices.


As with any relationship in life, communication is key. Remember that children talk through their actions, as well as their words.

Understanding the Causes of Behavior

Often it is not enough to try and change the behavior, as we find it merely repeats itself. As adults, we have a responsibility to play detective and see if we can uncover why a child is acting a certain way.


The adult shows the child the appropriate way to act, demonstrating kindness towards the child but also respecting the need to correct behavior.

Through showing respect, a child’s sense of self-worth is not undermined.

10 Ways to Use Positive Discipline (Adapted from Positive Discipline: The First Three Years, Revised and Updated)

  1. Connect with your child. Rather than entering a power struggle with your child, try to stay on the same page. Remember that an adult thinks very differently to a child. Where might they be coming from?
  2. Give your child choices and ways to help. There is a common misconception that children misbehave on purpose. Often, this is not the case. They may be acting out through frustration. If you can create opportunities for your child to choose and become involved, it will foster both their sense of connection and independence. You can empower a little person in the simplest of ways – even by asking what they would prefer for their lunch. If there is a way for them to help you with a task, try it.
  3. Have routines and stick to them. There is an adage that says, “I was a perfect parent until I had kids.” We may know the importance of routines, but it is vital to stick to the schedules we layout. Children learn to trust when we stick to our word. From routines they gain a sense of stability. Even if they want to stay up late, it’s important that they know their boundaries.
  4. Model respect. Monkey see monkey do. If you would like your child to grow up with a sense of respect, first demonstrate what it means to be respectful. Where possible, ask, don’t tell.
  5. Find the funny side. Humor is such a powerful way of overcoming barriers. Re-framing tasks and chores with a hint of humor can go a long way in changing the level of co-operation from your child.
  6. See things from your child’s perspective. Furthering the point about connecting with your child, try stepping into their shoes. A brief knowledge of developmental stages can go a long way in understanding your child’s behavior. For a broad overview, check here: http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/ages-stages/
  7. Do as you say. If you tell a child that they can’t watch TV after 7pm, but then you let them watch TV, they will learn that you don’t mean what you say. Actions speak louder than words, and there is no better case than in our interactions with young people.
  8. Keep your cool. Parenting may test the depths of your patience, but it’s important to keep your cool. Remember that children are very sensitive to your responses and often mirror our behaviors.Both you and your child may benefit from a “positive time-out” when situations arise, where you take time to calm down before acting on emotions.
  9. Be the adult: help your child to go in the right direction. If you put a child down, all sorts of negative feelings may grow and their self-esteem may suffer. When a person feels good about themselves, they are more likely to respond with positive behavior.
  10. Remember that your child is an individual. If you have more than one child, it may be bewildering, to say the least, if they have completely different characters and levels of obedience.

Take time to get to know the skills and strengths of your child. Perhaps you will be happily surprised to find they have inherited some of your talents and more.


Positive Discipline (2016). https://www.positivediscipline.com/

Nelsen, J. (2013). Positive discipline: The first three years, revised and updated. New York: Ballantine Books.

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  1. Kimberlie says

    I needed this reminder about positive parent today. I am an educator and use PBIS in my classrooms but tend to get tunnel vision at home when my child misbehaves. Thank you for helping me to remember that productive discipline is more advantageous in the long run.

  2. Em Mendoza says

    This is one of the reasons why I think homeschooling is best for kids. You can adapt your strategies, and yes, that includes discipline, according to your child’s strength and personality. I believe positive discipline can be observed better when you homeschool than when you send them in schools.

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