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Practice Positive Discipline for Better-Behaved Kids

Try these five expert-approved strategies that work on toddlers through school-age children

1. Reframe your expectations.

Many parents discipline their kids because they don’t have realistic expectations of child behaviour. Lower the bar when it comes to your expectations of them, and understand that they don’t have full control over their brains.

2. Time-in.

Most poor behaviour is caused by the child feeling a lack of connection with their parents. A child that is feeling unloved needs to be shown that he or she matters. You need to build up their self-esteem to make them feel better, but often sending them to timeout does the opposite. Time-in means being calm and sharing your calm with your child. That doesn’t mean you should be giving undue praise, of course.

3. Role modeling.

The old saying, “Do as I say, not as I do” couldn’t be more wrong. Out of all the influences on your kid’s behaviour, it’s helpful to remember that you are by far the biggest one. If your kid yells too much, ask yourself where they may have picked it up. Chances are you need to control your own yelling. The best discipline of all is to be the person you want your children to be. If you want to raise calm, kind and loving individuals, you must model these qualities yourself. If your kid is being particularly difficult, ask yourself if you need to take some time to get your own behaviour under control first.

4. Be creative.

When kids are angry or upset you need to give them time to calm down first, as nobody—regardless of age—listens when they’re in fight-or-flight mode. Once they’re calm, resist the temptation to give them a lecture. Instead use more creative ways that speak to children better. Sit down and compose a story together in which the main character is struggling with big emotions. Role play, acting out how they could have behaved and what they can do next time, or get them to draw or paint their emotions on paper.

5. Create a calm-down corner.

Making a calm-down sanctuary in your home pre-empts any difficult behaviour. Choose a quiet spot and fill it with soft rugs, fluffy throws, fairy lights, aromatherapy oils, lava lamps, stress balls, soft toys, inspiring kids’ books and so on. Encourage your kid to go to this corner whenever he or she feels stressed or feels like they’re going to say or do something they know they will regret.    

Gentle discipline takes time to see results, but it provides kids with emotional tools they can use for the rest of their lives. It builds connection, self-esteem, and happiness that has a positive effect not only on your kid but on you too—and the best way to raise calm, happy kids, is to start with calm, happy parents!