The Power of Positive Discipline: An Example


Sometimes I feel guilty that we don’t spank our kids. Would they obey better if we did?

This past week was one of those weeks that threw me into doubt. “This can’t go on,” I thought to myself. “The kids simply must learn to obey me each and every time.”

Early on we tried spanking with our oldest, but it just didn’t work. His personality was strong and my nerves are weak, plus I have trouble with anger sometimes so it simply isn’t a good option for us.

I brainstormed options for discipline that didn’t include spanking. “Maybe I can put their names on the white board and every time they fail to obey I’ll put a check.” Immediately I felt disgusted with my school-like solution.

“I’m completely focused on the negative,” I grumbled, “How can I formulate in a more positive way?”

After more brain-wracking I asked myself, “What is the goal? It’s not not disobeying, it’s obeying with a good attitude.”

“Maybe I can give them check marks for when they obey the first time and with a good attitude.”

It was worth a shot and my precious time alone to think was running out.

I went to the white board and wrote:

“Yes, Mommy” Count

Then listed my kids’ names.

I didn’t have time to make an announcement or to think whether to make it a competition. Life goes on when there are lots of kids around.

Later that day I saw this added to the list:

Daddy 🙂

Support from the husband is always a good sign.

The effect on the rest of the week was confirmation that it pays to focus on the positive. Even without the promise of a reward the kids took to trying to get “yes mommy checks.”

They even created their own game where they give each other instructions and hand out checks of their own.

I was so grateful that I took the effort to formulate my expectations positively. That choice had a spillover effect that lifted up the mood of the whole household.

My kids didn’t obey perfectly the rest of the week, but it no longer bothered me quite as much. It felt so good to enjoy and celebrate the moments when they would answer “Yes, Mommy!” and obey.

My point is not that I have found the best way to teach discipline. Far from it. The more I parent the more I believe our solutions should be varied, many, and changing to fit the personalities our kids and ourselves and the diverse situations we find ourselves in. I’m also hesitant to share a solution that hasn’t stood the test of time.

My point is this:

It pays to focus on the positive. What you focus on grows.

We aren’t perfect and neither can we expect our kids to be perfect – even in obedience.

To expect that they never do something (even if that is the ideal) is to set everyone up for disappointment and frustration.

To celebrate each success is to encourage everyone to pick up and try again after failure.

Where can you flip a negative into a positive this week?

(Personal note: Once again I’m writing this two hours before publishing time, and I still managed to paint with the kids, cook lunch, and do laundry. Don’t ask how clean the house is, though . . .)

4 thoughts on “The Power of Positive Discipline: An Example”

  1. It took me all week to find one. 🙂

    On Friday, as Eliot was doing his math and despairing (in a jocular sort of way), I started singing “Carry on my Wayward Son” by Kansas to him, rather than nagging at him to not whine.

    “Carry on my wayward son,
    There’ll be peace when you are done.
    Lay your weary head to rest,
    Don’t you cry no more.”

    We had to pause math in order to watch the youtube video and then look up synonyms to “wayward,” with lots of protests and shrieks of laughter as I read through them.

    1. I love this example! I learned a new song, too. It inspires me to have a rich variety of “culture” in my heart to be pulled out and used in creative ways. How fun that I get a chance to learn the culture I missed alongside my kids!

  2. So far the “yes, Mommy” checks are still working well, even though I’ve slacked off in giving them a bit. I overheard my eldest say “I obey well. I obey every day. On Monday and Tuesday . . .” I’m sure if I had focused on the times when he doesn’t obey this sort of talk would not happen. It reminds me of the “I’m the kind of person who . . .” idea I talked about around the new year. Hopefully he’ll continue to rise to the occasion!

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