Discipline Techniques

Here's a copy of some material I received while attending a parent education course offered to providers called "Tearless Discipline". It is offered by Vivian Brault, M.A., founder of Directions.

This program is now available on DVD.

Not all techniques apply but I've used these methods for years and found them to be a very effective alternative to punishment.

I have had tremendous, positive results.


The child who is misbehaving to gain undue attention is telling the adult that he is getting insufficient positive attention for positive behavior.

He believes his only way to get recognition is through keeping the adult busy by constantly coaxing, reminding, and/or otherwise serving him "one more" drink of water.



Promoting Good Behavior and Avoiding the Need for Discipline

1. Do not REACT by reminding or coaxing the child. Do not give him any more recognition for the misbehavior. Whatever you give your attention to is going to happen more often.

2. Ignore misbehavior, but only if there is no danger to self, others, or belongings.

3. If possible, remove yourself from the area, creating a greater distance between you and the child.

4. Comment on, and touch another child who is behaving appropriately. (Do not compare one child to another) and...

5. At the first opportunity, go out of your way to "Catch the child being good". give immediate recognition verbally using the child's name along with a smile, and a hug.

6. Do not comment on misbehavior until later, during a calm moment, telling the child the (mis)behavior, being specific, is not O.K. and that you know he will remember that. (Speak to him/her in private. Squat to his level. Touch him in a caring manner. Always finish with a hug.) To be most effective, tell him one time. DO NOT repeat the message in the future, reminding him of the misbehavior.

7. Always speak positively about the child to others - NEVER speak of misbehaviors to parents when the child is within 30 feet. This just reinforces the misbehavior if the child were to hear.

8. Never tell a child he is Bad.

9. Use positive contacts with the child on an on-going basis.


Give the child choices when misbehaving. Don't try to control the child by spanking, yelling, or threatening. Do control the environment by offering choices. For example: If the child is pushing on the slide, say "Would you like to play on the slide without pushing the other kids, or would you like to get down from the slide and play by yourself?"

Accept either choice as his decision. You cannot be upset since the choice was his. If the child does not answer, repeat the statement ONLY once. If he still does not answer, ask him if he wants to make the decision or if he wants you to make the decision for him. If still no answer say, "I see you've decided you don't want to play on the slide at all and that's O.K." Then, stick to your guns (next time he'll know you're sincere).

The use of choices is a very effective technique for avoiding power struggles and teaching the child self-discipline without tears. The choice has to be limited such as "Do you want me to read the Snoopy Book or the Minnie Mouse Book before you take a nap?" or "Do you want carrots or peas?". Taking naps or eating vegetables are not options. The child is so busy trying to choose he forgets to rebel.

The use of the When/Then Technique is effective for redirecting the misbehavior of young children and avoiding power struggles when trying to get the child to respond to your request.

Example: "When you pick up the toys, then you may have lunch." When you finish your milk, then we'll read a story from this book."

Then word "when" implies the adult has every expectation that the child will comply. It sets up positive expectations, and does not create rebellion or refusal. On the other hand, If you use the word "if", such as, "If you sit down, you may have a cookie." It tells the child you don't really expect him to do it.

The difference between "when-then", "if-then" and "if you don't-then you can't" seems subtle, but the difference in results is dramatic.




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