People don't generally believe me when I tell them that it is possible to raise a child without discipline or punishment of any kind. This involves no spankings, of course, but also no time-outs no lectures, and no grounding. It may seem like a utopian universe, but I know it is reality, because I raised my daughter to be a law-abiding, responsible, independent, reasonable, happy college graduate without the use of spankings, time-outs, grounding, or lectures. I did try these methods, but they simply did not work for us.
It is possible that I have the only child in the universe on which this methodology would work, but I would like to be able to take credit for raising her up properly using my philosophy, and truly believe that this strategy could work your kids as well.
Why Spanking Didn't Work For Me
As a new parent, although I didn't like the idea of spanking, I did hear advice that spanking is necessary to raise a child correctly. Spare the rod, spoil the child.
One day, I spanked my daughter who was two or three at the time. I don't remember what she did that deserved punishment. It was the first time I had ever spanked her. I told her I was spanking her so she wouldn't do that again, and then I hit her once or twice.
She said, "That didn't hurt." She was very young and maybe didn't realize that such a statement could cause a more painful spanking. I considered spanking her harder so that it would hurt, but my goal was to get her to understand that her actions were wrong. I decided that since my goal was not to inflict pain, that I wouldn't bother trying. That was the last time I spanked her.
Physically punishing a child sends the wrong message to the child. I don't want her to go around hitting people, even if they make her mad. Why should I be allowed to do it if it is unacceptable for her to do it?
Why Correction Didn't Work For Me
Since spanking was out, I thought needed to use other correction methods. I tried to put my daughter in time-out probably a total of five times. I found that it frustrated me to have her sit in the corner staring at the wall when she had done something wrong. Sure, it quieted down the situation and she was no longer doing the thing that bothered me. But since I hadn't talked to her yet, she wouldn't necessarily know what she had done wrong. Plus it meant I had to wait around an arbitrary amount of time just to explain it to her. The timeout is based on her age, and the punishment just didn't fit the crime.
I felt like I had to watch her to make sure she stayed in the corner and I was afraid I wouldn't let her out in time. (This was before I had a microwave with a timer.) This took valuable time out of my schedule. Since the results for me were the same whether or not she sat for the allotted amount of time, I simply stopped the time-outs.
When I had teenage foster children, the other correction method I tried was grounding. At this age, I thought that the children would know better than to do some of the things they did. This didn't work for us either, since it pretty much grounded the whole family when one child was grounded, and we all felt like we were being punished.
These seem like artificial consequences for the bad behavior. I would rather rely on natural consequences. Having someone be angry at their behavior was a natural consequence. They do feel bad when they do something wrong and get a natural consequence. You don't have to add additional consequences.
My Positive Parenting Philosophy
It is completely possible to be a positive parent and raise a responsible child when you consider the fact that children want to please their parents. Most people want to be liked, including children, and will be more than happy to do what you want and follow along with your wishes. The key is to make sure that your wishes are reasonable and clearly communicated.
The other important part of positive child rearing is to remember that children do not know how to do everything you are asking them to do. Instead of being a disciplinarian or a corrector, you can simply be a teacher.
Positive reinforcement is a very powerful tool in raising children, and in dealing with adults. When they get attention and positive consequences for positive behavior, and very little attention for negative behavior, they learn to seek attention through positive means. By focusing on the positive behavior, some of the bad behavior naturally dies out.
The goal of a positive parent is to show the child how to live in the world, and become fully functioning adults. If you expect them to blindly obey you, then they are not learning how to evaluate their options, how to think through the consequences, and how to make decisions.
Setting Up for Success
You have to make sure that you can set up your environment to avoid the common struggles.
- Put away your highly prized possessions out of reach, where they cannot be damaged.
- Make sure you firmly adhere to the naptime, bedtime, and eating schedule for both you and the kids. All people who are tired or hungry are cranky.
- Put away other common sources of problems out of reach as well, such as the Vaseline, and the crayons and markers. Some things simply need to be out only when you can supervise their use.
Positive Parenting Resources on Amazon
Respect and Dignity
Treating a child with respect and dignity is an important part of being a positive parent. Your child's needs, wants, and opinions matter. By listening to her and treating her respectfully, you can avoid many of the power struggles that come with raising a child.
In addition, you are showing them that they are valued human beings, and that their needs matter. When they become adults, they will hopefully require proper treatment by others, and will be less likely to be victims of abuse and domestic violence. They will also know how to respectfully treat other people, since they have seen it modeled all their lives.
The biggest philosophy difference between the way I raised my daughter and the way I saw others raising their children had to do with my explanations. Whenever I made a decision, or asked her to do or not do something, I took the time to explain my reasoning to her. This helps the child fully understand the consequences of their action or inaction.
This did take a great deal of time, but probably not as much as you would think. It generally only required a sentence or two. "No, you can't have the cookie. I want you to have room in your tummy for the healthy food." In addition, over time, she could predict my response to her request based on my reasoning, and not bother asking for things she knew she would not get.
She learned that I generally have a good reason for my requests, and that most of the time, these requests are made because they are in her best interest. From that, she learned to trust my decisions, not because I told her to, but because they knew that I generally made good decisions. This also helped for the times when I was too tired to think through a reason. She generally accepted the rare "Honey, just do it this time. I'm too tired to explain it to you now; I'll explain it to you later okay?" based on that trust.
This also helped her with her communication skills. From my modeling, she learned proper ways to show anger and disapproval, as well as proper ways to ask for what she wanted.
When you see any inappropriate behavior, instead of simply telling her not to do it, I would help her find an alternative solution that does work.
If she had a temper tantrum, I would ignore her until she was calmer. Then when she was calmer, I told her what she could have done instead. She was allowed to express her frustration, but there are socially sanctioned ways in which she could do it. She could use words to tell me what she wanted and how much she wanted it. She could ask for help if she couldn't reach what she wanted.
Another difference in my parenting style was that I allowed my daughter to communicate with me. If she was unhappy with a decision I had made, I allowed her to voice her opinion. If she really wanted the cookie, even though I said no, she could appeal my decision. After all, I don't know when she really wants something, or when she is simply asking because it is there.
When I tell her that I didn't want it to spoil her dinner, if she really wants the cookie, a possible solution could be a compromise. We can buy the cookie now, and she can eat it after dinner. Then as we walk around the grocery store, and she finds something else she likes, I can tell her she can have that candy, but she needs to choose one. Which does she want more, the cookie or the candy? Once she understands that she will have to give up the cookie, she is willing to put back the candy. In fact, she generally stopped asking for other things during the trip as well, since it would involve losing the cookie.
It is also possible that I am not willing to compromise and still won't buy her the cookie. "No, I don't want you to get used to me buying you something every time we go to a store." or "No, I don't have money for that right now." or "Cookies are junk food and are not good for you." She felt respected because she was able to voice her concern and appeal the decision, and had a chance to receive additional reasons for my decision.
After saying no, I generally proposed an alternate as a substitute. "How about I let you choose a fruit instead. Should we buy bananas or oranges?" generally works to divert her attention from the cookie.
Sometimes she is still unhappy with the decision, but she is entitled to her opinion and her feelings, and simply needs to adjust to the reality that she cannot get what she wants.
Instead of blind obedience, she has learned how to negotiate and communicate her needs and desires. I think this is a good lesson for her to avoid peer pressure and child predators.
Punishment and Correction are Not Necessary
Punishment and correction are not necessary components to positive parenting. In fact, I believe they should not be components of parenting at all. When you are late for work, does your employer have to make you stand in the corner or otherwise punish you for being late? Usually, a simple statement is all that is necessary. You do the right thing, not because you will be punished for not doing it, but because it is the right thing to do.
There are natural consequences for most of actions, and creating additional consequences is really not necessary.
What did I do if an explanation didn't work? I tried a different explanation. If "Honey, don't hit me. That hurts me." doesn't work, then additional explanation is necessary. "People don't like being hurt, and they may want to stay away from you when you hit them." I found that as long as she wasn't tired or cranky, I was able to explain to her the consequences of her actions. If that doesn't work, in the case of hitting, I simply got up and walked away, not as a punishment, but as a way to protect myself, and a way to change the situation. I could continue to explain at a short distance, and the change generally changed the dynamics enough to get her to stop.
Let me give you another example. When "Honey, go to bed. It is time for your nap." doesn't work, "You get cranky when you don't get enough sleep. You don't like to be cranky, and I don't like you to be cranky, so how about you get some sleep now,." can be added. We had already discussed the fact that being tired makes us cranky when she was not tired, so this was was simply a reminder.
Please notice that this still isn't a lecture. Just an extra sentence or two.
Positive parenting helps children grow up in a world as individuals who can think for themselves. The children learn the proper tools of living in society, such as communicating their needs, expressing their disagreements respectfully, and thinking through the consequences of their actions. They learn to do the right thing, not because they are afraid of the punishment, but because they respect themselves and the others around them. They have the self confidence to avoid peer pressure and get out of abusive situations.
It truly is possible to raise a well-adjusted child to responsible adulthood without resorting to punishment or discipline strategies. I know, because I did it.
Comments: "Child Discipline: Positive Parenting & Positive Discipline"
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on November 20, 2012:
Thanks Mama Kim. Children are able to reason starting from a very young age, and it really does help to explain the reasoning behind our decisions, because they can apply that reasoning in their future decisions.
Aloe Kim on November 18, 2012:
What a wonderful parenting style! Love it. Voting up and awesome ^_^
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on October 07, 2012:
JenCary, congratulations! It does help to discuss child rearing issues early, so that you can have a common philosophy that guides you during the early stressful times. I wish you the best. It is and will continue to be a joyous time indeed.
JenCary from Texas on October 06, 2012:
Thanks for the interesting hub. My husband and I are expecting our first child in April and these tips are definitely something we'll talk about.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on April 24, 2012:
Thanks leahlefler! Yeah, too often we do things the hard way, when a simpler solution is right on hand. Great idea to make getting ready for school a race, it certainly more effective to get a child's cooperation than to fight him every step of the way.
Leah Lefler from Western New York on April 24, 2012:
Great article, Millionaire Tips. I remember when my older son was in the toddler stage, he would constantly get into the trash can. We kept trying time outs, redirection, etc. and nothing worked. I'm not sure why it took so long for us to figure out the simple solution - we simply put the trash can in a cupboard where he couldn't reach it. It was one of those, "DUH!" moments in parenting.
Parenting definitely takes creativity - we couldn't figure out a way to motivate my six year old to get ready for school. By setting a microwave timer and making the task a "race," he was chomping at the bit to get ready! There are many positive methods of accomplishing discipline - the trick is finding the solution to each problem, and avoiding the problems in the first place (where possible)!
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on April 24, 2012:
Thank you RicardoE for your comment. That's true that discipline is not violence. If you read my hub, I'm not advocating against teaching children boundaries, I am advocating against punishing them. Instead of a time out chair, you can either let them suffer the natural consequences or, in cases where the natural consequences would be too severe, explain to them what the consequences are.
Your definition, "an activity, exercise or a regiment that develops or improves a skill" is not the definition of discipline I was discussing. That definition is exactly what I am recommending, in theory. As children practice doing the right thing, they do it naturally, whether anyone is looking or not. In practice though, too many people expect perfection on the first try, or become harsh in their teaching. It's "do what I say because I said it," instead of teaching the child the reasoning behind why doing that thing is the right thing to do.
Ricardo Enrique from Guatemala City on April 23, 2012:
" to raise a child without discipline or punishment of any kind" excuse me, but discipline is not equal to violent punishment of any kind. Discipline is an activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill. is wrong to associate discipline with a military regime, where punishment and forced work prevails. DISCIPLINE IS GOOD!!! VIOLENCE ISN'T
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on April 03, 2012:
Melovy, thanks for your comment. I agree a timeout for me is a great way to get myself back under control. And the calmer and less stressed I am, the calmer the children are as well. Great tip!
Yvonne Spence from UK on April 03, 2012:
This is a great hub. I agree with everything you’ve written. I’ve also found that trying to control behaviour by offering rewards doesn’t work either. It’s best just to be present with what’s here now, and to look beneath behaviour to see what’s driving it. Of course there are times that we don’t feel able to do that, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but one thing I’ve found is that time-out for me (not them) can occasionally be a good way to work through my frustration at my kids’ frustration.
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 19, 2012:
Thank you Simone. My parents didn't punish us much either. I pretty much just fine tuned what they did, by adding more positive reinforcement, since we turned out so well. :) Thank you for providing additional proof is possible and that this method does work.
Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on March 19, 2012:
Wow, this is fantastic! I've heard people speak out against spanking as a not very functional form of discipline, but not so well. The personal experience and philosophy you shared is great. I quite agree with your approach- my parents had a similar philosophy and it sure worked well for me!
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 19, 2012:
Thank you Reves-Diary, Green Lotus, suzettenaples, and teaches12345. If you give the child the benefit of the doubt that their acting out is due to their not having the proper strategy to handle their frustration correctly, then you look at it from that perspective. They aren't trying to make you mad - they just don't know a better way. When we don't take it personally, it is easier to do our job of teaching them the better way. "What could you have done instead?"
Dianna Mendez on March 18, 2012:
Interesting discipline strategy for children. Your positive suggestions are wonderful and glad they worked for your child. Children deserve to have guidiance on what is acceptable behavior so that they know how to act accordingly. Thanks for sharing.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on March 18, 2012:
I think it is wonderful that you gave your daughter the freedom you did. I agree, grounding is not effective. Most children, as you say, do not respond well to harsh discipline and punishment. You are to be commended for following through with the positive reinforcement. I have always said, parenting is the most difficult job there is. It takes time and patience and hard work and it is NOT LUCK!
Hillary from Atlanta, GA on March 18, 2012:
I agree with so much you have to share here and I don't even have kids; but I do have to discipline other family members! Your tips will work on adults too :)
Reve from Dhaka on March 18, 2012:
Pretty good and informative hub, and it will certainly help us to obtain some good ideas about positive parenting. Well done :) keep the good work *Cheers*
Shasta Matova (author) from USA on March 18, 2012:
Thank you alocsin, billybuc, suzettenaples, twaggoner, GoGreenTips.
I started my reasoning technique from a very early age. In fact I can't remember a time when I didn't use it. I agree that my daughter was a reasonable child, but I was a reasonable parent and modeled that behavior for her. I had the patience, most of the time, to explain as much as was needed. But yes, she gets most of the credit since she did have the right temperament for this technique.
I don't know if it would work in every situation, but I think it is worth a try. I would say that it did work on the other children that were around me, especially the younger ones, such as foster children, nephews and nieces.
I had some teenage foster children who were a challenge, but mostly because they didn't have that trust, and were used to getting punished for their actions. I lost valuable time (and consistency) trying to ground them as the agency recommended, so I didn't get a chance to fully see if this technique would work for them. I think it might have worked though if I had used it consistently, as I did see some positive results.
One thing I kept telling my daughter during the independence years (terrible twos and teenager, and other smaller periods of time) was to explain to her the phase she was going through. She needed to try new things and do things on her own. I told her that I was on her side, that she didn't need to fight to earn the right to try new things - I would be more than happy to go along with all reasonable requests. It was her job to learn how to be an adult, and I would be there to support her every step of the way.
GoGreenTips, that's exactly it. Positive reinforcement works so much better than negative reinforcement.
Greg Johnson from Indianapolis on March 17, 2012:
Great article on punishment and the alternative. It can work in the workplace too. As a manager, I found that using positive reinforcement worked much better. Finding people doing things right was phenomenally effective at developing motivated and independent workers.
twaggoner on March 17, 2012:
Very nice hub. I can definitely agree with you on your assessment of corporal punishment. It has been proven again and again to be unhealthy. I do disagree however with your point on grounding or time out, I have had experience with this being a valuable learning tool. I do agree that it does put the parent on the same punishment as you have to watch the timer, or basically put the family on grounding, but in my experience at times it is necessary to have a "punishment" that the children do not want as there are some times that conversation will not work since as children they are moving through the natural progression of their growth and at times need to have consequences. Having said that, I applaud you being able to raise a well adjusted child without use of punishment or discipline, and think that we would all be better off if more parents were more engaged in their childrens lives.
Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on March 17, 2012:
Excellent hub and oh so true. This from a retired teacher. You have a very mature and reasonable child. Some parents don't, I do have to point out. Some have children with ADD, ADHD, Autism, Aspergers. Positive parenting alone will not always work with children with these types of problems. Immature children also do not always have the ability to handle this type of parenting. I am so happy for you that your child responded so well to this approach to parenting. I'm sure she is very well-adjusted. Spanking/hitting children doesn't solve anything - it only brings on resentment and feelings of retaliation.
I comment you for having the courage to raise your child in this manner and for sharing your success story with us. It can be done!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 17, 2012:
Excellent hub with great suggestions and reflections. Now if we can just get some new parents to read this and practice the principles we might see some positive results.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 17, 2012:
Fortunately for the little ones, I think more and more parents espouse this philosophy, especially in the U.S. Voting this Up and Useful.