Why Some Parents Don't Accept Non-Punitive Methods

Dr. Jane Nelsen
October 16, 2009

Excerpted from Positive Discipline: The First Three Years

Because all children (and all parents) are unique individuals, there are usually several non-punitive solutions to any problem. Some of the parents we meet at lectures and parenting classes don't immediately understand or accept these solutions; indeed, Positive Discipline requires a "paradigm shift" -- a radically different way of thinking about discipline. Parents who are hooked on punishment often are asking the wrong questions. They usually want to know:

  • How do I make my child mind?
  • How do I make my child understand "no"?
  • How do I get my child to listen to me?
  • How do I make this problem go away?

Most frazzled parents want answers to these questions at one time or another, but they are based on short-term thinking. Parents will be eager for non-punitive alternatives when they ask the following questions-and see the results this change in approach creates for them and their children.

  • How do I help my child learn respect, cooperation, and problem-solving skills?
  • How do I help my child feel capable?
  • How do I help my child feel belonging and significance?
  • How do I get into my child's world and understand his developmental process?
  • How can I use problems as opportunities for learning-for my child and for me?

These questions address the big picture and are based on long-term thinking. We have found that when parents find answers to the long-term questions, the short-term questions take care of themselves: Children do "mind" and cooperate (at least, most of the time) when they're involved in finding solutions to problems; they will understand "no" when they are developmentally ready; and they listen when parents listen to them and talk in ways that invite listening. Problems are solved more easily when parents use kind and firm guidance until children are old enough to be involved in the process of creating limits and focusing on solutions.

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