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Positive Discipline

Discipline is not the same as punishment! Positive discipline helps children, while physical punishment damages development. toddler painting outside 2015

With positive discipline, children learn:

  • what you expect.

  • how to control their own behavior.

  • how to be accountable for their actions. 

  • what happens when they misbehave.

Children's brains are built to connect with others. Children who feel connected to their community, family, or school are less likely to misbehave. Because it is based on relationships, positive discipline helps children develop necessary social and life skills. 

Here are the 5 aspects of positive discipline:

  1. Is it kind and firm at the same time?

  2. Does it help children feel a sense of belonging and significance?

  3. Is it effective long-term?

  4. Does it teach valuable social and life skills for good character?

  5. Does it invite children to discover how capable they are -- and to use their personal power in constructive ways? 

Here are the tools and concepts of positive discipline:

  1. Offer mutual respect. It's important to be a role model who is both firm and kind, treating the child with respect even when you're angry.

  2. Identify the belief behind the behavior. Recognize the reasons children do what they do -- then work to change those beliefs. Don't just try to change behavior.

  3. Communicate effectively. Be a role model of healthy communication. Help children develop problem-solving skills.

  4. Teach. Use this as a chance to teach new skills or new ideas. Focus on solutions instead of punishment.

  5. Encourage instead of praise. Notice effort and improvement, not just success. Help build long-term self-esteem and empowerment.

Meanwhile, here's some info on what NOT to do: don't yell, bribe, spank, make empty threats, compare children to others, cave into whining, or set a bad example.

25 ways to encourage


Click on the image to the left for 25 great ways to encourage children.

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Temper Tantrums

Tantrums are very stressful -- not just for parents, but also for children. 

Tantrum prevented cropped 2015When a young child has a tempter tantrum, she is expressing frustration with the challenges of the moment. Frustration might trigger feelings of anger — resulting in a temper tantrum.

Your child might be having trouble figuring something out -- or she might be having trouble completing a task. He probably doesn't have the words to express his feelings yet.

If your child is thirsty, hungry, or tired — she will have a lower threshold for tolerating stress. So a tantrum is more likely.

Here's how to other parents prevent toddler temper tantrums: 

  1. Offer choices: Help your toddler feel capable and in control. Give her choices, so she can learn independence. For instance, give her a choice between wearing red socks and blue socks; but if being sock-less is not an option, don't ask whether she wants to wear socks. Give her real options.

  2. Validate emotions: Often, toddlers have tantrums because they don’t feel understood. When your toddler starts getting upset, validate what she's feeling. In a firm and gentle voice, say something like, “I know you are upset because you want a cracker, but I don't have any to give you right now.” 

  3. Offer a replacement or distraction: Say or do something silly or point out something interesting. To see distraction at its best, check out the popular 1-minute video of a doctor distracting a baby with tissues.

  4. Offer exercise or outside time: You and your child are both likely to feel better with some fresh air and stretching of muscles.

  5. Sing: You can soothe your child by singing or playing recorded music. He will probably enjoy dancing, too -- which is great for motor skill development.

  6. Set a schedule: Often, children have tantrums because they are tired, hungry, or have other physical needs. With a schedule, you can prevent many of these issues -- and also prevent many tantrums.

  7. Support language development: Children have tantrums when they don't have words to express their feelings and needs. Help your toddler develop language by reading books, having conversations with her, and more.

  8. Help identify emotions: Toddlers are not only learning language, they are also learning about their emotions. After age 1, toddlers develop a range of complex emotions. They can have trouble handling all these emotions. Help them out by labeling your own emotions whenever you can.

  9. Give snuggles: Whenever possible, spend time holding, cuddling, and expressing love towards your toddler. Physical contact helps children develop in many positive ways.

  10. Practice "positive time-outs." Everybody needs a break sometimes. Be a role model of self-care and self-control.

  11. Don't use the "counting method." With this common method, parents count (1, 2, 3) before punishing a child for bad behavior. Realistically, stressed-out toddlers can't be expected to know or remember the proper way to behave.

Visit the Mayo Clinic for more info on preventing toddler temper tantrums.

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Behavior at Child Care

Child putting on boot 2015






If you're a parent looking for quality child care, there are lots of guidelines to help.

If you're a child care provider, there are also many recommendations for providing healthy guidance and positive discipline in child care settings. 






Common Challenges

For many reasons, children sometimes have difficult days in child care. What are some of the best ways to handle and prevent challenging behaviors like biting, temper tantrums, and excessive crying?



Here are tips to prevent biting

biting 2015

  1. Keep the daily routine predictable. 

  2. Be patient and consistent.

  3. Reduce the frustrations of sharing toys.

  4. Provide close supervision.

  5. Observe the biting child carefully. Answer the following questions to help you think about ways to prevent biting behavior:

    • When and under what circumstances does biting occur?

    • Who is the child biting?

    • How does the biter react when the child he or she has bitten becomes upset?

    • Is biting worse at certain times of the day? 

  6. Give the child lots of positive attention throughout the day when he is not biting.


Temper Tantrums

Here are tips to prevent temper tantrums at childcare:

  1. Observe children’s tantrums. Learn what you can about the stressors the child is facing.

  2. Set realistic limits.

  3. Stick to a regular routine.

  4. Offer real choices.

  5. Give children notice before you end an activity.

  6. Challenge children without frustrating them.

  7. Choose your battles, as the saying goes.


Excessive Crying

Here are tips to prevent excessive crying:

  1. Check that a baby’s basic needs are met. Crying may be a sign of hunger or a dirty diaper. 

  2. Make sure his clothing is not pinching or tight. Undress the baby to see if there are marks showing clothes have been too tight.

  3. Try swaddling or wrapping the baby up snugly. This is comforting and helps babies feel secure.

  4. Hold the baby against your chest. Babies often feel more comfortable if you hold them close.

  5. Try feeding the baby more slowly. Remember to burp them often.

  6. Rock the baby. You can do this in a rocking chair or by sitting with baby and swaying back and forth.

  7. Go for a walk or ride. Sometimes a stroller ride in fresh air can work wonders.

  8. Give baby a warm bath. Water can be very soothing.

  9. Give a gentle massage. Rub on lotion or a light oil like almond oil. Gently massage baby’s arms, legs, toes, and tummy.

  10. Sing softly. Humming works well, too.

  11. Play recorded music with pleasant gentle sounds. Soft piano music or ocean sounds seem to work well.

  12. Try using a pacifier (if you use them). Sometimes a baby just needs to suck.

  13. Consider formula choices. Sometimes a formula can cause tummy aches.

  14. Find out about the baby's typical day at home. Find out what others do to calm him.

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Healthy Communication

The way you communicate with your baby or toddler makes a major difference in her development — emotionally, intellectually, and even physically. 

Baby sitting up on couch cropped 2015When you are sensitive and responsive to your baby's cues, you help your child: 

  • develop a sense of self.

  • learn how to express a range of emotions.

  • learn self-control and self-calming.

  • develop a healthy relationship with you.

Here are a few tips for healthy communication:

  • Be available for your child.

  • Let your child know you're listening.

  • Respond in a way your child will hear.   

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