This is a good explanation of the principles of “positive discipline” parenting from The Libertarian Homeschooler:
Do you punish your sons?
How do they learn?
I let them experience the consequences of their actions.
Isn’t that the same thing?
No. In one instance, I’m meting it out. In the other, I’m not.
What does that look like?
I say, “This will end badly.” When they were little I would say, “That will hurt you.” They either stop and wait for help or it ends badly or it hurts them.
Does that work?
You bet it does.
What if they’re headed for catastrophic injury?
I step in, just as I would for anyone else. I am on belay but the climb is theirs.
When they were little didn’t you spend a lot of time running after them since they weren’t trained?
We baby proofed so they could explore in relative safety. They still banged into things and got hurt.
Did they pay attention to what you told them?
They figured it out pretty quickly. When I said, “That will hurt you,” pain was coming. But pain wasn’t associated with me. Consequences would still happen even if I wasn’t there. That’s key. I do not cause consequences. Even if I’m not here, there are consequences. A lot of children clearly don’t understand that and they behave differently when their parents aren’t looking.
Were both boys the same?
YS needs to learn from experience. Sometimes more than once. BA will hang back and avoid pain and injury.
Did you ever administer and emotionally or physically painful consequence instead of letting nature take its course?
How did that go?
What do you mean it went poorly?
It put emotional distance between me and my child. I broke trust with him. Administering calm, collected punishments made him disdainful. He saw it as a control issue.
So you would not do it again?
If I could undo it, I would. It was an expensive lesson for me in terms of my son’s respect. He has little patience for someone who will encroach upon him or will try to control him and it is his nature to remember long.
What caused the most strife in your home when your children were little?
Parental failure. Lack of self discipline on my part.
What do you attribute that to?
Perfectionism. Impatience. Pride. Fear. Exhaustion. Boundary issues.
Do your children have those flaws?
There are family characteristics. My parents had them. They modeled them for me. I’m changing things and our sons will change things more. They share good qualities as well. We’ll keep those.
What’s an example of a parental fail?
Getting angry because they weren’t doing an adult thing. At three.
You did that?
I still do, sometimes.
Can’t you get that under control?
I do what I can. I own the mistakes I make. That’s the best I can do.
Do you think your children ever did anything wrong?
They were being children. They were learning. Being a child isn’t wrong. It is wrong to expect a child to behave like an adult and then label it bad behavior.
Do they pay attention to what you say now?
The less counsel you give, the more they want it. They pay more attention all the time.
Does it bother you when they ignore your advice and make mistakes?
We’re separate people. They make their own decisions. That’s healthy. I’m glad they can disagree with me. I want them to be able to say no. This is good.
Do you ever freak out?
How does that work?
Badly. I lose their respect. That’s a consequence of my actions.
Do you freak out often?
Less all the time.
Because they’re growing up?
Because I’m growing up. Children do that to a person.
What if they’re disrespectful?
They lose my good will. That’s a consequence of their actions.
Who is in control in your house?
I’m in control of myself. They’re in control of themselves.
What would you say is your bottom line on relationship with your children?
I am me. You are you. We are individuals. I will love you. I will defend you. I will provide for you. If you like, I will advise you. I will acknowledge your decisions are yours and I will not take credit or blame for them.
Is it really that simple?
Is it easy to do?
Is it hard to get here?
I’m barely here, myself. But it’s worth it.
Positive discipline rejects punishments and rewards. Instead, children are taught by natural consequences, setting limits, and more — while restraining them as necessary to keep themselves and others safe. I know a number of kids parented by this method, and they’re not perfect (no child is) but they’re all remarkably reasonable, polite, and easy to live with.
If you want to know more, I interviewed Jenn Casey and Kelly Elmore on this very topic on the 27 June 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the podcast here:
- Duration: 48:57
- Download: Standard MP3 File (11.2 MB)
For more details, check out the episode’s archive page.