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Here you will find parenting articles with useful tips and strategies, links to trusted research and examples of personal experience. Some of the articles have videos that help to bring the content to life.

Positive Discipline, Cooperative Kids

Hayley Williams, Waterloo Region, ON

What happens when your 3 year old pitches a fit and throws his toys all over the room and refuses to pick them up? What about when your 8 year old refuses to do her homework? Often, we jump straight to punishment. We want to make sure that the child understands what they’ve done wrong. That they’ve faced some sort of consequence to deter them from doing the same thing next time.  This is something we are doing to our child. But what if there was another way?

two little girls walking hand in hand in a fieldWhen I started working with the Parenting Now program, I hadn’t given much dedicated thought to the difference between punishment and discipline.

Then, as part of my training, I took part in the “Positive Discipline, Cooperative Kids” course. This is offered through KW Counselling’s Parenting with Passion program. That course started to get my wheels turning and changed the way that I parent my own kids (aged 4 and 7). Recently, I was given the opportunity to co-facilitate the program and it further instilled in me the subtle differences in handling poor behaviour and what a positive impact a gentler parental reaction can have. Discipline is a process through which we work with our children to problem solve and achieve self-discipline.

Here are some examples of ways to discipline:

Diffuse strong reactions with ‘calm, comfort, and connection’

Include time for love and play everyday – loving relationships are the foundation for positive behaviour

Set limits and rules that make sense

Connect before correct

I messages are the key to effective communication

Plan ahead for how to handle difficult situations

Listen to your child’s ideas for solutions

Incorporate natural and logical consequences, as possible

Notice and comment when your child follows thought with a plan or make a positive decision

Engage active problem solving skills and strategies

Punishment is a way of making someone ‘pay for their actions’. Discipline is a way to allow the person to come to the correct decision themselves through empathy and an inherent understanding of what is right and wrong based on the values of their household.

One of the biggest challenges for me in using positive discipline in place of punishment is that I feel like I’m letting my kids off the hook when they’ve done something wrong. Sometimes the overwhelming feeling of frustration that we have in that moment makes it really, really hard to step back and take a different approach rather than being emotionally reactive. What I love about this course is that each time I am a part of it, I learn something new and am reminded about the benefits of this approach. Through implementing the concepts taught in this course into my own life, I’ve found some great success.

These are the 3 that we are currently focusing on in our home:

1. Diffuse strong reactions with calm, comfort, and connection.

This important concept of how the brain works and the importance of not freaking out when our kids do, is taught in many of the Parenting with Passion courses. When we ‘flip our lid’, especially if we’re matching our child’s ‘flipped lid’, we’re not going to get anywhere – with punishment OR discipline. It is important to find techniques that work to help you remain composed in those moments of heightened stress and allow you to reconnect with your child. For me, it’s counting to ten or breathing deeply and thoughtfully. It’s okay to let my child have their moment of being upset and then coming back to chat with them once they’ve calmed down.

So, if my 4 year old has a tantrum and throws her toys all over the room and refuses to pick them up, I need to remain calm and find out what she needs in that moment. Is it a hug? Some space? Then, I wait until the tantrum has passed (and comfort her if needed) and then I can talk to her about what happened. I remind her that she is responsible for cleaning up, but that I’m there to help her if she needs me. Just because she is “acting up” does not mean that I withdraw my love and attention – I will be there for her when she needs me.  I can explain why it is important that she cleans this mess in terms she can understand. For example, ‘if you leave your toys here, daddy will have a hard time walking through to the kitchen and may trip and hurt himself.’ Once everything is calm, we can make a plan  about what to do next time. 

Predictability is really important for kids; it allows them to plan and to understand the consequences of their actions, and thereby allow them to make different choices.

2. Plan ahead for how to handle difficult situations and instill pride.

When my child was a toddler, she was incredibly unpredictable when we were out in the world. Sometimes she was a perfect angel and sometimes she was a complete wild child – screaming, throwing herself on the floor…you get the picture. I found that I was becoming so anxious before taking her out to certain places that my emotions were already high before we even left. I anticipated what might happen, making me much quicker to anger should any little behavioural issue arise.

What I realize now is that I can predict and plan for these types of behaviours in order to deal with them more easily or to avoid them completely. For example, if your little one doesn’t enjoy going to the grocery store and melts down the entire time you’re there? Try letting her draw out a grocery list and bring it with her to check off the items as you find them. This gives your child something to do that she feels proud of which, oftentimes, will prevent the meltdowns. This works with older children too. Let them in on your grocery budget, give them a calculator, and have them add everything up as you go. Not only are they occupied, but they’re learning about budgeting at the same time – 2 for 1!

Pride plays such an important role in positive discipline. When the younger child feels pride for creating and completing the list and the older child feels a sense of accomplishment in managing the money and also the mathematics involved in tracking, they feel great about themselves and enjoy that feeling!

3. Using ‘I’ statements and incorporating natural logical consequences.

In a moment of upset it can be really easy to say ‘you’re making me so angry!!’ or ‘you are behaving horribly!’ Instead of that, I’ve been working to switch those thoughts around into ‘I statements’. ‘I feel very frustrated when you don’t listen to me.’ Not only does this take the focus off the child, but it also helps them to learn empathy. Once the child understands how you feel and the situation is calm, you can more easily move into natural consequences.

Parenting with Passion focuses on the parent and our reactions to our child’s behaviours as opposed to the behaviours themselves, and this is a really important distinction. Often times we as parents are looking to ‘fix’ our children’s behaviour. But when we start to acknowledge our own feelings, actions, and reactions and begin to work on them, our child’s behaviour suddenly starts to shift as well and there are less and less instances requiring discipline.

For me, this journey of learning positive discipline will never be over. Each time I participate in this session I am reminded of new and interesting ways to discipline. I am reminded of how important it is for me to keep pursuing this type of parenting relationship, even when it is doesn’t come naturally.

Hayley is the loving mom of two little girls. She is also part of our team at Parenting Now. You can connect with Hayley through our Let’s Talk Parenting online chat. Hayley would love to talk about your parenting challenges with allergies ….or other parenting concerns. 

See a clip of our Positive Discipline, Cooperative Kids workshop.


8 Responses to “Positive Discipline, Cooperative Kids”

  1. Omkalthoum says:

    Thanks Hayley. What a wonderful article a great reminder of excellent parenting strategies, they are late to do them with my kids:) but with my grand kids(Inshaa Allah) this is such a wonderful article. I really loved and enjoy it.

  2. cgarcia23 says:

    Very interesting topic! While I was reading this article I was seeing myself disciplining or punishing my kids. I think, many parents can relate to Hayley’s experiences. More often than not I find myself judging my kids so quickly instead of listening and supporting them. The fact that we are so busy during the day, we as parents don’t have time to talk to our kids. All we can do is to improve each day. In my case, I try to take some time to reflect on my attitude towards my children and try to improve the next day. Other times, I ask my children for their input which helps me a lot.

  3. Shay says:

    Hayley, thanks for this. I’m actually struggling big time with my 4 yr old and her meltdowns at home, only happen with me me and not mom. Especially in the mornings when we are getting ready for the day and things are rushed.

  4. Victoria says:

    What a wonderful article a great reminder of excellent parenting strategies. I love the practical examples so easy to relate to.

  5. Victoria says:


  6. L. Walter says:

    Hayley this article is great. I was in conversation with some parents the other day who were struggling with some of the points you made in this article especially the idea they were letting there kids off the hook. I just want to say this positive parenting piece may come late to some of us but it is never to late to put into use.

  7. Nadia says:

    Great article Hayley! Thinking ahead of time always helps. I like your strategies to engage kids in a grocery store.

  8. diane says:

    Thanks Hayley. This is such a wonderful article. I really love how you have brought the concepts to life by giving your own examples. When my daughter was young, I-statements made a big difference in our relationship! I learned pretty quickly that when I started by saying “you…..” I would just get defiance. But when I started by saying “I…..” she actually listened. They really do work!

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