What is Positive Discipline anyway?

Nandini Priya Rabelli
3 min readJan 30, 2022

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Part 1:

As a child, I have grown up accepting the fact, that adults have a right to scold or spank a child, to teach that child the right or better way to behave.

However, as an adult, due to awareness through reading and my own experience of how I feel when someone reprimands me, made me reflect deeply on the way I want to discipline my daughter.

The more I started reading and knowing about research on the time it takes for the prefrontal cortex to fully develop, shouting at her or spanking her seemed not appropriate. The prefrontal cortex plays an essential role in various cognitive functions like reasoning, logic, focus, attention, stopping impulses, etc. And this part of the brain develops last. And can you guess by when it is actually fully developed?

A human Prefrontal Cortex is NOT fully developed till the age of 25 or 30 years!

So without this awareness, adults expect their children to behave. Actions of children range from hitting an adult to screaming to breaking things to not listening to our instructions. And these behaviors when seem to be unacceptable to an adult mind. The most popular method of fixing is Punishment.

Authoritative / Punishment model of discipline

Fixing through means like punishments, scolding, spanking, and by statements like below.

“I am in control, and you must do what I say”

“How can you do this?”

“You can’t get away with it, I will make you do it.”

In short term, this method of discipline works and gives immediate results. This method is easy as it is adult-driven and based on control or order. However, in long term,

  • Has tendency to build resentment, rebellion, reduced self-esteem, sneakiness, or revengeful nature.
  • Impacts relationship with the children as it is not based on connection.
  • Doesn’t enable us in imparting important problem solving or life skills that we ultimately want kids to learn, through discipline.

Permissiveness / Anarchy model of discipline

Not often, but at times, some of us in the name of being anti-punishments, let the kids have greater control and freedom without any order or boundary.

In short term, this method of discipline works and pleases the kids, you become their hero. However, in long term,

  • Can’t be sustained.
  • Doesn’t enable in imparting important life skills like persistence, focus, etc.

So is there an alternative?

Democratic / Respectful model of discipline

Thanks to Jade Gooding, an amazing mother and my mentor, who guided me to this wonderful book. I found answers to my dilemma. A Democratic or Respectful discipline gives you the best of both Worlds — Freedom and Order. It is Kind and Firm at the same time.

A method that is NOT based on Punishments, NOT based on Permissiveness but based on Encouragement.

My way of representing each of these models is on a graph against Freedom and Order.

In short term, this method might seem a lot challenging, time-consuming, and needs a lot of unlearning from our side. However, in the long term,

  • Helps children feel a sense of connection, belonging, and significance.
  • Invites children to discover how capable they are and how to use their power constructively.
  • Teaches valuable social and life skills for good character, fostering respect, concern for others, problem-solving, and cooperation.

I hope through this blog, I could get you to reflect on the WHY. Why do we really need to consider/give chance to this democratic method of discipline?

I will share a few insights and experiences around the HOW of this method, in my next post — Part 2.

In the meantime, do reflect, on the following.

What is the end goal, of us choosing the path of punishments?

Is it that they learn skills like self-control, cooperation, responsibility, honesty, interest in learning, etc.?

Just do a small role-play between two adults(maybe with your spouse or a fellow friend). One of you acting like a child and the other as a parent. Check if punishments are really helping the adult acting like a child, learn any of these skills?

PS: I recommend checking the work of Jane Nelsen.

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Nandini Priya Rabelli

Believer in the need to bring awareness around Education, Mindful parenting, Sustainable lifestyle and in the magic that community brings.