Positive Discipline in Early Childhood




Children’s social, emotional, intellectual, and physical skills are continuously developing every moment of every single day. In order to adjust these skills to a number of different situations children need to make sense of these situations and apply the appropriate skill to successfully pull themselves through. This is where children need the adult’s help. Within a caring and nurturing child-adult relationship, the child feels safe and respected and feels that the adult is trustworthy. Therefore it will be easier for him to accept guidance, rules or limits. At the same time when the adult feels the child trusts him he is more successful in guiding the child and help the child have the best learning experience possible (Marion, 2010).

Almost every behavior, no matter how bad or annoying has a reason why it is happening. This is a fundamental starting point for a parent, a caregiver or a teacher who wishes to use positive discipline to correct this behavior. It is very easy to label a child as spoiled, difficult, bad and punish him or her. On the other hand it is rather challenging but so rewarding to be able to see behind the bad behavior and read the messages that the specific behavior is sending in order to understand what this child really needs. Here is where positive discipline assumes an important role.

Positive discipline focuses on teaching and reinforcing positive behaviors and at the same time redirect from incorrect behaviors. Positive discipline has long-term effects because it teaches necessary life skills in a kind and positive, yet firm way. In effect, positive discipline comes from adults that are loving, nurturing, compassionate, encourage communication and independence and have realistic expectations, according to the developmental stage of the child. They monitor and respond to the child’s needs. They guide and mentor, not punish or diminish the child.

There are fundamental differences between discipline and punishment. Punishment is an act that imposes something unpleasant to somebody; it can hurt physically, emotionally and/or mentally. Positive discipline is based on mutual respect and understanding. Punishment will shift the child’s focus to the punishment and to the person who punishes him. Discipline will help the child stay focused on himself and his behavior and will invite cooperation and resolution. Punishment will not correct the problematic behavior and will not teach the child how to behave. Discipline shows the child what he did wrong, gives him ownership of the problem and shows him ways to solve it (Faber & Mazlish, 2004).

In any situation, there are six messages that the adult should communicate to the child: 1) I believe in you 2) I trust you 3) I know you can handle it 4) You are listened to 5) You are cared for 6) You are very important to me.


Faber, A. & Mazlish, E. (2004). How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk.

Marion, M. (2010). Guidance of Young Children.

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