Wednesday, December 30, 2009

52 Positive Discipline Tool Cards in 52 Weeks

If you have signed up for my newsletter, you have already heard about the project “52 Parenting Tool Cards in 52 Weeks” being done by my son Brad Ainge and two of my grandchildren. Read his first blog on this project. My guess is that you will want to become a follower.

Brad is generating quite a bit of excitement with his new 52 Parenting tool cards project and has already appeared as a guest on an Internet radio program that I think you will enjoy.

I will be a guest on Parenting Unplugged in January. Watch for an announcement on Events at 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Punishment or Not: The Debate Goes On and On and On

I have a Google alert that lets me know any time my name or Positive Discipline is mentioned on the Internet. This morning I read a blog by James Rivera on Spanking, grounding, and yelling: Does old-fashioned discipline work?
            One thing that surprised me is the number of his readers who still believe in spanking.
At the end there was a quote by me, that I wasn’t very fond of, on how to deal with a misbehaving child.
Some children will push and push until they get a spanking and then settle down. They’ve been conditioned not to settle down or cooperate until they’re spanked. Instead, try holding a disobedient child firmly on your lap. No matter how much she struggles, don’t let go until she calms down or agrees to cooperate.
— Jane Nelsen, the Positive Discipline series

 I made the following comment that I would like to share with you.
I can see that in some cases in might work, but in other cases it would just increase the power struggle. There are many other strategies I like better.
1) Simply validate a child’s feelings and then shut up and then provide “energetic support” while allowing the child to have his or her feelings until they dissipate. The long-term benefit is that children develop a sense of their own capability when they experience that they can work through their feelings.
2) Do the unexpected. Tell your child, “I need a hug.” Some will give you one right away. Others will continue their misbehavior. You can then say, “I would really like a hug. Come find me when you are ready.” Then walk away. Some children will follow you right away. Others won’t, but they have an inner smile. They have learned that their misbehavior doesn’t “work,” and they feel encouraged and are less likely to continue the misbehavior.
3) Say, “We are having a power struggle. Would you like to put this problem on the family meeting agenda, or should I?”
         There are many other possibilities, but all are designed to be respectful to both the 
child and the parent and to teach valuable social and life skills. And, they all create a “connection before correction.”

Monday, December 14, 2009

Positive Discipline Evidence Based

The reason I have used Positive Discipline (based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs), in my own life and to share with others, is that it works. Thousands of parents have shared with me that it works for them to improve their relationships with their children and to help their children learn self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem-solving skills. Still, many organizations cannot adopt programs unless that are “evidence based” or have the designation of “best practices.” Achieving best practices can be very expensive, involving extensive research.
Finally, Dr. Jody McVittie, a Certified Positive Discipline Associate has completed research described in the following press release.

*** For Immediate Release *** For Immediate Release ***

A new study released this week shows that parenting classes are helping parents create the kind of family that they want.  The study, The Impact of Adlerian-Based Parenting Classes on Self-Reported Parental Behavior, was conducted over a 3-year period by Jody McVittie, M.D. and Al M. Best, Ph.D. with the assistance of 69 parent educators across the US and Canada, utilizing data from 110 classes (1300 parent and care-givers).  The parenting class curricula were experiential and primarily from the Positive Discipline or the Parent Encouragement Program.
By the end of the class, parents reported that they were more able to set clear limits, more able to connect with their children in positive ways. They also were able to decrease hitting and yelling.  Many of the respondents added comments at the end of the post class survey that indicated that they were pleased with the changes in their families. Typical comments included: “My own anger level and frustration has decreased.” “I have a better relationship with my children.” “There is less yelling now.” “Fewer power struggles now.” “We have more fun as a family.” “I enjoy parenting more.” “I’m better at problem solving.” ”I have more confidence in my parenting skills.” ”I calm myself down instead of reacting.” “I’m remaining firm in my limits.”  “I have more hope for who my child will become.” “We have more fun as a family.” “I enjoy parenting more.” ”I respect myself more and my children more.”
Previous research documents the long term benefits of parenting that is both firm and caring.  This kind of parenting, called “authoritative,” has been shown to reduce many social risks for children (smoking, early sexual debut, drinking, violence) and has been shown to be helpful for academic and social success.  This large new study provides one missing link, showing that parents can change their parenting styles in ways that will be helpful to their children long term and that the parents were quite happy with the changes.
Further research will be useful to establish that the changes that the parents report are long term.
A copy of the results summary is attached.  It may be reproduced, but for copyright reasons it can only represent a small portion of any article describing the research.

For more information please contact:
Jody McVittie, M.D. at: or 206 782 1595

For copies of the Research:
McVittie, J. & Best, A., The Impact of Adlerian-Based Parenting Classes on Self-Reported Parental Behavior, Journal of Individual Psychology, Fall 2009, 65(3)  264-285. 
Published by the University of Texas Press, 800 252 3206,
P O Box 7819, Austin TX  78713-7819

Monday, December 7, 2009

Positive Discipline and Pampering: More on Kind and Firm and the Same Time

I know that people who are against punishment are drawn to Positive Discipline, but they often see only the kind part and take that kindness to the extreme. Why is it that human beings seem most comfortable when thinking in extremes? The pendulum seems to swing back and forth in argument for being very strict (firm) with children to the other extreme of being very lenient (kind) with children. Why is it so difficult to help parents see the value of being both kind and firm?
I keep hearing reports of children who have complete meltdowns when they can’t have their own way; of children who are obnoxiously demanding; of children who are hitting and screaming and threatening their parents. Much of this is normal testing as children find out what kind of power they have and don’t have. What is not normal is parents who are afraid of being firm for fear it will damage the psyche of their children for life. They “misuse” Positive Discipline parenting tools by being too kind without being firm. They are afraid to allow their children to “suffer.” Note that I said, “allow them to suffer,” not “make them suffer.” Let’s take the example of validating feelings.
            Sally had a temper tantrum because she wanted the toy her little brother had. Her mother said, “I can see you are really angry.” Sally continued to scream that she wanted the toy. Mother tried to reason with her, “Maybe you could wait your turn or find a toy to trade.” Sally continued her tantrum. Mom continued to validate her feelings and trying to comfort her.
            What would Positive Discipline look like? Mom might say, “I can see you are really upset,” ONCE. Then she might say, while leaving the room, “I have faith in you that you can handle this.” I would like to add that the last statement is more for the benefit of the mother than the child.  A huge part of being firm is for parents to stay “firm” in allowing children to experience their feelings instead of rescuing, fixing, and trying to make sure their children never suffer.
Parents need to have faith in their children to deal with the ups and downs of life and to know that this kind of “suffering” is good for their children. Children need to learn that they can’t always have what they want. What do they learn from this? That they are capable, that they can be resilient, that they can survive delayed gratification.

Being too kind can lead to demanding behavior in children—especially in a materialistic world. The answer is not to go to the other extreme of being too firm. The answer is to follow the age-old advice of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs (and taught by Positive Discipline) to be both kind and firm at the same time. It is okay to say, “I love you, and the answer is, ‘No.’”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another Hug Story

Another hug story from Casey O’Roarty that was posted on the Positive Discipline Network. We may be starting a revolutionary movement.
“I just really wanted to share this... So during our bedtime routine tonight, the kids were really working us over. My daughter, Rowan (almost 7), had a really long bath and put my husband through the ringer with her pace and selective listening... We had set an expectation earlier in the night that before she could listen to stories in bed, she was going to clean up her room. It was a pretty big mess so I let her know that I would help her some (this can be dangerous because I have been known to help while lecturing about the need to keep her room clean=completely ineffective). So I decided I would hang up the clothes on the floor... I managed not to lecture but I did say "It's really hard for daddy to read books and sing songs and for me to write sweet notes for your lunch when we've had such a hard time at bedtime." She looked at me and said "Do you want a hug?" I melted into her arms, walked out to make lunch for tomorrow, and she finished up her room. Sometimes they can be so wise...”

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hugs to Create a Connection

Many of you know that “Hugs” is one of my favorite Positive Discipline Tool Cards. A hug is one of the best ways to create the important theme of Positive Discipline: Connection Before Correction. I have been receiving some great hug stories and have decided to start collecting them and sharing them with you. Shannon Alvarez, a member of the Positive Discipline Network just posted the following story and gave me permission to share it on this blog.

“I thought you would appreciate this story. I know some of the PD strategies because my mom has taught me a lot, but I am new to PD and only just reading my first Jane Nelson book: Positive Time Out. Anyway, last night, I told my husband he could either put my 3 year old to bed (she was already bathed) or bathe the other 3 kids. So he decided to put my daughter to bed. Well, she wasn't happy about not having mommy to read her books, so she was not being nice to him and eventually socked him right in the eye. Of course, my husband got really upset and started being mean to her and telling her she wasn't going to get any books, etc. At this point, I walked in, not realizing what was going on. After my (steaming mad!) husband told me what was going on, I told him she needs a hug. It took him about a full minute (with my coaching) to come down from HIS anger to allow himself to go back to her and hug her, but he eventually did and he told her that he loved her, etc. (At this point I walked out of the room, so I'm not sure everything that was said) But when I walked past again, they were snuggling together on the bed and reading books. Later my husband thanked me for helping him through that moment and he was surprised at how well it worked. It was such a breakthrough in his mind for Positive Discipline, it was awesome!!!
As soon as I finish the Positive Time Out book, I plan to hold a family meeting and start implementing asap! I love the concept and I am confident it will work in my family! (Even for my strong willed children!) Thanks for all you do!"

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Live Chat on the Positive Discipline Network

If you are not already a member of the Positive Discipline Network, you might want to join (it's complimentary) and join us for the first live chat on November 9, at 6:30 PM PST and 9:30 EST.  You can register for the event here.
Following is an article and activity related to the topic we will discuss:

When does Positive Discipline stop being Positive Discipline?
Kindness and Firmness--When Less is More
By Jane Nelsen

Many people are drawn to Positive Discipline because they want to treat their children respectfully and they are against punishment. Others want to learn how to use punishment in positive way and are shocked when they learn that Positive Discipline does not advocate any form of punishment. They assume, therefore, the Positive Discipline advocates permissivenessfar from the truth.
            A person who is against punishment often marries a person who thinks eliminating punishment leads to permissivenesswhoops! Many of you have heard me share about Mr./Mrs. Strict and Mr./Mrs. Lenient:

Opposites Attract: When One Parent Is Kind And The Other Is Firm
It is interesting to note that two people with these opposing philosophies often get married. One has a tendency to be just a little too lenient. The other has a tendency to be just a little too strict. Then the lenient parent thinks he or she needs to be just a little more lenient to make up for the mean-old-strict parent. The strict parent thinks he or she needs to be just a little more strict to make up for the wishy-washy lenient parent—so they get further and further apart and fight about who is right and who is wrong. In truth they are both being ineffective.

Enter kindness and firmness at the same time.

Being kind and firm at the same time is a foundation concept of Positive Discipline. PD stops being PD when you are too kind without being firm and/or when you are too firm without being kind.
    Positive Discipline stops being Positive Discipline when you are too kind or too firm. The attached activity is designed to increase your awareness of your style, to get into the child’s world to understand what your style may invite, and to practice kindness and firmness and the same time.

Kind and Firm at the Same Time Activity

(Adapted from an activity by Terry Chadsey,
based on the work of Barry Johnson on Polarities)


To help parents understand the value of being kind and firm at the same time.


Questionnaire at the end of the directions

Comment:  Beware of “either/or” thinking. Life is not always about either/or.  Think about having to choose between breathing in and breathing out.  Wouldn’t it be better to think in terms of both/and?  


  1. Fill out the questionnaire below. During the chat we will discuss the following points:

  1. What insights did you gain by filling out the questionnaire?

  1. Do you lean toward being too kind, too firm, or vacillate between the two extremes?

  1. If you have a tendency to be too kind without being firm, what can you learn from people who have a tendency to be firm? If you have a tendency to be too firm without being kind, what can you learn from people you have a tendency to be kind?

 Comment:  Being just kind or just firm can be as dangerous psychologically as just breathing in or just breathing out can be physiologically. Positive Discipline tools are based on being both kind AND firm.

(Please answer all questions to increase awareness of yourself land others.)

1.     What kind of environment do parents hope to create for children by being kind?

2.     What characteristics do parents hope their children will learn from an environment of kindness?

3.     What do kind parents think are the negatives of being firmwhat kind of environment are they afraid children will experience from too firmness (which they may think of as punishment)?

4.     What kind of environment do parents hope to create for children by being firm?

5.     What characteristics do parents hope their children learn from and environment of firmness?

6.     What do firm parents think are the negatives of being kindwhat kind of environment are they afraid children will experience from too kindness (which they may think of as permissive)?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sense of Humor and CD Packages

When I started the Positive Discipline Network, I had no idea it would be so gratifying. Members are so supportive and encouraging to each other. And, they share such great material. Heather Hurtt gave permission to use her example in the following article.

Use Your Sense of Humor
By Jane Nelsen and Heather Hurtt

When your children are biting, hitting, fighting with each other, are you able to stay calm and loving, or do you lose it?

One mother shared, “I have a 1-year-old daughter and 3-1/2-year-old son and at times my son hits his sister, hits me, hits other kids at the playground. It's normal for this to totally get to you and I have totally lost it completely on more than one occasion with my son because I could simply not take it anymore and be calm. One of the things I do now to try and diffuse it for him and to stay calm for me is to use humor. First, I'll try to validate the feeling - like I see you want some attention from Mommy and then in a silly voice..."Mommy likes kisses, not hitting or biting," and I'll grab both arms and give him some funny kisses on his face, neck or arm, etc., and then throw in a tickle.
Another idea could be to validate and then simply say, “Ouch, hitting hurts,” and then redirect immediately with something physical like, “Let's race to the kitchen,” and then later on do a role-play about it with her and what other type of behavior she could use.
When it has gotten bad where my son has repeated the behavior several times and I'm feeling more and more emotionally upset, I literally will remove myself physically from the situation and say, “Mommy needs to go to her “feel better place” (my positive time-out) and then we will play.”
This mother represents many motherswho sometimes lose it and sometimes are very creative at being kind and firm at the same time. She also knows that a sense of humor is not always appropriate and that just taking care of herself is the wisest thing she can do before she can be more pro-active with her child. Even that is being very pro-activegiving her child a great example of learning to take some time to feel better before she can do better. (See the Positive Time-Out Tool Card.)
Positive Discipline CDs:  
Kelly Heet gave permission to use her name (and her husbands) for the following tip: Just a tip for those of you who have husbands who aren't "readers"... try the CDs! My husband always says he doesn't have time to read parenting books, but when I gave him the CDs to listen to in his car, he thanked me profusely and said "now I can see why you've been wanting me to do this!"  

Kelly Heet (and Paul)
Baldwin, MO
The CDs are now available in money saving packages

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Workshop in Spanish and Positive Discipline Network

Two-day Workshop in Spanish

First I want to share the exciting news that Laura Garcia is offering another 2-day workshop on Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way in Spanish. For more information on here workshop and all the other 2-day workshops, go to

When I created the Positive Discipline Social Network, I had no idea it would be so wonderful—thanks to members like Kelly Heet. Following is her comment to a mother of a 2 ½-year-old who was feeling very discouraged by her daughter’s challenging behaviors:

First off, take some time-out for yourself. When I find myself getting to my wits end, I know that I have been neglecting myself. Even just taking an hour to do something for you (with no kids) can probably work wonders.

Next, Have you read any of the Positive Discipline books? If not, I'd highly recommend it. If you are looking for some overview material, check out the PD website, and listen to the podcasts.

We've all been there (feeling like there is nothing that works, and nothing left to try...), but please give PD a chance. It has been a godsend to our family (and so many others). The #1 thing you will discover is that children WANT to feel like they belong, and that they are making a significant contribution... so helping them to find a way to do that helps to eliminate soooooo many of the problems that we all used to have with more traditional discipline methods (read: punishments).

My "top 5" useful hints from PD are:
1) What can you do to help Mommy?
2) Would you like to do (blank) or (blank)? - [Just be sure that either choice is OK with you BEFORE you offer it]
3) Would you like a hug?
4) I see that you are very upset right now... I can understand that.
5) I love you and the answer is no.

At 2 1/2, she probably does think that the "time out" game is pretty funny. When you start to look at things from the point of view of a child that young, you'll see how many of the things we do as adults must seem pretty silly to small children. : )

I tell people that I had so many "aha" moments when reading PD, that I had a red mark on my forehead for about a week (from slapping my head and saying "well of COURSE!!")

When I started using PD, I started with a routine chart for both morning and bedtime... and that alone helped cut about half of the battles I used to have with my son. Just a suggestion.

Best of luck to you!

Kelly Heet

This is just one example of the encouraging support offered by so many members of the PD Network. Thanks so much to all of you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Encouragement: What does it mean and how is it done?

By Jane Nelsen

Rudolf Dreikurs taught, “A child needs encouragement as a plant needs water.” In other words, encouragement is essential. Children may not die without encouragement, but they certainly wither.
Since encouragement is so essential, it would be good for parents to know exactly what encouragement means and how to do it. Let’s start with what encouragement is not.
Encouragement is Not Praise
Praise is not encouraging because it teaches children to become “approval junkies.” They learn to depend on others to evaluate their worth. Research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. a professor at Columbia University, has now proven what Adler taught years ago. Praise is not good for children. Dweck found that praise can hamper risk taking. Children who were praised for being smart when they accomplished a task chose easier tasks in the future. They didn’t want to risk making mistakes. On the other hand, children who were “encouraged” for their efforts were willing to choose more challenging tasks when given a choice. [1]
            As Dreikurs said, “Encourage the deed [or effort], not the doer.” In other words, instead of, “You got an A, I’m so proud of you,” try, “You worked hard. You deserve it.”
Encouragement is not Cheering, Clapping, and Commenting on Everything a Child Does
Parents talk too much. Sometimes the talking is called “lecturing,” and sometimes it is an attempt to be encouraging. A trend today is for parents to think they have to make a comment (in the name of encouragement) on everything a child does. Even worse is when they think they should clap and cheer.
            Imagine you are a two-year-old child and you have just poured your own milk from a small measuring cup into a small cup. What are you feeling? When I get into that role, I’m feeling proud of myself—and very capable.
 Stay in the role and now imagine your mother starts clapping and cheering?  The most popular cheer is, “You did it!” What are you feeling now? When I get into that role it is interesting that I still feel proud. I even like it that my mother is cheering. However, when I dig deep, I’m starting to believe I need to do well to please my mother.
Clapping and cheering is a form of praise, and the danger is that children do like it. They don’t understand the subtle beginnings of the need to please and/or the fear that they might not—or the power to rebel as the only way to hang on to themselves. All of these feelings and decisions are being formed at a subconscious level. Cheering, clapping and commenting on everything a child does are subtle ways of making your child’s accomplishments more about you than about him or her. It actually robs your child of maintaining his or her sense of personal satisfaction and feelings of capability.
Encouragement Is:
Encouragement is helping your children develop courage—courage to grow and develop into the people they want to be—to feel capable, to be resilient, to enjoy life, to be happy, contributing members of society, and, as Dreikurs said, “To have the courage to be imperfect,” to feel free to make mistakes and to learn from them.
            So, now I must go back to what encouragement is not.
Encouragement is not rescuing, fixing, over-protecting
What would happen if the mother bird felt guilty about pushing her baby bird out of the nest so it will learn to fly? The baby bird would not survive. How well do our children survive when they don’t develop their disappointment muscles, their resiliency muscles, their delayed gratification muscles, and their courage to be imperfect muscles? When parents rescue, fix, and overprotect, they rob their children of the opportunity to learn that they can survive disappointment; that they can survive the ups and downs of life and learn many life skills in the process.
How to Encourage
Positive Discipline tools such as the following are designed to be encouraging to children:
1.     Family Meetings where children learn to give and receive compliments and learn to brainstorm for solutions to problems.
2.     Curiosity Questions to invite children how to think instead of what to think—and to give them a sense of choice to use their personal power for social responsibility.
3.     Letting Go so children have opportunities to learn and grow—mistakes and all.
4.     Having Faith in children so they can develop faith in themselves.
5.     Spending Special Time to make sure the message of love gets through.
There are many more—all designed to be empowering instead of enabling. A new Positive Discipline tool is called Energetic Encouragement.
Energetic Encouragement
Sometimes, the most encouraging thing a parent can do is to sit close by and keep his or her mouth shut while simply sending out energetic support. A unique feature of Positive Discipline parenting classes and workshops is to use experiential activities to help parents practice skills and “get into the child’s world” to process the effects of their skills.
In a recent workshop I asked a volunteer to be her 5-year-old who has temper tantrums when she "wants something now." I had her sit in a chair next to me (so we didn't have to sit on the floor) and told her to role-play her daughter having a tantrum while I role-played the mom sending out energetic support. All I did was sit there and watch her with a compassionate look on my face. It was fun to process with her later how she was aware of what I was doing even though she was in the middle of her tantrum. She shared that she felt loved and supported—even though she was a little frustrated that her tantrum didn’t “work.”
            I pointed out that when children feel confused because their behavior isn’t “working,” they are ready to go “shopping” for a new behavior. So, even though a Positive Discipline Tool doesn’t seem to be encouraging changed behavior, it may be effective in the long-term once the child decides to shop for another behavior. Use the following questions to make sure you provide an encouraging shopping environment:                         
  1. Are you promoting SELF-evaluation or dependence on the evaluation of others?
  2. Are you inviting your child to think or telling him what to think?
  3. Are you allowing your child to figure things out for herself or engaging her in problem solving), or are you rescuing and fixing things for her?
  4. Are you considering what your child might be thinking, feeling and deciding in response to what you do or say, or do you avoid getting into your child’s world?
  5. Are you helping your child feel capable or dependent? 
If you can answer yes to the first part of each of these questions, it is likely that you are being encouraging to your child. If not, now might be a good time to start allowing for the courage to be imperfect.  J

[1]  to read the complete article

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Children Full of Life

I loved watching this series of five videos, and I think you will too. Be sure to watch all five videos of this amazing teacher (don’t know how to spell his name) as he helps children learn to own and express their feelings, to take responsibility for their actions, to learn empathy and concern for others. This teacher, who is characteristically kind and loving, also feels comfortable with expressing anger—and is then willing to be challenged by his students for an unreasonable punishment. The students decided that the solution should be related to the problem—a basic Positive Discipline concept. As Alfred Adler once said, the truth is discovered over and over in many places—or something like that. This Japanese teacher captures the essence of Positive Discipline in the Classroom and could have written the books (if we hadn't beat him to it. :-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


If you have listened to the news lately, you have heard some of the debates over healthcare reform. The fighting, shouting, name-calling and taking things out of context, could be humorous if we were watching three-year-olds.

What could the politicians and “talking heads” learn by observing a Positive Discipline Class Meeting or a Positive Discipline Family Meeting?
  1. To be respectful?
  2. To take turns talking instead of interrupting each other. (Maybe they could even start using a talking stick to know whose turn it is.)
  3. To stop the name-calling, taking things out of context, slanting comments to fit their point of view.
  4. To listen and validate another point of view. (Validating does not mean agreeing.)
  5. To stop focusing on being right and making each other wrong.
  6. To brainstorm for solutions and choose those that are respectful to everyone.
  7. To develop social interest (concern for the needs of everyone) instead of power to push personal agendas.
What would happen if everyone refused to listen to all 24-hour news stations for a week? A month would be even better. We wouldn’t miss anything. They would still be talking about the same things, 24-7. And, they might get the message that we are not entertained by so much negativity. Anyone want to join me in a book titled Positive Discipline for Politicians and Talking Heads?

Just kidding.

Monday, August 3, 2009

7 Tips for a Happy, Successful School Year

I'm very happy to share this excellent article by Mike Brock (with his permission), a Licensed Professional Counselor in Texas and a Certified Positive Discipline Associate. He is also co-author with me, Cheryl Erwin, and Mary Hughes of Positive Discipline for Christian Families.

7 Parenting Tips for a Happy, Successful School Year
by Mike Brock, LPC, CPDA

Her mother was a fastidious archetype of the 1950s, so fanatical about having the perfect household that she did her children’s homework to ensure it was just right.
-from an August 2008 report in The Dallas Morning News

It’s hard to imagine how things can get so ugly so quickly
just because the word “homework” has come up, but they do.
-Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, 2005

For many children and their parents, returning to school is a joyful occasion—reconnecting with school friends and families, the excitement of purchasing school supplies and new clothes, the return to the comfort and normalcy of the school routine, and, of course, the gift of a little breathing space for Mom and Dad.
But for many other children, the new school year brings with it a large dose of anxiety: Will I struggle like I did last year? Will I make any new friends? Will I be bullied or isolated? Will the teacher like me?
And for many parents, the specter of another year dealing with various school-related issues, perhaps foremost of which is homework, creates its own anxiety, as suggested by the above quotes. To help reduce that anxiety and replace it with a sense of joyful anticipation of what the school year can bring, I offer the following seven parenting tips for a happy, successful school year:

1. Project a positive attitude about school and confidence that your children will experience success and happiness. Communicate to your children through words and body language that you are excited about the new school year and confident they will enjoy it. Children pick up on the messages we send, so make those messages optimistic and hopeful.
2. Establish supportive home routines. The school year calls for renewed attention to home routines, such as those surrounding bedtime, morning, and meals. Children appreciate and thrive on the routines that we parents establish. It gives them comfort and security and better prepares them for the routines and expectations of the school day. One routine consistently correlated with success in school is the family dinner, all family members around the table together—make it a habit as often as possible.
3. Avoid the temptation to make schooling a competitive sport by over-focusing on grades. Our culture is plagued by competitiveness in all areas of life—sports, fashion, looks, talents, wealth, and more. Let’s protect our children’s school experience from this hyper-competitiveness by focusing on their own gifts and talents and avoiding comparisons with others.
4. Remember that homework is a contract between the teacher and the student, not between the teacher and the parent. Somewhere along the way, many parents have come to believe that children are incapable of doing their own homework. This is not good for the child, who needs to learn how to deal with his own responsibilities, or for the parent, whose anxiety level and patience are often strained to the breaking point over homework issues. Homework is the child’s responsibility, not the parents’. (And school personnel need to assist in this area by ensuring that the amount of homework is reasonable and the quality is such that the child is capable of doing it on her own.)
5. Establish family rules related to TV, computer, and video game usage. There is a place for electronic learning (and playing), but every minute in front of a monitor is a minute away from family communication. No one forms a healthy relationship with a monitor; we only form relationships with real people, and home is where those relationships and the life skills surrounding them are born and developed.
6. Make optimum use of parent/child time during trips to and from school. Make travel time between school and home a cell phone-free experience. Think of the message we send our children when our attention is given to others on the way to and from school. And think of the message we give them when we put aside our cell phone and tune into what’s going on in their lives.
7. Avoid the temptation to over-involve your children in after-school activities. Life is getting busier every year for our children, as well as for the parent, usually Mom, whose job it has become to spend late afternoons and evenings as family chauffer. How many activities our children should participate in is a personal choice, and a key word here is balance—for example, one sport at a time might be a good rule of thumb. If we adults insist on leading harried, distracted, overworked lives, let us at least spare our children that. Children need far fewer activities after school and far more family time with Mom and Dad.

And one more tip for good measure: Take care of yourself. I love the metaphor of the oxygen mask, in the familiar words of the flight attendant: “If you are traveling with a small child, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then on your child.” We are no help to anyone if we are not taking good care of ourselves. Take care of yourself—physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, relationally, and spiritually. Make it a priority—for your sake, as well as for your children’s.

Looking for back-to-school parenting seminars or teacher workshops? Contact Mike at 214-364-4154,, or I have recommended Mike for many speaking engagements and he always gets rave reviews. Jane Nelsen

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


In this blog:

1) NEW PRODUCT: Positive Discipline Tool cards: Special Pre-publication Special

After several years in the making, they are at the printers.

52 Positive Discipline Tools to Improve your Parenting Skills Three Ways to have fun with the deck (or use your creativity):
Choose one card and practice for a week. In one year you’ll be a perfect parent— or you can start again.

When faced with a challenge, choose a card at random. Chances are that it will be the perfect tool to solve the problem while teaching your child self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, and problem-solving skills—or you can try another card.

Invite your children to choose a card and let you know if it is the tool that will solve the problem—or keep choosing until they find one that will.

Retail Price: $14.95 Pre-Publication Special: $9.95 (Cards will be available in July)
Available at under products for parents.
Pre-publication special will end August 1, 2009


I would like to invite you to join new Positive Discipline Network by going to where you will find:

1) Special groups to join such as PD the First Three Years, Positive Discipline for Preschoolers (for Single Parents, Teens, Divorce, Positive Discipline in the Classroom, Therapists and Coaches who use Positive Discipline in their work, etc.)
2) You can start your own Positive Discipline group. Perhaps you would like to find others in your area.
3) Questions and answers on the practical application of Positive Discipline.
4) Discussions such as Media Woes in the PD for Teens Group
5) Book excerpts from the book being written by me and my daughter on "Positive Discipline the Second Generation: Easier Said than Done," in the PD the First Three Years Group (which will eventually move to the PD for Preschoolers group as the "boys" get older).
6) A group for Positive Discipline Parent Educators to share new activities and other ideas (plus info on how to become a PDPE).
7) Announcements of two-day Positive Discipline Training workshops and other Positive Discipline Events
8) Events where PD classes and workshops can be posted
9) Your own profile page where you can post photos and even an RSS feed to your blog if you have one. (Check out Brad Ainge's blog on Single Parenting. You will laugh out loud--or cry with empathy.) Brad is a member of the Single Parents Group.

Become part of a Positive Discipline community dedicated to creating peace in the world though peace in homes and schools.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Class Meetings for Preschoolers


At what age can children participate in class meetings? 


I do class meetings every morning with my little preschool group (made up entirely of 3.5 yr olds), and it's really a class meeting/circle time hybrid.  Every morning one of the children is the "meeting leader" and starts off our good morning song (in the two languages of their choice).  Then they check the weather and give a report.  Next we give compliments and appreciations (they are so fabulous at this, gives me goose bumps... we learned this by sharing something we had done ourselves that we felt good about, then noticing things that our friends had done that we 
felt good about and appreciating it).  Then we either play a game based on one of the PD student activities, simplified and made developmentally appropriate (ie., cooperative ball rolling, bugs & wishes, feeling faces, etc.) or we do "doggy problem solving", where our stuffed dogs have a problem that I act out (one that either I have observed or the children bring up to me) and the children help them.  I used to do this with puppets, but this group has such an attachment to these toy dogs, so that's what we use now.  We end with a book, chosen by the meeting leader.  It typically takes about 25 minutes, which can be a long time for some groups in my experience, but this little group has been
 known to draw it out even longer with extra songs and stories and games.  It's fun and exciting, and yes, they do get it!  I love hearing them later make connection after connection, and hearing that they bring these things home to their families, and the practice is adopted at home, too.  Very cool indeed.  I'm currently phasing out my family home daycare and moving in a new professional direction, and I have to say that our cl
ass meetings are one of the things I will miss the most.   

Eryn Rodger, Certified Positive Discipline Associate, Santa Cruz, CA 

Another Answer: 

    I directed an Adlerian private school in Bloomington, IL where we enrolled children from 3 years old-8th grade. Our ‘early learners’ all did regular class meetings. Most did then once weekly, and in the early program they mostly focused on compliments. When there was a problem they needed to discuss, the teachers 
of 3’s and 4’s led the conversation, but as the children grew in their maturity and ability to articulate, they took more leadership around the topics and the solutions.  We typically didn’t begin using an agenda until children were in kindergarten, which for us, was late 4’s through early 6’s depending on the child.

    I began at that school as a kindergarten teacher, and I started in January so the children were already well practiced in class meetings and they trained me. I’ll never forget the feeling of utter equality as I sat on my 5-year-old sized ch
air and participated in the meetings without a real clue how it would work. A student was the leader and just handled the whole thing! I remember looking at the agenda in kindergarten and often the only thing I could read were the names. They would draw pictures of their problem or best guess spell it. Often we would pass the agenda to the person with the problem so they could read what they had written.  It didn’t faze them a bit that they couldn’t spell yet, or barely write for that matter. It was pretty cool.

    I strongly believe that this is the time to start with kids.  When they begin to practice this kind of community at such a young age, problem solving is not a big deal. It’s just part of being in community in a classroom, or family, or life. They get it.  

    Dina Emser, Life Coach and Certified Positive Discipline Associate, Eureka, IL 

Following is an excerpt from Positive Discipline for Preschoolers, Chapter 16 on Class Meetings for Preschoolers, by Jane Nelsen, Cheryl Erwin, and Roslyn Duffy 

      It is class meeting time at the ABC Preschool. As the youngsters settle into a circle, Mr. Scott, the teacher, consults the agenda. “It sounds like we’ve had a problem on the playground with people throwing wood chips at one another. Does anyone have something to say about this problem, or can someone offer a suggestion of how we might solve it?”

      Five-year-old Girard raises his hand. “Whoever throws wood chips could take a cool-off!” Four-year-old Natalie waves her hand, and when called upon, offers, “We could not have wood chips anymore and have grass instead.”

      The teacher looks toward three-year-old Cristina, whose little hand has been patiently held aloft, and calls on her. “Guess what?” Cristina says with a bright smile.

      “What, Cristina?” Mr. Scott asks.

      “I had bananas in my cereal today.”

      “Mmmm, that must have tasted good.” Mr. Scott smiles and thanks Cristina for her comment, then asks for more suggestions about the wood chip problem. Although Cristina clearly is not thinking about wood chips, she is still a valued member of the group.

      When children are old enough to participate actively in group or circle time activities (usually around the age of two and a half ), they are ready for class meetings. Class meetings are a wonderful way to help children learn cooperation, contribution, and problem-solving skills. This class agreed that they wouldn’t throw woodchips anymore—a suggestion that had never worked when teachers pleaded, but was very effective when suggested by a child and agreed upon by the whole class.