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.’”