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.’”