Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Positive Discipline Success Story - "I Need Your Help"

The following is a success story that was shared on our Positive Discipline Social Network.

So, my 2 year old (25.5 months old) has been giving me such a rough time with diaper changes.  She has always been wiggly, even as a baby, and we do cloth diapers so it takes that much longer to get them on her... Lately it has been awful, where she ends up running around naked for 30 min or more after bath time because I just canNOT capture her long enough to get her diaper and/or jammies on.  (And we have tried potty training, but she is just not ready)

I read in one of the positive discipline resources (can't remember which book or if it was on the internet) the technique of saying "I need your help" instead of trying to MAKE her do it... I was skeptical but tonight was a REALLY rough night, she was overtired and after bath she was just crying and would not hold still.  I tried putting her on the diaper, I tried distracting her with a balloon, I tried giving her a book to read... she ran off and climbed up on the couch.  So, figuring I had nothing to lose, I took a deep breath and said, "Leni, mommy needs your help!" (she looked at me skeptically)  "You need to wear your jammies, but I can't put them on unless you help me.  Can you show me where your arm goes?" (she looked curious but I wasn't sure if she was going to go for it)  "Does your arm go in here?" (I held up the sleeve and she reached her arm out and smiled).  Then I asked her to show me how to put a diaper on and I slid the diaper under her, and she laid still and said "snap" when I snapped it on her... then I put one leg in her jammies, and she put the other leg in herself and said "ZIP!" and I zipped them up!  By that time she had a big grin on her face!

I just had to share because I was SO amazed it actually worked!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Positive Discipline Parenting Classes

We have many Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educators teaching parenting classes around the world. Still we have parents who cannot find a parenting class. Below are some options:

1)  Check our upcoming parenting class page.

2)  You might like to get a few friends and go through the Positive Discipline Workbook together. There is an outline at the beginning of each workbook lesson that can be used as a guideline. You could each get a copy of the Positive Discipline book and follow along.  The Positive Discipline Tool Cards are a great supplement.

3) You might like to take the Training for Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way to become a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator so you can teach classes in your area.  Dates and locations of live two-day workshops are available at

Finally, you may want to sign up for my online parenting class.   The six-session online course includes Positive Discipline video lessons that will teach you the most important, family-changing skills from the Positive Discipline books and live classes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friends, Exclusion, and Name Calling - A Positive Discipline Approach

The dilemma—what to do when your child is being excluded by “friends” —or subjected to name-calling and put-downs. If you interfere are you being over protective and just making things worse for your child? If you don’t interfere, are you allowing your child to be subjected to experiences that could be traumatizing for life?

Alison Wishard Guerra shared the following response on the Positive Discipline Social Network where she points out that it is not whether or not you should interfere—but how.

We have had this issue with the girls on our street and our daughter who is at least 6 months younger than the youngest (ages 3.5, 4, 5, and 6). Girls can be very savvy when it comes to excluding and social power! Rather than intervening at the moment we started having a chat with all the kids every time they were together and going to play, reviewing what the rules are.

Above all else, the primary rules of interaction are to respect one another and to be kind and courteous. We discuss whether excluding people is being respectful and whether calling someone "bad" is respectful or kind.  They are old enough to help generate the rules and determine which behaviors are respectful, kind, and courteous. They can also participate in generating solutions for what to do when some one is not being respectful, kind, and courteous.

We encourage children to first tell the other child that they don't like to be called names, or trying to enforce the rule themselves. Otherwise, if they can't follow the rules or work it out, the play date is over. 

After having this discussion just a few times when we first get together they learned to interact much better and felt empowered by having come up with such good ideas on how to get along. We have only had to end the play date once in a one-on-one play-date with one of the older girls in the neighborhood. It sends the message very quickly if you follow through with what you say you will do rather than continue to give warnings.

Bring them in to the problem solving conversation BEFORE they begin playing and giving them the opportunity to generate solutions, demonstrate positive behavior, and have some autonomy in their social interactions.

When I asked Alison if I could share her response she responded:

Yes of course. I might add that we got the idea from reading your books and listening to one of your lectures. This is also the approach they take in our daughter's Montessori preschool, so she is used to it. The other kids who go to traditional schools are more accustomed to not having adults mind if they aren't respectful, or giving continual warnings without any real response.

One other comment is that we would have these conversations while the other parents were around, but not purposefully including them. This also clued them in a bit more that there are other ways of handling these situations and that it is ok and appropriate to expect children to understand how to be respectful and kind. I noticed a slight change in the parents' responses to the children as well, where they agreed that if the children could not work it out then the play date would be over. So we all learned here, children and adults.

Thanks for providing the guidance to us parents!


I want to thank Alison for being one of those parents who “gets” the spirit and the principles of the Positive Discipline (instead of just techniques) and is so generous in sharing her understanding with others seeking help.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Heartwarming Positive Discipline Success Story

This heartwarming story was shared by Certified Positive Discipline Associate Terese Bradshaw who is also the Directress and Founder of Montessori for Toddlers.

Well little lady, I just dropped you off at your last day of your first preschool. It was a very special place to me, and a special place for you too. When mommy was nervous about dropping you off, there was Ms. Mary and Ms. Terese's warmth to greet you, which helped both of us. It didn't take you long to see that this was a safe place to learn about so many things. And I think of it as a place where I learned so much too. With Ms. Mary and Ms. Terese by our side for two years, we learned about more things than I could write down. This morning when you washed your berries without help and said you were proud of yourself, well, it made me think of them. And when you noticed that the yolk of the fried egg I made you this morning didn't break and you asked if I was proud, I was, and I again thought of them. Mama spent many nights in your same classroom learning lessons from Ms. Terese about things that have made me feel like a better Mama, and that is something I will never, ever forget. She gave me the gift of feeling like I had good ideas about how and what to teach you as a mommy. She taught us about taking time-outs for ourselves to cool off when we got frustrated, and how much it helps when we know what we are feeling. And one of my favorite things that they taught us is how capable we are. There are so many nice things that Ms. Terese and Ms. Mary showed us these last two years and I know we will carry them in our hearts forever, wherever we are. Just like Pooh Bear carries Christopher Robin in his heart, even when they're apart.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spending Special Time With Your Teenager

When your child becomes a teenager, it is not uncommon for them to become defiant. They will often contradict you and even try to sabotage your best efforts to create a harmonious family life. This can be very discouraging to parents and usually results in constant power struggles.

Positive Discipline has a great tool called "Special Time" which can work wonders to create a connection with your teenager and solve a lot of the power struggles in your home.

Listen to the following podcast as Dr. Jane Nelsen interviews a single dad who used special time with his teenage son to help reduce their power struggles and improve their relationship.

Special Time Podcast

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I love you, AND the answer is, “No.”

Rudolf Dreikurs taught the importance of being both kind and firm in our relations with children. Kindness is important in order to show respect for the child. Firmness is important in order to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation. Authoritarian methods usually lack kindness. Permissive methods lack firmness. Kindness and firmness are essential for Positive Discipline.

Many parents and teachers struggle with this concept for many reasons. One is that they often don't feel like being kind when a child has "pushed their buttons." Again I want to ask, "If adults want children to control their behavior, is it too much to ask that adults learn to control their own behavior?" Often, it is the adults who should take some Positive Time-out until they can "feel" better so they can "do" better.

Another reason adults have difficulty being kind and firm at the same time is that they don't know what kind and firm look like. They may be stuck in the vicious cycle of being too firm when upset–or because they don't know what else to do; and then being too kind to make up for being too firm.

One of the biggest mistakes some parents and teachers make when they decide to do Positive Discipline is becoming too permissive because they don't want to be punitive. Some mistakenly believe they are being kind when they please their children, or when they rescue them and protect them from all disappointment. This is not being kind; it is being permissive. Being kind means to be respectful of the child and of yourself. It is not respectful to pamper children. It is not respectful to rescue them from every disappointment so they don't have the opportunity to develop their "disappointment muscles." It is respectful to validate their feelings, "I can see that you are disappointed (or angry, or upset, etc.)." Then it is respectful to have faith in children that they can survive disappointment and develop a sense of capability in the process.

A wonderful way to apply this principle of Kindness and Firmness is to use the phrase “I love you, and the answer is ‘no.’” Listen to the following podcast as Mary Nelsen Tamborksi (Jane Nelsen’s youngest daughter) tells a delightful story about being at her wits end before remembering this Positive Discipline tool.

Click the "Play" button to listen the podcast or subscribe on iTunes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Another Hug Story

Click the "Play" button to listen the podcast.

Some of you may know that a “Hug” is one of my favorite Positive Discipline Tools. During this podcast you will understand why as I interview Beth Whitehead after she sent me the following success story.

Dear Jane,

As you may remember, I had a situation with my older daughter (3 yrs old) taking toys away from our littler one (1 1/2 years).  My new behavior was to try hugging the older one when she was being a bully.  SO, something came up today that I really wanted to share:

I was past my patience level and almost yelling at Eden (3) to go sit on the couch, rather than staying underfoot as I was loading the dryer and hassling her little sister for some reason or another.  She was also crying and possibly about to tantrum.  I stopped and just hugged her, as we discussed.  It was PERFECT!  She stopped crying & whining. And then SHE suggested we hug the little one.  I didn't have to do anything else.

Another quick story: Eden was in full tantrum on a different occasion and I thought back to our exercise of asking for a hug.  That worked, too!  It totally diffused the situation and she calmed down.

Also, I taught my daughter to say, "I need attention" when she just needs a hug or for me to stop doing whatever I am doing.  It works so well and is so much better than my getting annoyed and not noticing that she needs me to stop and pay her more attention.

I feel like I am finally on my way to really helping my babies feel understood.  Thank you for all you do Jane!!

Very Sincerely,


Monday, July 11, 2011

Family Meetings

Several years ago some Adlerians recorded a bunch of family meetings in different families. For two years they looked for the perfect family meeting. Finally they gave up because they couldn't find a perfect family meeting. However, they were delighted with the positive results in families (more effective communication, focusing on solutions, having more fun together) even though their meetings were not perfect.

Keeping in mind that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn, the biggest mistake parents made that kept the meetings from coming closer to perfection was talking too much. Children are not thrilled about family meetings that provide another platform for parents to lecture. Parents need to talk less and listen more. Yes, I know how difficult this is—I’m still working on it. Somehow we parents think we aren’t doing our jobs unless we are talking, talking, talking.

Another mistake was trying to “fix feelings” (or to try talking children out of having their feelings) instead of just listening. Sometimes it can be encouraging to validate feelings, but try validating feelings with you lips together, "Mmmmm." This allows children to discover that they can work through their feelings and learn from them.

It is most effective to have family meetings once a week and to stick to an allotted time of 20 to 30 minutes—even if everything on the agenda has not been covered. This just might help your children learn "delayed gratification." Also, it gives them time to absorb what was discussed during the meeting, to try the agreed upon solution, and to practice working things out for themselves in between meetings.
Family meetings are one of the most important tools parents can use to teach children so many valuable social and life skills such as:

  • Listening skills
  • Brainstorming skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Mutual respect
  • The value of cooling off before solving a problem. (Problems are put on the family meeting agenda so a cooling off period takes place before focusing on solutions to the challenge.)
  • Concern for others
  • Cooperation
  • Accountability in a safe environment. (People don’t worry about admitting mistakes when they know they will be supported to find solutions instead of experiencing blame, shame, or pain.)
  • How to choose solutions that are respectful to everyone concerned
  • A sense of belonging and significance
  • Social interest
  • That mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn
  • Having fun together as a family

Family Meetings provide an opportunity for parents to:

  • Avoid power struggles by respectfully sharing control
  • Avoid micromanaging children, so children learn self-discipline
  • Listen in ways that invite children to listen
  • Respectfully share responsibility
  • Create good memories through a family tradition
  • Model all of the skills they want their children to learn

Where else can you get so much for such a small investment in time? Family meetings provide a wonderful family tradition that may carry on for generations. A funny story about that: my children loved family meetings when they were six to twelve or so. Then they started complaining, as typical teens do, about how stupid family meetings were. I asked them to humor me, and that we could shorten the time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

One day Mary, one of the complainers, spent the night at a friend’s house. The next day she announced, “That family is so screwed up. They should be having family meetings.”

When Mary went off to college, she initiated regular “family meetings” with her roommates and said they would not have survived without them. Now you she shares her experience of involving four-year-old Greyson in his first family meeting.

Be sure and listen to the podcast below for more information on Family Meetings!

Family Meeting Podcast with Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Nelsen Tamborski.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hugs: A Cure for Clinging

I often hear parents complain when their children go through a clinging stage.

About 40 years ago I read a story in a magazine (I don't know which one) about a mother who wanted to push her clingy daughter away to help her be more independent. Then the mother went to a fortuneteller who told her she had only a year to live. The mother wanted to cling to her daughter so much that pretty soon her daughter was pushing her away.

You might want to try holding and hugging your children until they get their fill.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Can I Get My Child To Stop Hitting?


I have a son who will be 4 in two weeks and a 13 -month -old son.  The oldest has been through a series of hitting phases since the spring.  I have read 3 of your books, and was relieved to learn that I already use much of the positive discipline style.  He will often hit or push his brother, myself, dad, or other children.  He has excellent communication skills so I try to remind him to use his words; however sometimes it is not from something specific.  He is often tired (as he no longer naps).  I stopped using timeout about a month ago.  I did this because I felt it was fostering too much frustration for him.  When he hits I ask him to stop, or I go directly to the hurt child and he then follows me and apologizes.  I think the hitting is beyond normal, but I can't figure out the reason behind it.  While I feel I follow "positive parenting" I know maybe twice a month I make mistakes and yell and do not deal with certain situations in a loving manner. He is a thoughtful and bright boy, but I fear he will alienate playmates and not too mention I am concerned for his younger brothers safety.  Please help!


You will find several answers on hitting that I think you will find helpful. I hope you'll take time to read all of them. Below, I'm included an excerpt from  Positive Discipline A to Z on hitting, but the questions that have already been answered, give even more insights.

One other point I want to make is that your four-year-old may be getting a little too much attention for hitting. You might try "keeping your mouth shut" while you kindly and firmly remove him from the situation. If you say anything at all, it might be, "Let me know when you can tell me a better way to handle this problem." Then be quiet, or even go to the next room and give him time to think about it. Be careful about comforting the younger too much, so you don't create the "bully/victim" syndrome. You might want to search the web site for "sibling" issues so you will understand why your four-year-old is still feeling "dethroned" by his baby brother. I would like to assure you that it is probably very "normal" when you understand sibling rivalry and mistaken goal behavior such as "undue attention" as explained in all of our books.

I'm glad you stopped time out. Did you know we have a book called Positive Time Out and 50 Other Ways to Avoid Power Struggles in Homes and Classrooms?

Also, on the website you'll find an article on why time out (even positive time out) is not effective for children under the age of three.

So, now for the excerpt on hitting:


"I have tried everything I can think of to get my child to stop hitting her little brother. Sometimes she hits me. This really makes me angry. Punishment doesn't seem to work. I have spanked her and made her say she is sorry, but the next day she is hitting again."

Understanding Your Child, Yourself, and the Situation

How are we ever going to teach our children it is not okay to hurt others when we keep hurting them? We are reminded of a cartoon depicting a mother spanking her child while saying, "I'll teach you not to hit someone smaller than you. "When a child is hitting, usually his or her feelings are hurt. Your child needs help from you but may feel frustrated because he or she isn't getting the help needed. You probably feel frustrated, too, because you want your child to treat others respectfully and may even worry that your child's behavior is a reflection on you as a parent. Perhaps you are over-reacting and treating your child disrespectfully out of shame and embarrassment, trying to prove to the other adults around that you won't let your child get away with this behavior.


  1. Take the child by the hand and say, "It is not okay to hit people. I'm sorry you are feeling hurt and upset. You can talk about it or you can hit this pillow, but people aren't for hitting."
  2. Help the child deal with the anger. 
  3. Ask, "Would it help you to go to your time-out spot now?" Time out is not helpful unless the child has helped create a positive time out spot in advance.  Also, time out is not helpful if the child does not see the benefit and chooses it. If you "make" your child go to time out, your child is likely to see it as punishment and may rebel.
  4. After the child has calmed down, ask what and how questions. "What is upsetting you? How are you feeling?" See if you can get to the bottom of what is really bothering your child and then help the child discover what other things he or she could do besides hitting to deal with the problem. (Children under four years of age do not understand abstract reasoning. This is one reason why lectures are not effective at this age. There are other reasons why lectures are ineffective at any age.)
  5. With children under four, try giving them a hug before removing them from the situation. This models a loving method while showing them that hitting is not okay. Hugging does not reinforce the misbehavior. 
  6. Even though toddlers don't fully comprehend language, you can still use words (while removing them) such as, "Hitting hurts people. Let's find something else you can enjoy doing."
  7. When babies hit you, put them down and leave the room immediately for a minute or two without saying a word. At this age, they will understand actions better than words.
  8. When your preschooler hits you, decide what you will do instead of trying to control your child. Let her know that every time she hits you, you will leave the room until she is ready to treat you respectfully. After you have told her this once, follow through without any words. Leave immediately.
  9. Later you might tell your child, "That really hurts" or "That hurts my feelings. When you are ready, an apology would help me feel better." Do not demand or force an apology. The main purpose of this suggestion is to give a model of sharing what you feel and asking for what you would like. People don't always give us what we would like, but we show respect for ourselves by sharing our feelings and wishes in non-demanding ways.

Planning Ahead to Prevent Future Problems

  1. Teach children that feelings are different from actions. Feelings are never bad. They are just feelings. What we feel is always okay. What we do is not always okay.
  2. Help children brainstorm ways to deal with feelings that are respectful to themselves and others. One possibility is to tell people what you don't like. Another possibility is to leave the scene if you are being treated disrespectfully.
  3. Get your child involved in creating a Positive Time Out area.  Teach her that sometimes we need time to calm down until we feel better before doing anything. Let her know that she can use the time-out area any time she thinks it will help her feel better.
  4. Find ways to encourage your children with unconditional love and by teaching skills that help them feel capable and confident.
  5. Show that hitting is unacceptable by never hitting your child. If you make a mistake and hit your child, use the Three R‘s of Recovery to apologize so your child knows hitting is not acceptable for you either.
  6. Take time for training with your toddler. Help her practice touching family members or animals softly. This does not eliminate the need for supervision until she is old enough to understand.
  7. Look around and see if there are ways you are hurting your child without realizing it. Are you sending your child to his or her room frequently, scolding and criticizing regularly, singling out the child when a problem occurs? If so your child may be feeling really hurt and upset and the hitting is a way to strike back at the world. Be more encouraging and positive and stop the hurtful behaviors and see if you don't notice a change in the hitting behavior.

Life Skills Children Can Learn

Children can learn that it is not okay to hurt others. Their feelings are not bad and they are not bad, but they need to find actions that are respectful to themselves and to others.

Parenting Pointers

  1. Be aware of the discouraged belief behind the misbehavior. A child who hits usually is operating from the mistaken goal of revenge with the belief, "I don't feel like I belong and am important and that hurts, so I want to hurt back." Children will feel encouraged when we respect their feelings and help them act appropriately.
  2. Many people use the biblical admonition "spare the rod and spoil the child" as an excuse for spanking. Biblical scholars tell us the rod was never used to hit the sheep. The rod was a symbol of authority or leadership, and the staff or crook was used to gently prod and guide. Our children definitely need gentle guidance and prodding, but they do not need to be beaten, struck, or humiliated.
  3. Toddlers are short on both language and social skills, and when they play together they can easily become frustrated. When they lack the ability to express what's wrong in words, hitting and other types of aggression sometimes result. It is developmentally normal for toddlers to hit. It is the parent's job to supervise and handle toddlers kindly and firmly until they are ready to learn more effective ways to communicate.

Booster Thought No. 1

     He: "There are times when it is necessary to spank my children to teach them important lessons.
For example, I spank my two-year-old to teach her not to run into the street."
     She: "After you have spanked your two-year-old to teach her not to run in the street, will you let her play unsupervised by a busy street?"
     He: "Well, no."
     She: "Why not? If the spanking teaches her not to run into the street, why can't she play unsupervised by the street? How many times would you need to spank her before you would feel she has learned the lesson well enough?"
     He: "Well, I wouldn't let her play unsupervised near a busy street until she was six or seven years old."
     She: "I rest my case. Parents have the responsibility to supervise young children in dangerous situations handle that situation. All the spanking in the world won't teach a child until he or she is developmentally ready.  Meanwhile we can gently teach. When we take our children to the park, we invite them to look up the street and down the street to see if cars are coming and tell us when it is safe to cross the street. Still, we don't let them go to the park alone until they are six or seven."

Studies show that approximately 85 percent of all parents of children under twelve years old resort to spanking when frustrated, yet only 8 to 10 percent believe that it is dignified or effective.  Sixty-five percent say that they would prefer to teach through consequences and encouraging improved behavior, but they don't know how. How often we resort to the familiar instead of learning a better way.

Booster Thoughts No. 2

Above all, I believe that there should never be any violence. In 1978, I received a peace prize in West Germany for my books, and I gave an acceptance speech that I called just that: "Never Violence." And in that speech I told a story from my own experience.

When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking--the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with.

The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a rock that you can throw at me."

All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.

                    By Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking

Booster Thought No. 3

When you set one toddler down to play with another, neither is particularly sure of what the other is all about. Watch them eyeing one another and you can guess what they might be thinking. What is this creature? Does it break? Can I taste it? What happens when I pull its hair or examine its eyelashes?"
Walking up and hitting another child may be just a primitive form of saying, "hello."

Still, children under the age of two need to learn that pulling hair, poking eyes, and hitting hurt people and cannot be allowed.

At this age, the best discipline is to simply remove your child from the situation, kindly and firmly, and redirect her attention to something else. When children are very young and don't have language skills, we can't teach them through language. Sometimes we need to accept that a child who has a habit of hitting simply needs close supervision so you can catch her and remove her when she looks ready to
hit. Toddlers often comprehend action better than words.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Passion For Positive Discipline

Many people who experience the benefits of Positive Discipline get excited and want to share it with others. It warmed my heart to read the following letter from a very enthusiastic new Certified Positive Discipline Trainer Candidate. I asked Cynthia for her permission to share it in my blog.


I am so excited to finally write this Letter of Intent to the Positive Discipline Association! Being a mother of two girls, ages 4 and 6, and working full time, I have historically found so little time left over for personal things. However, since I have been implementing the Positive Discipline tools I have found that I can actually take “me time” by allowing my girls to do for themselves much of what I have always done for them. Presently, my first grader is reading her younger sister the bedtime book she chose, at both of their requests, and they are enjoying it greatly. I am also enjoying it as I sit at the desk beside their beds, listening to the story as I compose this letter.

I was first introduced to Positive Discipline in November of last year. I was having lunch with my closest friend and fellow social worker and discussing how “stressed out” I was with some behaviors my first grader was exhibiting. She mentioned that she had purchased the 5 CD set called the “Positive Discipline Workshop” and asked if I would like to listen to it. Since I have a one-hour commute each way to and from work I agreed to take the CDs and give them a try. After all, it certainly couldn’t hurt.

I never anticipated how much my life would change as a result of the information I gained from Positive Discipline. I couldn’t get enough! I found myself going out to my car during breaks at work just to listen to Jane Nelsen. I was thirsty for this information, and wanted to learn more and more! After listening to a few of the CDs I thought, “This stuff is the simple truth. The world needs this information!” By the time I finished the CDs I felt absolutely certain about what I wanted to do with my career and my life. It was so wonderful to hear from Jane that I could not only learn Positive Discipline and reap the benefits in my own life; I could become a Positive Discipline Associate and teach this invaluable information to others!

Teaching Parenting DVD Training
I visited the Positive Discipline website to search for upcoming classes in my area. I noticed that there were classes coming up, but not nearly soon enough for me. My hunger for more knowledge about Positive Discipline was (and continues to be) so paramount in my life that I felt I needed immediate gratification. For Christmas last year I asked my family for one thing: the Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way training course on DVD. Thankfully, my family loves me and got me just what I wanted. I watched the training course at home, and listened to it in the car from the DVD player in the back seat. Even if I couldn’t see the participants, I could hear the content and loved everything about it.

I continued to check out the website every day. That is where I found Mary Maguire, a Lead Trainer for Positive Discipline who lives in my area. I e-mailed Mary and said, “I love this stuff! Teach me!” She invited me assist in her next class. It has been wonderful to practice and witness the experiential activities to build on what I have learned from the DVD Training. My enthusiasm for learning Positive Discipline continues to grow everyday, as well as my confidence that I have finally found what I want to do with my career. The discovery of Positive Discipline has ignited in me a spark that I have never experienced before, and I finally feel that I have truly discovered my “niche.”

I have implemented several tools from Positive Discipline in my own family and have seen the extraordinary changes that can take place. Our home has become more peaceful and well functioning.  Our relationships have deepened with our understanding and practicing of mutual respect.

Positive Discipline Tool Cards
I have seen positive changes in my children in just a short time. They are developing an attitude of competence and are doing more things for themselves. They participate more in everyday responsibilities and are developing their feelings of capability and confidence. My girls are now getting themselves ready for school in the morning and bed at night by following the routine charts we created together. Historically, mornings and evenings were the most stressful times of the day. They are making many of their own snacks, cleaning up and taking care of their own things, learning to “cool off” independently and go to their “chill-out spots” and they seem to be resolving more of their conflicts independent of my involvement.  Our family is learning to manage problems with mutual respect and finding solutions that work for everyone involved.

One of my favorite Positive Discipline sayings is “Where in the world did we get the crazy idea that in order to make kids do better we must first make them feel worse?” The approach taught by Positive Discipline is simple but extremely effective. Being kind and firm at the same time is the best approach for parents and educators to foster healthy development of self and others in their children. The Mistaken Goal Chart has shed invaluable light on why children behave in the manner that they do. By understanding their mistaken goals, and redirecting their behavior to achieve their goals in more respectful ways, everyone benefits.

This journey is very exciting for me, and I love this new chapter in my life! I appreciate that Lynn Lott and Jane Nelsen address the issue that I don’t have to know all of the answers before I teach my first class. In fact, they say that over-preparation can actually cause teachers to be less effective and more boring! I don’t anticipate that I will ever have a boring class or session. How could something so exciting ever be boring? Thank you for your consideration of my application. I am so looking forward to the long future I will have with the Positive Discipline Association.


Cynthia L. Knoell, LICSW
Minneapolis, MN

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Parenting Teens: How Do You Know When Your Child Becomes a Teen?

The following is an excerpt from the book Positive Discipline for Teenagers by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott.

You know you have a teenager when you hear yourself complaining, “She has no purpose. He won‘t help. She only cares about her friends. He is so self-centered. Her room is a mess. I can‘t trust him. This is out of control. I can ‘t stand her hair, clothes, makeup, or music.  He wastes his money. She resents me and idolizes rock stars. He is on drugs and treats me like dirt. She is moody and irresponsible.”
Another sign that you have an adolescent is when you hear him complaining, “My parents treat me like a kid. They think I ‘m having sex all the time. They butt in. They hate my friends. They give advice. They try to live my life for me. They are never satisfied. All they do is ask questions and control my life. Why can ‘t they just leave me alone?” 

The Dream Teen and the Normal Teen

IN OUR WORKSHOP on parenting teenagers, we asked one group to draw a “normal” teen, or how most parents see their teens. The composite teen was messy and self-centered, listened to loud music, defied authority, preferred friends to family, decorated room with posters, valued cars and an independent lifestyle, conformed to the clothing styles of peers (no matter how gross), smoked, and drank alcohol. Comments from the group included:
  • “Well this is an exaggeration. All teens aren‘t like this.”
  • “But, it sure does depict the rebelliousness because most of them are a lot like this.”
  • “It helps to be reminded that my teen would not be normal if he cleaned his room.”
  • “Come to think about it, I was like that once.” 

The last comment was a nice reminder to the group that we all continue to grow and change beyond adolescence.  

Another group was asked to draw a “dream” teen, or how most parents think they want their teens to be. The composite teen was voted prom queen or king, kept agreements (“I promise to be there on time, as always.”), volunteered to help, loved to talk to parents (“Let me tell you everything about my life.”), ate only healthy food, didn‘t watch television, was very athletic, earned two scholarships (one athletic and one academic), scored high on the SATs,  lined up a summer job by January, supplied his or her own money for hair or makeup and saved the rest for college and a car, respected everyone (including siblings), was respectfully  assertive, and was an A student. Comments from the group included:
  • “A teen like this wouldn‘t have any friends.”
  • “No one could stand him.”
  • “I have friends who have a teen like this and I can ‘t stand her.”
  • “ My teen is like this, although she seems pretty stressed most of the time.”

This exercise reveals that although you may fantasize about having an ideal teen, you instinctively know that such a creature is rarely found. Even though the reality of living with a “normal” teen can be quite painful, it will be easier if you can come to a deeper understanding of what is happening during adolescence.

Someone once said that the teen years were created so parents would find it easier to let go when their children turned twenty. At times this statement seems like an understatement.  Some teens can be very hard to love. They make promises that they forget to keep. They think they know everything and continually tell you how stupid you are. They hate to clean their rooms, they listen to music you can ‘t stand, and they exaggerate everything. They even talk funny. Sometimes they talk so fast, only another teenager can understand what they ‘re saying.  Other teens seem to withdraw into a shell. They don ‘t put you down, they just clam up or revert to one-word sentences such as, “Yeah” or  “Nah.”  Occasionally you may hear three words, “I don ‘t know.”
Often, parents look at their teens and feel a sense of failure. You may wonder how you could have created such a monster. You may wonder if there is any hope for one last chance to teach them lessons and to mold them into decent human beings. You may feel desperate and hopeless, angry and aggravated.

If you could simply relax and remember that these are the years when your children are experimenting in an attempt to find out what they think, you could enjoy them more. If you gave up trying to teach them and instead learned to be curious and amazed, you could appreciate their struggle. If you could relax, you could trust that who they are now is in no way a reflection on you or indicative of who they will be when they grow up. With these new attitudes, you could focus on long-range parenting and learn to be a guide and facilitator who your teen could trust.

Take a Trip Down Memory Lane

THINK BACK TO your teen years. Do you remember what your world was like? What were your issues? What did you think about all day? Take time to make a list of what was important to you. You might even want to talk to people who were teens during different decades (the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, and so forth). Ask them what was important to them as teens, what they were like, and how they were parented. Compare your information with the following issues, mentioned by teens today:

  • Am I going to get invited to the dance?
  • What should I wear?
  • How can I find time for studying?
  • How can I be popular, or at least included?
  • How can I get a car?
  • What should I do about drinking, drugs, and sex?
  • What is happening to my body? Will my breasts/penis be as big as the other kids ‘? 
  • Will other kids think I‘m cool? How can I get my parents off my back?
  • Should I go to college?
  • What is there to do? (I‘m bored)
  • What are other kids saying about me behind my back?
  • How can I ever please my parents? (All they care about is grades and chores.)   

Notice that these issues do not include anything about clean rooms, a clean house, doing chores, spending time with family, being considerate, or being nice to brothers and sisters. Parents often think that their teens are doing or not doing certain things because they want to hurt their parents or that their teens are being disrespectful of their wishes. As you can see from your list and the list above, teenagers usually aren‘t thinking much about their parents. Parents will be much happier if they accept and respect the fact that, for instance, chores are not a priority for teens. That doesn‘t mean they shouldn‘t do them. It does mean you‘ll have better results if you acknowledge to your children, “I can understand that chores aren‘t a priority for you, but they need to be done anyway. Let ‘s work on a plan to make chores as easy as possible.”

What Is Happening During Adolescence?

IF YOU THINK that how your children behave as teenagers is who they will be for the rest of their lives, you probably feel a fair amount of anxiety. Although it may seem otherwise, your teens have not grown up to be terrible people, because they are not grown up yet. They are individuating; their behavior is only temporary. It will last for as long as it takes for them to find out who they are and how they can move from childhood to adulthood.

Many life tasks are inherent in child growth and development. These tasks may be physical, intellectual, emotional, social, psychological, or spiritual. As young people move through adolescence, from childhood to adulthood, their primary task is individuation.

  1. Adolescents have a need to find out who they are.
  2. Individuation usually looks like rebellion to parents.
  3. Adolescents go through huge physical and emotional changes.
  4. Peer relationships take precedence over family relationships.
  5. Teens explore and exercise personal power and autonomy.
  6. Teens have a great need for privacy.
  7. Parents become an embarrassment to their teens.
  8. Teens see themselves as omnipotent and all knowing.

Adolescents Have a Need to Find Out Who They Are

Teens want to know how they are different from their families, how they feel and what they think about things, and what their own values are. This process of separation from the family in preparation for an independent adulthood is called individuation.

Individuation Usually Looks Like Rebellion to Parents

Although most parents worry when their teenagers rebel, it would be more appropriate to worry if they didn‘t. Teenagers must begin their separation from their families, and rebellion gives them the ability to do this. At first, teens may rebel by challenging what is important to their families (family values) or zeroing in on what their parents want and then doing exactly the opposite. Later, they may rebel in other ways—but at first individuation is primarily a reaction against their parents, and doing the opposite is the simplest, most natural way of being different. If teens are not allowed to rebel, they may do it in their twenties, thirties, or fifties. Even worse, they may become approval junkies— afraid to take risks or to feel comfortable with who they are.

Adolescents Go Through Huge Physical and Emotional Changes

Whether they like it or not, adolescents are maturing physically and sexually, undergoing biological processes that are essentially out of their control. In addition to the tumultuous, contradictory feelings these major changes cause, adolescents may feel anxiety regarding their rate of change—they may feel their physical maturation is too quick or too slow in relation to that of their peers. (Most parents would prefer their children to mature slowly, but nature has its own patterns.)
The physical maturation process, with its sudden and powerful hormonal changes, causes mood swings. Without premeditation, teens are delightful one minute and biting your head off the next. In addition, some teens are in such a rapid rate of physical growth that they experience real “growing pains,” where their bodies actually hurt.

Peer Relationships Take Precedence Over Family Relationships

Teens need to work out their relationships with peers to find out if and how they fit in.  Friendships take the place of time spent with family. Although peer relationships help teens in their task of separation, parents often interpret it as rejection or rebellion. Have patience. If you avoid power struggles and criticism, your teen will become one of your best friends in his or her twenties.

Teens Explore and Exercise Personal Power and Autonomy

Teens have a strong desire to find out what they are capable of—they need to test their power and importance in the world. This means that they want to decide what they can do for themselves without being directed and ordered. Parents often take this as a challenge to their own power, thus creating power struggles. Some teens find personal power so intimidating that they want others, usually their peers, to tell them what to do, which can be a dangerous consequence of overly controlling parents. This is not a very easy choice— rebellion or compliance—but it ‘s often the only choice teens see when they don ‘t have the opportunity to exercise their own personal power and autonomy. For parents, the key is learning to support teen rebellion in respectful ways that teach important life skills, which is the focus of this book.

Teens Have a Great Need for Privacy

Because their rate of development moves so fast and is out of their control, it can be embarrassing for teens to have their families watching and knowing. As teens try to figure out what ‘s important to them, they may engage in activities without parental approval before deciding for themselves that they might not want to do the activities after all. To escape getting in trouble or to avoid disappointing you, teens will figure out how to test activities that you may not approve of without your knowledge.

Your teen‘s need for privacy can be very scary for you. You may worry that you are not being a responsible parent if you don ‘t know everything your teen is doing. You may fear that your teen might build bombs (or engage in some other disastrous activity) if you are not vigilant. We have news for you: If your teens are going to engage in these activities, they will do it in spite of your vigilance. They will just go underground so they have less chance of getting caught.

The best prevention for possible disaster is to build kind and firm relationships with your teens—let them know that they are unconditionally important to you and provide opportunities for them to learn important life skills. They will then be able to think for themselves and figure out what is important to them. Accomplishing this goal is the aim of this book.

Parents Become an Embarrassment to Their Teens

During the teenage years, teens tend to put their parents down and try to show parents how “stupid” they are. Sometimes teens act embarrassed around their parents and families in public or may even refuse to be seen with them. The affection that may have been a normal part of family life may suddenly become taboo. We will remind you many times that this is a temporary condition, unless you make an issue of it that builds resentment for the future.

Teens See Themselves as Omnipotent and All Knowing

Parents who try to tell teens how to dress or eat or what they can or can‘t do just don‘t seem to understand that teens never get sick, don ‘t get cold, don‘t need sleep, and can live forever on junk food or no food at all. Many parents wonder how their children even survive these years, but the facts are that most teens do. To some it may seem that the methods we advocate are permissive and increase the chances of drastic consequences. The opposite is true.

Not Permissiveness

OFTEN, WE GET a very strong reaction from parents who read this list of teenage characteristics. The comments of these parents are very similar, “You can‘t just stop being a parent and let kids go off on their own to individuate.” That last word is said with a great deal of sarcasm.

We do not advocate permissiveness, because that kind of parenting deprives young people of the opportunities to learn life skills, to develop their own potential, to be self-reliant and responsible, and to learn from their mistakes. To do all of this, they need guidance (kind and firm parenting as described in chapter 3), but not external controls, which only increase rebellion. Throughout this book, we show you how to help guide your teens in new, positive ways.

Positive Discipline for Teenagers
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Potty Training 101

When parents say, "I'm training my child to use the toilet," what they really mean is, "I'm training myself to remind my child to use the toilet." Unfortunately, this often turns into a power struggle, with parents saying, "You will," and children saying, "I won't. You can't make me." Parents use all kinds of tricks to win the potty training battle: treats, pleading, lectures, threats, and even punishment.

Although children naturally want to do what "big" people do, not every child is ready for potty training at the same time. Moreover, if parents push too early, training is likely to backfire, producing unwanted behaviors. Some children use it to get undue attention from their parents. Some turn it into a battleground to prove who is boss. Less assertive children can develop a sense of self-doubt or shame.

Read the rest of the article at

Friday, March 18, 2011

Positive Discipline and the Wheel of Choice

Dear Dr. Jane Nelsen,

Early in the school year my first grade students were introduced to the Positive Discipline Wheel of Choice during our classroom meetings. We use the Wheel of Choice daily to solve problems and come up with solutions. While role-playing a problem during a classroom meeting, the children discovered that each of them had their own solutions that worked best for them in any given situation. As an extension to this idea, the children created “Wheel of Choice Mobiles.” Each child first created a 5 inch “self-portrait” detailing everything from their hair to what clothes they like to wear. Next, they picked four strategies that they thought they could best use when trying to solve a problem. Then, we attached the four different strategies from their mobiles and hung them above their table spots. As a result, when the children are faced with an immediate problem they simply look up at their own mobiles and are reminded of the strategies they think works best for them. The mobiles have hung above their tables since the beginning of the year and still work as effective problem solving tools. They also celebrate their individuality and represent multiple ways to problem solve problems.

Employing Positive Discipline in the Classroom has been the most effective form of emotional and social development I have ever encountered. It is so pleasurable to be a teacher in an environment that empowers children to have a voice to share feelings and teach empathy. The children have become thoughtful, caring, reflective and effective problem solvers in a short amount of time. It has been most surprising that children at the ages of 6 and 7 can exemplify communication skills that many adults have yet to obtain. The positive supportive language between the students is quite astounding and has created a classroom filled with love, respect and intrinsically motivated learning. Thank you for your inspiring program!
Tammy Keces
New Horizons School
Irvine, CA

The Principal of New Horizon School has posted several large Wheels of Choice on outside walls where students can easily refer to them.