Sunday, November 17, 2013

Jared's Cool-Out Space - A Positive Time-Out Children's Book

Some dreams take a long time to come true.

About 20 years ago I wrote a draft for a children's book called, "The Gremlin Who Eats Toys That Aren't Picked Up."  The idea was to write children's books that would teach Positive Discipline tools to parents while they read adorable picture books to their children. That book is still in the development stage (coming soon).

Two years ago, Ashlee Wilkins, A Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, sent me the idea for Jared's Cool Out Space with illustrations by her father Bill Schorr. Bill Schorr was a political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, The Kansas City Star, and the New York Daily News. Presently he draws the syndicated comic strip, "The Grizzwells," and political cartons for Cagle Cartoons.

My dream for an adorable children's book came true. I fell in love with Jared at first sight. After many rewrites, the book is finally available. Click Here to Order!

We just received our first 5 star reviews:

Such a creative way to teach children that time outs can be a positive thing, instead of viewing it as a punishment. I love the idea of having the kids help create their own cool-out space. I think once they have their place, they will actually be more aware of the times they need to use it. The book also has such a cute reminder that we ALL need space to cool down sometimes. Maybe I'll make myself a cool-out space today!

Reviewed by:  Pixiegirl from Utah

I read it to my children at bedtime tonight and they BOTH loved it. Not only that, they have big plans for redoing their cool down spots tomorrow and can't wait to get up in the morning and help each other. It's not often that they enjoy the same book these days, so it was pretty cool to see what a hit this was with both. Great tool for helping parents have this conversation with their own kids! 
Reviewed by:  Sarina from Seattle

Children, parents, and teachers will enjoy this beautifully illustrated book that teaches the value of Positive Time-Out to help children learn self-soothing skills.

Discover how Jared travels to space to manage his anger and comes back with an idea for a delightfully creative birthday present for his dad.

A special gift that will inspire children to create their own Positive Time-Out space for self-regulation.

Jared's Cool-Out Space (Children's Picture Book)
Jared's Cool-Out Space (Children's Picture Book)
Retail Price: $16.95
Your Savings: $3.96
Your Price: $12.99
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Friday, October 25, 2013

Positive Discipline Online Class - Routine Charts

by Pamela Laney

One of my LEAST favorite duties as a parent was the constant “reminding” that happened every day:
  • Brush your teeth.
  • Don’t forget your backpack.
  • Did you do you take out the trash yet?
  • You have soccer practice today.
  • Do your homework!
This constant flow of “helpful prompts” made me feel like a nag, made my son feel defeated, and left both of us exhausted.

And then I took a Positive Discipline Parenting Class.

A Parenting Tool that Really Works

First of all, everything I learned through Positive Discipline has been a game-changer in terms of how my family relates to each other.  Positive Discipline helped my whole family become closer because, along with the core of respectful, kind AND firm parenting, it’s based on cooperative problem solving, so every member feels empowered and part of a team.

The Positive Discipline tool that most helped me cut out the nagging was Routine Charts. In this video from the Positive Discipline Online Class, Mary Nelsen Tamborski and Dr. Jane Nelsen explain how the Routine Chart works.

As you just saw in the video, a Routine Chart is a very simple concept—basically it’s a To-Do List for kids that cuts out the nagging and minimizes morning and/or evening hassles. The key components to building a successful Routine Chart are these:

  • Parents and children build the Routine Chart together. Involving children in the creation of their routine chart increases their sense of belonging and significance; reduces power struggles by giving them more power over their lives; and increases their willingness to follow what they help create.
  • The information is presented in a way that is accessible to the child: Young kids who can’t read can use photos or drawings, older kids can personalize it in their own way. Place the chart where the child can easily see it.
  • Do not associate the completion of tasks on the Routine Chart with Rewards. Rewards take away from the inner feeling of capability and changes the focus to the reward.
Routine Charts Mature with Your Child

What’s amazing about this parenting tool is that the Routine Chart can grow along with your child.  In the video, Mary showed you how she took photos of her young son Greyson going through the night time routine and fastened them all together with ribbon and staples. In this article a mother shows you how she used a blank butcher paper and let her daughter draw all the steps in their night-time routine: Routine Charts in China.

My son is 10-years-old going on 30, so he thinks the photos and drawings are kind of “baby-ish”, but he still needs a routine chart to help him organize his busy afternoons. Instead, we just use a simple list written on a white board in his room. The top slots are for the regular daily tasks that need to be done, like taking out the trash, doing homework, and practicing piano. Underneath there are blank slots where he can add the items that change depending on the day, like if he has basketball practice or has a special school project he needs to work on. Having this list up in his room to refer back to keeps him on track, and keeps me off his back!

The Positive Discipline Online Class Workbook recommends making a new chart when your child tires of the current one. This might happen often, but that’s okay! This will keep things fresh and fun. I’ve seen variations of the Routine Chart done with post-its that get moved from one column to the next. I’ve heard of families cutting out pictures from a magazine or printing them from the computer. You can use pre-printed lists that are bought from the store. The possibilities are as limitless as your child’s imagination.

Routine Charts Help Build Time Management Skills and Other Life Skills

Now that my son is getting older, I focus less on the order that tasks need to be done. I doubt my son would appreciate me hanging around his college dorm room giving him a play-by-play of what he needs to do every day. In light of this, I figure I need to start letting my son manage his own time before then.

In the beginning I struggled with not nagging my son about the items on his Routine Chart, but holding my tongue has really paid off. Now he feels independent and in charge of his afternoons. He’ll fill in extra tasks on his chart just for the satisfaction of checking it off his list. The transformation has been quite extraordinary. No more bribes of getting x for doing y! Along with the important life skill of time management, the Routine Chart is teaching my son accountability, initiative, and that accomplishing something is its own reward.

Grown-Ups Use Routine Charts, Too

Grown-ups use their own versions of Routine charts in the way of day-planners and computer/smart phone calendars.  When you think of it that way, isn’t a Routine Chart just the natural first step towards an organized life? Or, at the very least, a less disorganized one?

In my case, Routine Charts were the key to a life with a whole lot less nagging. And that was something I was very happy to cut out of the family routine!

(If you are interested in the full Positive Discipline Online Class. 5 Solid Hours of video instruction by Dr. Jane Nelsen and Mary Nelsen Tamborski, plus downloads of the workbook and the best-selling Positive Discipline book. Click Here to take a tour of the Positive Discipline Online Class.)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Agreements: When Children Don’t Keep Them and Seven Steps to Encourage Cooperation

Why don’t children keep their agreements? Could it be that sometimes parents say, “This is what we are going to do! Do you agree?” When the question is asked in an authoritarian manner that doesn’t really leave room for collaboration, children often shrug in agreement, which really means, “Sure, I’ll agree to get you off my back, but I don’t really agree.”


Children will usually keep their agreements when they have been respectfully involved in creating the agreements, which requires several steps. The reason for the word “usually” will be discussed later.

1. Sit down together during a calm time (not at the time of conflict) and have a respectful discussion about the issue that requires an agreement. It is important to wait until everyone has calmed down before a rational discussion can be achieved.

2. During the discussion time, be sure that everyone has an opportunity to share his or her thoughts and feelings about the issue. Interruptions are not allowed when someone is sharing. Some families use a three minute sand flow timer. The person who is sharing can have the whole three minutes, or can stop before his or her time is up by saying so. The person or people listening are not allowed to defend, explain, or give their opinion until it is their turn.

3. Brainstorming comes only after everyone has had a chance to share. Make brainstorming fun where any suggestion is written down—no matter how wild or crazy. Do not give opinions about brainstorm ideas. This is not the time for discussion. Just get lots of ideas written down on paper. It is a good idea to focus on solutions.

4. During agreement time, it is okay to discuss the pros and cons of each brainstormed idea. You might start by asking:

  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it is not practical? (Perhaps you can’t afford it, or you don’t have other resources available to accomplish the idea.)
  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it is disrespectful to anyone involved?
  • Is there anything that should be eliminated because it wouldn’t really solve the problem?

5. Hopefully their will be some suggestions left. Choose one that everyone can agree to.

6. If appropriate, choose an exact time for completion of the agreement. For example, if your daughter agreed to mow the lawn, negotiate for a time that works for both of you.

7. When an agreement isn’t kept, respectfully ask, “What was our agreement?” Read on to discover why this may be necessary.

The reason children don't always keep their agreements even when they have been respectfully involved is because children are children. Even when they really do intend to keep their agreements, they don’t have the same priorities as adults. They may intend to mow the lawn, but since it is not high on their priority list, it may be forgotten. How often do you forget things you should do, because they are not high on your list of priorities? Since the lawn still needs to be mowed, and since you have respectfully involved your child in creating an agreement which included a specific deadline; it is okay to respectfully ask your child, “What was our agreement?”

If these steps don’t promote successful agreement, start again from the top. During step two you may discover the reasons—and you will be giving everyone an opportunity to keep learning from mistakes.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


by Jane Nelsen, co-author of Positive Discipline for Teenagers.

I just received an interesting question from a journalist wondering if parents could be both a friend and a disciplinarian. Following is my answer:

I'm not sure what you mean by disciplinarian and what you mean by friend. When people say, “You should be a parent, not a friend to your children,” I always wonder what kind of friend they are talking about. The implication is that friends are wishy washy. I don't have any wishy washy friends. My friends treat me with respect, are honest, hold me accountable, tell me what I need to hear in very loving ways, and don't put up with disrespect. And they love me and encourage me through all my ups and downs. Sounds like good parenting to me.

Regarding the disciplinarian part of the question, in all of the Positive Discipline books, we do not advocate punishment of any kind--which is what most people mean by disciplinarian. We believe in respectfully involving kids in focusing on solutions that are respectful to everyone.

How many friends would we have if we used the disciplinarian methods used by many parents?

1) Lecture
2) Nag
3) Try to control through punishments and withdrawal of privileges
4) Tell us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it
5) Withdraw love or show strong disappointment when expectations aren’t met

A theme I share with parents and teachers is "connection before correction." In other words, you have to have a good relationship before you can teach children anything--and then correction still means solving problems together respectfully. Parents would have much greater influence if they were good friends to their children by:

1) Encouraging (unconditional love)
2) Friendly discussions
3) Brainstorming for solutions
4) Scheduling special time for fun
5) Regular family meetings that involve all of the above
6) Making sure kids know you are on their side

One father shared that he was in the middle of an argument with his teenaged son when he stopped and said, “Son, do you know I’m on your side?” His son got tears in his eyes and said, “How would I know that?” Friends usually know we are on their side. Do our children?

Create a connection (closeness and trust), and then use respectful methods for correction. In other words, be a good friend to your child.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Routine Charts in China

I have the privilege of sharing another story from China, as told by Elly Zhen.

Two years ago, when I started studying on Positive Discipline routine chart, I loved the idea. It took me two years to learn about the mistakes I made during my first attempt.

I told my back-then 3.5-year-old baby girl about the idea. She agreed on making a “before bedtime” routine chart. The problem was that I wanted her to take a bath before dinner so her hair could get dry before sleep; while she wanted to do it after dinner. And I thought to myself,  "Aha, this is a good chance to get her to take a bath before dinner!" (Later, you’ll learn why this was my mistake.)

We found some photos of her eating, helping washing dishes, bathing, saying goodnight to our cat, and sleep. All very cute and beautiful. We printed them out, she cut them, pasted them on a big piece of paper, and I wrote the words in both English and Chinese. Her beautiful and "decent" routine chart was done! Of course, taking a bath was before dinner.

After only four days, this beautiful routine chart caused a big fight. You can imagine the reason. My daughter burst into tears and rushed into her room and tore the routine chart into pieces! Later we had a friendly talk about the incident, apologized to each other, and pasted the routine chart back together. Still, she never used it again.....until three months ago.

After teaching Positive Discipline for 1.5 years, I have realized the core value of PD is to EMPOWER my child, not to manipulate or control her. So I made up my mind to re-do the routine chart. To be honest, I was nervous and very unsure on whether or not she would be willing to do it. "But so what! If it fails again, it fails", I thought to myself. "At least I can learn something new."

This time, I completely gave my trust to her. She came up with 13 things before bedtime, such as brushing teeth, throwing out trash, hugging our cat, etc. With all the things she needs and wants to do between bath time and going to bed, there was enough time for her hair to get dry!

She drew pictures of her task on a big piece of paper and pasted it next to the kitchen door. She did it, every part, all by herself! You can see from the attached photos that nobody could understand her routine chart, but just herself. For me, this just represents it is this child's own routine chart.

We are still using this "routine paper" (she named it). I say "we", because she now often says to me: "Mommy, you can take a look at my paper? You will know what's next."

It took me almost two years to get the "essence" of routine chart -- it's to make our life stable and secure, not the opposite. For that, I thank Positive Discipline!

Elly Zhen, Shenzhen China

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Family Meeting in China

A Family Meeting in China (shared with permission)

I am Wendy Li, my Chinese name is Li Tao, I come from Chengdu. After learning Positive Discipline, I've become a better mom, and a better self. This picture shows my four-year-old daughter carefully taking notes during our first family meeting. Of cause she didn't know what to write at all.

Our first family meeting was very funny so I wrote a blog about it. My daughter imitated me to make notes and also offered topics for discussion, like, "Mum's getting angry, giving birth to a baby sister or brother." I was so amazed that she enjoyed the family meeting so much.

Now our family meetings help us to solve many problems. Following is my blog that has been read by many Chinese people:

Yesterday, on the Monday night, we held our first family meeting. Days before, I told Tiao tiao we would have our first family meeting several days later, which means Dad, Mom, and Tiao tiao are going to sit together to have a meeting discussing family issues. Not knowing how much she understood, she seemed excited, and showed her happiness for this family meeting.
Yesterday, I mentioned we were going to have the meeting after dinner and I asked if she had anything that needed to be discussed. She answered seriously that she wanted to keep a bunny and a puppy in the house. Actually, Tiao tiao has asked for this many times, but I always told her that I needed to discuss it with Dad first and then we’d decide. Anyway, this is indeed a proper proposal for a family meeting.

I took out a pen and a notebook and prepared to take notes. Tiao tiao wanted it too, so I gave her a small notebook and a colored pen. We all sat around the table, the meeting was about to begin.

First we gave thanks to each other. This made me a little bit excited immediately. Dad thanked me for doing the laundry, and thanked Tiao tiao for being good. I thanked Dad for helping me wash the dishes, and thanked Tiao tiao for sharing her tofu with me during the dinner.

This was the first time for our family to do this kind of activity, so there were still some embarrassed feelings. Tiao tiao was watching Dad and me with awkward smiles on her face while we were speaking. When it was Tiao tiao’s turn, she imitated us. She thanked me for washing her clothes and said, "Dear Mom, I love you. Dad, I love you, you are so cute." I was surprised, and also deeply moved to cry.

I tried to calm down and said, ”Ok, we can begin to discuss our proposals now. Tiao tiao, you go first.”
Tiao tiao said, ”I want a sister!” Maybe she forgot her wish about having a pet before, or, maybe she just found out this topic was more important.

I said softly, ”Well, Dad and Mom are considering it.” And Tiao tiao accepted this with silence.
Then, I proposed about the candy that Tiao tiao should only eat at weekends and just one at a time. Tiao tiao said yes quickly. So I said, "Well, I’m going to write it down now." Seeing me, Tiao tiao was doing the same thing on her notebook.

Then, Tiao tiao unexpectedly proposed a second proposal.  She imitated me and said, "About Mom being angry, can Mom don’t get mad? You can say please don’t do this and say it softly." Tiao tiao added. Her voice was so soft and so gentle and said, "Then Tiao tiao will understand and won’t do it anymore." I agreed of course. She said again, "Tiao tiao cry when Mom yell, I’ll get it if you tell me softly."

Then I said I would write it down. I repeated what she said while I was writing. Tiao tiao wrote too while saying, "Tiao tiao has written a lot of words, I, love, you, dear, dad, mom, thanks for dinner."

Later, I thought we should also make a proposal about Dad that he should come to meal when I finish cooking so we three could eat together. Tiao tiao imitated me again, and said, "So I’ll write it down." 

After that, I asked was there anything else to be discussed. Tiao tiao said on her own, "About the bath, can Dad and Mom wash Tiao tiao’s hair softly when taking a shower?" I said yes and wrote it down.

I was about to finish this meeting since 4 or 5 issues were enough. Tiao tiao said, "When people light fireworks, they can make it quiet, because that will scare other children." (She was understanding how to find solutions to problems.)

When the meeting was over, Tiao tiao was not willing to leave the table, and she was still drawing on her book. I took a look at it, there were many squares on it, Tiao tiao was really writing words on it, she drew many curves in each square, and every curve stayed perfectly in the square. And that’s different from her usual paintings. This picture will be printed and I will paste it on the book of our family meeting record. That’ll be really nice memory!

The meeting is over, and I think it’s very meaningful. I thought of some other things that can be talked about after our first family meeting. And I am really looking forward to the next one.

All parents who take part in learning the courses of Positive Discipline will find out family meetings are so worthy. And I’m one of them. There are different reasons why I haven’t held it till yesterday. First, Tiao tiao didn’t reach 4 before, second, we usually take activities outside at weekends, and we arrive home late. I always worry about our living pattern is not good for keeping family meetings. Last thing is I never attended any family meetings before, so I don’t know whether I can do it. On the other hand, for Chinese family, to hold a democratic meeting like this is still awkward.

Now, we did it. I think I should do this earlier because I do love it, and since we do it on Monday night, it helps a lot for us to persist, because we are usually free at this time. In addition, comparing with us, Tiao tiao adapts this democratic life best.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Small Steps

Parents may not realize that doing too much for children (usually in the name of love) is discouraging. A child may adopt the belief "I’m not capable” when adults insist on doing things for him that he could do himself. Another possible belief is “I am loved only when others are doing things for me.”

It may be helpful to remember that self‐esteem comes from having skills, and that pampering a child actually discourages him. Stop doing things for your child that he can do for himself and make room for him to practice—even when he does things imperfectly. When he says, “I can’t,” have patience; say, “I have faith that you can handle this task.”

Encouraging a child who believes that he is inadequate requires a great deal of patience, gentle perseverance, and faith in the child’s abilities.

Success Story

We have, not really consistently, been trying to get our son to put his own shoes on when getting ready to leave the house.  Today it was time to get going and I asked him to get his shoes and try and put them on while I was upstairs and that if he needed help I would be down in a little bit.

When I came downstairs he was still struggling with the first shoe.  Usually this is when I would just step in and do it for him and, in fact, he was asking me "Mommy, you do it please."

But instead of swooping in, I thought about assumed inadequacy. (click here to view the Mistaken Goal Chart) I offered to show him step by step with the first shoe and he then he would try on his own with the second.  So I did that, showed him step by step with the first shoe then offered him the second.  When it was his turn he was struggling but instead of swooping in, I kept encouraging him and reminded him of the steps and he eventually got it himself.

When he was done there were a few things I could of corrected (too loose straps, etc.) but, and this was a HUGE success for me, instead of "fixing" it I just let it be figuring if they were actually too loose he would have the logical consequence and we would just stop and he could fix it. This was really a major success for me, not so much my son. I am always just swooping in and doing things for him or fixing his way, and he definitely has some issues with assumed inadequacy as a result. I've really been trying this week to not do that to him. I felt really proud of myself and of him. :)

We had another success this week. My son knows when we come inside the house it's his job to take his shoes off and put them away. It was that time and he wasn't wanting to listen. We were on the verge of a tantrum, not really in the midst of it or anything, but just a lot of "no" and laying on the floor not wanting to listen. So I got down on the floor and told him I needed a hug once, to which he responded "no."  Then I said it again, "I need a hug," he looked up and said "huh?" so I said it a third time and he got up and gave me a hug.

When we were done hugging I asked him, "What's your job when we come home?" and he sat right down and took his shoes off. It was awesome! If I had argued with him it would have turned into a tantrum, but instead I stopped myself, told him I needed a hug and afterward it's like he almost forgot what he was even protesting. Again a huge success for both of us.

Sarah G.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Positive Discipline Journey

by Isabelle Belles (Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator)

My husband, my then two year-old son, and I moved from Madrid, Spain to Chicago in 2008 because of my husband’s job. I was working at that time for a consulting company as a full-time manager. Even when I had my son, I had never considered stopping working, but moving to the U.S. was a major challenge for my career. I was able to continue working for the same company for a year after our arrival in Chicago, but then, due to personal circumstances, I decided to leave my job. Suddenly, I found myself “officially” a full-time mother without any parenting skills.

The transition was really challenging for me. I went from very little family time, work days with full agendas and business trips to seemingly limitless hours to devote to taking care of my son, school meetings and class field trips. What a change! Everything was new for me, even more so as I was in a different country, using a new language.

But the most difficult part was my lack of education in parenting skills. I realized that I was applying the same methods as my parents had used with me, but with few, if any, positive results. I was not satisfied, neither was my family, and I couldn’t find a way to change it.

Months passed, and a wonderful woman, who later would become one of my beloved friends, mentioned two words to me, two words that changed my life: Positive Discipline. I opened all my senses and listened carefully. “Be kind and firm at the same time” she told me. With her characteristic passion and generosity, she explained to me what Positive Discipline was all about and how this new pedagogical approach was also changing her life. I was sure that a new path as a parent was opening up in front of me.  At the very least Positive Discipline was something new to try.  At that time, my son was four years old.

After researching on the internet and reading comments and newsletter subscriptions, I found my interest in Positive Discipline growing daily. I was really excited to find that there would be a Positive Discipline presentation at my son’s school in April 2010 by Dina Emser (MA, Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer) and Marine Bazin (also a Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer). They introduced the main aspects of PD and announced that they would present a multi-session series in the near future. In the meantime, I was determined to learn more, so I started to read the book “Positive Discipline” by Jane Nelsen.

In winter of 2011, Dina Emser presented a seven-session course with Marine Bazin. I attended the series, which covered the basic principles of Positive Discipline and focused on resolving problems with teenagers. We read and worked with the book “Positive Discipline for Teenagers”. Even though my son was still a toddler, it was terrific to notice that solutions could be applied at whatever one’s child’s age. It was a wonderful experience that slowly transformed our family life. I remember my first attempts at Positive Discipline: I used index cards to recall sentences that were in the book. My son was surprised by the change in my approach, but accepted it easily. We both felt so good as a result of just changing the way we were communicating. I then incorporated more Positive Discipline tools in our daily life, such as family meetings, limited choices, and routines.

Our family life had improved, and I was feeling more and more confident as a parent. I decided to keep going on my journey, and I enrolled for certification (Positive Discipline Parent Educator).  In May 2011, three friends and I attended Dina Emser’s workshop entitled Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way that was held in Normal, Illinois. It was such a wonderful experience in so many different ways. One of the most enjoyable parts was sharing the two days (including the driving to and from Chicago) with my friends. We connected in a way that still feels really special today. Also, seeing a large group, with totally different backgrounds, but working and exploring in harmony, was a confirmation of the strong community that the Positive Discipline way builds.

Lately, I have discovered a new “version” of Positive Discipline, La Discipline Positive! I am French and Spanish, so when the French Positive Discipline book was published last year, I ran to buy one! It is so interesting to see the differences between the American and French editions. It seems like knowing already the painting but seeing different details. Consequently, January of 2013 I have enrolled in a seven-session series conducted in French which I am enjoying as much as I did the first miles of my Positive Discipline journey ...

My next stop will be to attend the think tank in 2013! After that I would like to work towards advance certification training.

Bon voyage!!!
Isabelle Belles

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Empowering vs Enabling Success Story

Why is it so much easier to “enable” than to empower? Enabling is adult behavior that puts the parent between the child and life experiences to minimize the consequences of the child's choices. Enabling includes rescuing, over-protecting, and controlling without involving the child in problem solving. Enabling behavior encourages an unhealthy dependence in children and prevents them from learning to do things for themselves.

Many parents enable their children in the name of love. They do not look at the long-term results. They don’t consider what their children are deciding about themselves and about what to do in the future (based on their decisions). They may be deciding, “I'm not capable.” “It is best to let others take care of me.” “You can’t make me,” etc. It is important to know that adults do not necessarily feel comfortable with empowering statements and actions until they really understand the long-term benefits.

Empowering means turning over control to young people as soon as possible so they have power over their own lives and having faith in them to learn and recover from their mistakes.

Typical Enabling Behaviors

  • Waking children in the morning, doing their laundry, fixing their lunches, picking out their clothes.
  • Loaning money and/or giving extra money after they have spent their allowance or used specially earmarked funds, such as a clothing allowance, on something else.
Typing papers, researching, delivering forgotten homework or lunches to school.
  • Lying to teachers when children cut classes or skip school
  • Feeling sorry for children when they have a lot of homework or activities, excusing them from helping the family with household chores.
Pretending everything is fine, when it clearly isn't, to avoid confrontation.
Giving them everything they want—“because everyone else has one.”

Typical Empowering Behaviors

  • Listening and giving emotional support and validation without fixing or discounting.
  • Teaching life skills
 (laundry, dishes, fixing lunches, picking out clothes, etc.).
  • Working on agreements through family meetings or the joint problem-solving process.
  • Letting go (without abandoning).
  • Deciding what you will do, with dignity and respect
  • Sharing what you think, how you feel, and what you want without lecturing, moralizing, insisting on agreement, or demanding satisfaction.

Empowering Success Story

Lisa provides an inspiring success story of how she and her husband empowered their son.

Our oldest son is 12-years-old and in middle school.  He attends an academic magnet school and has daily homework and frequent "big" projects.  We power struggled a lot with him in fifth grade over keeping up with his work and in 6th grade we REALLY started power struggling. Sometimes we would have daily arguments about homework. My husband decided it was time for us to cut the cord completely in this area just before Christmas.  They wrote out a mutually agreed upon contract with items like our son coming to us if he needed our help and us coming to him if we got notification that his grades had dropped into the C range.  We all read and signed the contract. There have been a few times when I would start nagging about homework again and my husband would remind me about the contract terms.

The first report card with our new approach came and he had straight A's.  The second one he had all A's and one B.  At breakfast one morning we were acknowledging his hard work and it occurred to me in that moment that HE had earned those grades, he had done that by himself.  I realized that by us "driving the boat" so to speak that it minimized his successes as well.  At his school it is 7th grade scores and grades that ensure you a place in the academic high school.  During that same breakfast he said "Just wait until next year, I am going to knock it out of the park because I am not going to let an 84 keep me out of the academic high school." It was great to see his attitude shift, a few months ago he didn't want to go to that high school-probably because of OUR intensity around it. 
Lisa L.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Understanding the Belief Behind the Behavior - A Positive Discipline Success Story

Success Story

I want to share an encouraging moment from recent life: Our week started with a particularly upsetting episode for my 3 1/2 year-old daughter. She was at preschool and apparently came down with a spontaneous case of the rota-virus that is spreading around the school like wildfire. She had an accident which required a change of clothes and her cot get the picture. So I got the call at noon to come pick her up. She was upset, but she recovered. I subsequently caught the bug from her, and I recovered.

Two days later...

It was time for her to go to school again. The FIRST thing she said to me that morning at 7:00 AM is, "I'm still sick. I cannot go to school."

I listened to her, and asked a few questions, but went on with the morning, while she continued to insist she didn't want to go to school. The whining increased. I started to tense up, thinking, "We don't have time for this. She's too young to be saying she doesn't like school. Why can't we just have ONE morning go smoothly?"

And then (and I think this is ONLY because I had been sick in bed the previous day, grading graduate students' homework on Adlerian parenting/Positive Discipline), I paused and said to myself, "I bet I can figure out what is going on here."

So I made a guess. (I'm sure it's obvious to some of you veterans out there.) I said to her, "I know what happened on Monday was so upsetting and you were so surprised by that. I bet it felt a little scary."

She instantly began to cry (the real tears) and nodded, saying "Yes, and I'm so scared it's going to happen again."

She immediately calmed down, let me hug her and hold her, and I reassured her that her body was all better now and that it would not happen again.

The rest of the morning was fine, and we got in the car and made it to school on time. No more tears.

That afternoon, I told her she must be feeling so proud of herself for being so brave, but really, I was thinking, "Yay for me! I guessed right!” I slowed down long enough to listen to her! I didn't get mad! I validated her feelings. I didn't let the tension of hurried mornings get in the way of hearing her very real and valid fear!" She must have felt encouraged because she changed her behavior.


After this experience, I am thinking back to a topic brought up in a recent parenting class. A parent expressed some respectful doubt that we could "guess" at the beliefs (and fears) behind the behavior. My example above is not necessarily a mistaken goal, and I know that it is not always appropriate or possible to do goal disclosure with our own children. However, orienting myself to the origin of her (at the time, very annoying) behavior, and combining it with some curiosity and calming down time for myself was magical!

Monica H., M.A.
Doctoral Candidate, Clinical Psychology

Mistaken Goal Resources

Click Here to download the NEW Mistaken Goal Chart which will help you discover the belief behind the child's misbehavior. It is a new mistaken goal chart because it includes a column on "How Adults May Contribute" to the misbehavior.

Watch this video from the new Positive Discipline Online Parenting Class for a further explanation of the Mistaken Goals of Misbehavior.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Connection Before Correction - A Positive Discipline Success Story

We had just finished Vicki Dolan's Positive Discipline class at Children's Playroom in the morning.  Most of it was review, but I picked up a few bits of information and one of the things I wrote down was "connection before correction." I haven't tried to implement that particular tool very often, but I had the perfect opportunity that night.

My kids were arguing over who was going to feed the hamster. My 9 year old asked my 4 year old to do it.  He got frustrated and yelled, "I always have to feed him," and THREW the bowl of food all over the kitchen floor.  My first thought was to yell at him to pick it up immediately and get nasty with him.  But I thought I'd give this new technique I learned a try.  So I very calmly held him in my arms and said, "You sound like you're angry because you are tired of feeding Niblet all the time."  He grumpily replied "YES!" with a long winded explanation of how he always has to feed the hamster and he doesn't want to do it.  I told him I could understand how it's frustrating to feel like you are always doing the work.  He nodded.  I then pointed out that there was hamster food all over the floor and it probably wasn't going to pick itself up.  I asked him how we could get it off the floor?  He suggested the vacuum; and I asked him if he wanted me to get it for him so he could use it for the food.  He said yes and proceeded to vacuum up all of the hamster food.  Amazing!

I often say that Positive Discipline takes more time and effort and it's easier to be a mean and nasty parent!  However, when I look back on this situation, I actually think I saved time and frustration by not yelling at him.  If I yelled, he would have fought back and we would have been in a HUGE power struggle that could have lasted all night!  Instead, I spent a few minutes making that connection and then he knew what the correction needed to be.  It was a great tool to use!  Positive Discipline works so well!  It never ceases to amaze me!  Thank you for the tools to be a good parent!

Shannon A.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Applying the Positive Discipline Principles

Last year we introduced 52 Positive Discipline Tools in 52 Weeks. All of these Positive Discipline tools are amazing! But it can be overwhelming to try and apply them all at once. So this year we will share success stories that will inspire you as you read how others have applied the Positive Discipline principles. It is always comforting to know that others share the same struggles and read how they found solutions.

We would also love to hear your own success stories. You can email them to or join our success stories group on our private social network.

Family Meetings - The 22-Minute Discipline Solution

Our first success story was printed in Parents Magazine. Dr. Jane Nelsen was interviewed by Francesca Castagnoli and she wrote an article titled The 22-Minute Discipline Solution. Read how Francesca has created a tradition of weekly family meetings and how her children look forward to what they call "Funday". Click Here to read the full article.

This coming week we will be posting another success story featuring the Positive Discipline Tool of Connection Before Correction. Stay Tuned!

Below are some more resources that will help you apply the Positive Discipline Tools:

Find a Local Parenting Class

Attending a parenting class is a great way to help you implement the Positive Discipline tools. Having a group of like minded parents with the same goals and same problems will help you focus. Click Here for a list of local parenting classes.

Take our Online Parenting Class

If you can't find a local parenting class, consider signing up for our Online Parenting Class. Our online class is the next best thing to being there in person. You get to participate vicariously as Dr. Jane Nelsen and her daughter Mary Nelsen Tamborski lead your through a six week parenting class. Watch the preview below.

Click Here to sign up for the online class.

Join Our Private Social Network

Our free Positive Discipline Network is a friendly, encouraging Positive Discipline community. Questions are answered by members and Certified Positive Discipline Associates. You can join special interest groups, and you can do a search of topic that has already been covered to find support, encouragement, and ideas from other parents who are experience similar challenges. Click Here to sign up.

Get The Positive Discipline Tool Cards

The Positive Discipline Tool Cards are a great way to have all the tools right at your fingertips. They are available as a Deck of Cards as well as an App for Android and Apple devices.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Positive Discipline in London, England

Jane Nelsen Visits The American School in London

by Joy Marchese

What an exciting week it has been at the American School in London.  Dr. Jane Nelsen and Teresa LaSala, Certified PD Lead Trainer, worked with parents, counselors, and teachers from all over the world, including Cairo, Hungry, Denmark, France, Austria, and the United Kingdom.

Parent workshops focused on Developing Capable Young People, Positive Discipline for Teens, and a two-day Positive Discipline in the Classroom Training for educators.  Due to Positive Discipline’s experiential teaching style, participants shared that they walked away with useful and practical tools that they will apply in their homes and in their schools beginning today.

It was an empowering experience for all and we are grateful to have welcomed Jane into the greater European community.  Jane will continued her tour of the United Kingdom by visiting the prestigious Harrow School in Middlesex, UK.

Testimonials from teachers and parents:

“The Positive Discipline in the Classroom workshop delivered a whole weekend of paradigm pushing!   A lively set of well-designed, experiential activities challenged participants to think deeply about behavioural issues in the whole-school and classroom.  The co-leaders of the course, Jane Nelsen and Theresa LaSalla, worked tirelessly to stimulate discussion and reflection about the values underpinning our educational programmes and they provided pathways for us to remodel our ideas on how best to meet the needs of our learners.  Sessions exploring the nature of encouragement, the goals of misbehaviour and the balance between kindness and firmness should become mandatory training for all who work in education.  The weekend was exceptional and ranks among the best personal and professional development courses I have ever attended.”

Sean Spurvey
Head of ICT
Westminster Under School

“My moment of enlightenment came when Jane Nelsen shared in her book Positive Discipline, “ Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse”. I went over to hug Jane good-bye after her second talk at the American School in London. As I said thank you and mentioned that I wished I had come across her book earlier, tears filled my eyes mainly from regret of not having used her positive disciplining techniques with my children when they were younger. She comforted me and said, “It’s not about the guilt, it’s about applying the tools now and moving forward”. I have started using her invaluable tools to improve my parenting techniques in the hopes of becoming a better parent and a better person.  Thank you Jane. ”

Ariadne Petrucelli
The American School in London
Executive Coach and Parent

“While attending the PD in the classroom training in London, I was uniting and collaborating with adults that were willing and eager to approach things differently and positively.  I appreciated the experiential approaches, collaborating, brainstorming, and networking to start to change the ways in which we work with students and children in a variety of settings.  I now feel that our team has several "nuggets" to take back and implement in our school and share with other educators and adults.”

Amy Friedman
Copenhagen International School
Middle School Counselor

“Every day I write an appreciation about something in my life.  I could have written fifty appreciations based on this workshop, instead of the two I was kept to.  I loved the experiential aspect, as I tend to learn by doing after listening.  Not only where they fun (due to Jane and Teresa) but they were also powerful and moving.  I'm already running Positive Discipline for Parents classes with the parents of our school's Middle School and High School students, but now I'm excited about using this with teachers and administration.  I think that several activities will be particularly helpful as we explore how to best help teenagers having difficulty in our Student Services Team meetings.  I wish all teachers could have this training before they head into the classroom!”

Liane Thakur
The American School in London
High School Counselor

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Active (or reflective) listening is another effective tool of communication, one that will serve you well as you parent your child and (sooner than you may think) the adolescent that child will become. Active listening is the art of observing and listening to feelings, then reflecting them back. Active listening does not require that you agree with your child’s feelings, but it allows your child to feel connected and understood— something all people need—and provides an opportunity to explore and clarify those mysterious impulses known as emotions.

Four‐year‐old Chrissy ran through the front door, slamming it so forcefully that the pictures rattled on the wall, and promptly burst into tears. “Tammy took my ball,” she wailed. “I hate her!” Then Chrissy threw herself onto the sofa in a storm of sobs.

Her mom, Diane, looked up from the bills she was paying. Resisting the impulse to scold Chrissy for slamming the door, she said quietly, “You seem pretty angry, kiddo.”

Chrissy pondered for a moment. “Mom,” she said plaintively, sniffling a little, “Tammy is bigger than me. It isn’t fair for her to take away my stuff.”

″It must be pretty frustrating to be picked on by a big girl,” Diane said, still focusing on reflecting her daughter’s feelings. “Yeah. I’m mad,” the little girl said firmly. “I don’t want to play with her anymore.” She sat quietly for a moment, watching as Diane put stamps on envelopes. “Mom, can I go play out in the backyard?” Diane gave her daughter a hug—and a great deal more.

By simply reflecting back her daughter’s underlying feelings (active listening), Diane refrained from lecturing, rescuing, or discounting her daughter’s feelings. She allowed Chrissy the opportunity to explore what was going on for her, and in the process, Chrissy discovered a solution to her own problem. Some other time, Diane might be able to talk with Chrissy about avoiding future problems—and perhaps ask her what she could do to express her anger instead of slam the door.

Diane also showed respect for her daughter’s feelings. Parents often do not agree with (or completely understand) their children’s emotions, but active listening does not require you to agree or completely understand. It invites children to feel heard and lets them know it’s okay to feel whatever they feel. Validating a child’s feelings with love and understanding opens the door for real connection and problem solving and works toward building a lifelong relationship of love and trust.

Pretend these statements are made by a child. How would you respond?

″No! I won’t take a nap!”
″I want a bottle like the baby has.”
″I hate going to the doctor.”
″Nobody will let me play with them.”

Some parents try to argue a child out of her feelings in hopes of changing her mind or helping her feel better. These attempts may sound like this:

″Of course you need your nap—you’ve been up since six. When will you learn that you need to rest?”
″Don’t be silly. Only babies use bottles. You’re a big boy now.”
″I keep telling you, you have to go to the doctor to feel better.”
″Why sweetie, you know you have lots of friends. What about . . .”

Each of these examples may leave the child feeling misunderstood and defensive—with the likely result of an argument and frustration for both of you. Active listening might sound like this:

″You look disappointed that you have to stop playing with your toys. You were having a lot of fun.”
″Sounds like you’re feeling left out in all the fuss over your new baby sister. Is there more you can tell me?”
″Sometimes I feel a little afraid of going to the doctor, too.”
″You seem pretty sad about being ignored by the older kids.”

These responses make no judgments and open the door for children to go further in exploring their feelings. Asking “Is there more?” indicates a willingness to listen and may help a child discover deeper, buried feelings.

Like most adults, sometimes all children really need is for someone to listen and understand. Active listening will help your child learn about his own feelings (and appropriate ways to express them) and will help you focus on what’s really important.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Have Faith in Your Children

Have you every wondered why it is a good idea to have faith in your children? How else will they learn to have faith in themselves? Of course it is important to show your faith with actions. The foundation actions to show faith in your children are avoidance actions such as avoiding over-parenting, rescuing, fixing, reminding (lecturing).

Too often parents tell their children to be responsible, but then don’t allow them opportunities to be responsible. I think it was Dreikurs who said, “The best way to teach children to be responsible is for parents to be consciously irresponsible.” In other words (and I know Dreikurs said this), “Don’t do things for children that they can do for themselves.”

If you have been taking responsibility for things your children could be responsible for (rescuing, fixing, taking their lunch to school when they forget), be prepared for objections. If you have been a “willing slave” to your children, don’t be surprised if they have a tantrum when you stop—even when you let them know in advance that you have been making a mistake by not having faith in them to handle many of their challenges.

There is nothing better than a real success story to teach the value of this Positive Discipline tool. After talking with Leslie about the value of allowing children to suffer when you stop rescuing (much different from making them suffer), and having faith in them to work through their suffering to feel more capable, she shared the following story:

I’m sure you hear this all the time; parents who say, “I tried what you suggested and it worked!” but I still feel compelled to share this.

A few hours after you and I talked, my 15-year-old son called, sounding desperate, saying, “Mom, please come pick me up at school! I have so much homework!”

I couldn’t anyway since I don’t drive to work, but calmly said, “Hmmm, that’s too bad.”
“But Mom. You don’t understand. I need a ride.”

And I said, “I can’t, but I have faith in you. I’m sure you’ll figure it out.”

Right afterwards, I called my husband (who is now working at home starting a new business and who has been complaining that he always “has” to pick up our son because he feels so guilty with such daily pleas, but it interrupts his work) to expect a call any second but to stand firm and allow our son to get home on his own.

The best part? That night my son told me he and his friend took the city bus home together and had the “best” time, stopping to buy candy and laughing all the way home.

Really, if you’re not too busy, could you come live with my family and me?

BTW: Thought it worth mentioning, he also got his homework done.

This was such a great example of having faith in your children. I think it is worth mentioning a few other suggestions I shared with Leslie about allowing children to suffer.

  1. Express empathy. (Once is enough.)
  2. Avoid lectures.
  3. Do not rescue or fix.
  4. Let them know you have faith in them to work it out.
  5. When they get upset and/or annoyed that their pleas for special service aren’t working, let them have their feelings. Have faith in them to work through it.
  6. If they can’t find a solution, invite them to put the problem on the family meeting agenda where they can get help brainstorming for solutions.

You may not always experience the happy ending shared in Leslie’s example. That is not the point. The point is that your children will develop life skills and a sense of capability in an atmosphere of loving support that does not include “bawling them out” (lectures), and then “bailing them out” (fixing an rescuing). Have faith in your children.

Meanwhile keep having regular family meetings so your children learn and practice the skills of giving and receiving compliments and focusing on solutions that are respectful to everyone. Regular family meetings provide your children with many skills to have faith in themselves.