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