Perks of Positive Parenting

Perks of Positive Parenting

Punish less, connect more and set the stage for academic success

This interview was written by contributing writer Jenna Jones and published in the February 2020 issue of OC Family Magazine.

As the stresses of modern parenting sometimes spin into chaos, it can be difficult to sort through the chaos of parental philosophies about discipline and punishment.

From coloring on walls and hitting siblings, children are likely daily misbehave in surprising and frustrating ways. Managing that misbehavior has evolved in recent years, most notably with the philosophy of positive discipline. Instead of yelling, spanking or even giving timeouts, positive discipline encourages parents to seek connection, empathy and solutions with their children.

Based on the work of two Austrian psychologists in the 1920s and made famous in the U.S. by Dr. Jane Nelson during the past three decades, positive discipline hinges on mutual respect between parent and child.

Although scientific research is limited, there is evidence that the tenets of positive discipline can have beneficial effects: a sense of belonging and connection at home and school, increased academic performance and decreased socially risky behavior in children, according to a 1997 study by the University of Minnesota.

To dig deeper into the philosophy and tools of positive discipline, we sat down with Hayley Goldberg, Newport Beach parenting coach and family therapist. (This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

OCF: How do you define positive discipline?

Goldberg: Positive discipline is about teaching, coaching, and guiding our kids through childhood. It’s a long-term approach to parenting where we consider who we want our kids to become as adults- what life skills and characteristics we would like them to have.

OCF: What is the positive discipline approach to punishment?

Goldberg: Positive discipline talks about being kind and firm. That doesn’t mean we don’t have limits and boundaries, we do. Kids thrive when they know the limits and boundaries and our expectations for them are clear. It means that there will be consequences for certain behaviors if consequences are necessary. Consequences are not the goal of positive discipline. This is sometimes hard for parents to understand. Positive discipline talks about a misbehaving child being a discouraged child. Constant consequences or punishment create discouragement.

OCF: How does traditional punishment affect children and their development?

Goldberg: Traditional punishment is anything that involves shame, pain, blame, fear, force, or threat to get children to obey. This includes things like yelling, spanking, threatening, timeouts and taking away privileges. It’s really hard to raise kids who’ll become adults with positive life skills and characteristics like self-discipline, self-confidence, healthy self-esteem, problem-solving skills – adults who are happy and have good communication skills- when we rely heavily on punishment to raise our kids.

OCF: What are some of the most effective positive discipline techniques?

Goldberg: Positive discipline techniques should meet five key criteria. First be kind and firm at the same time. Second, help children feel a sense of belonging and significance. Third, focus on the long-term effects. Fourth, teach children valuable social and life skills. Lastly, invite children to discover how capable they are and to use their power constructively.

OCF: What is the positive discipline stance on timeouts?

Goldberg: Rather than sending kids to a timeout when they have their big emotions, positive discipline looks to create a safe cooldown space where kids can go to calm down. Going to the cooldown space is not about punishment but purely a space to calm down and can include things that would help your child feel better. Children under the age of 4 don’t understand cause and effect, so timeout makes no sense for changing their behavior.

OCF: How do parents start using positive discipline?

Goldberg: Start small. It can be confusing to try new strategies. Pick one behavior you’d like to change or one skill you’d like to teach. Select one or two strategies you’re going to use to accomplish your goal, give it a try, and be consistent, sticking with it. If you find yourself struggling to parent differently or you’re more confused than clear about what you’re supposed to be doing, reach out for help from a parenting coach who understands positive discipline and can help you implement the new techniques and keep you on track and moving forward.

If you’re right in the thick of it dealing with misbehavior, I hope you have found this post helpful.

If you’re at your wits end with your child’s behavior don’t hesitate to get in touch and we can see if I might be able to help.

Always remember children are individuals and there’s no one size fit’s all to parenting. It’s important to find the parenting that works best for you and your family.

You can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Your child’s potential is limitless. Their success begins with you.

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My work is dedicated to supporting parents and early childhood educators in understanding and reducing challenging behavior in young children at home and in the preschool classroom.

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