Top 5 Positive Discipline Parenting Tools You Need in 2013

If you WANT things to be diff - polaroid styleWant to be a calmer parent? Or perhaps a firmer parent? Maybe you’d like to be more organized in the mornings? It’s hard to know where to start when you have big goals for yourself. No matter your wishes, I’m guessing that one of my five favorite Positive Discipline parenting tools can help. One way to change the dynamics in your home is to choose a specific tool or two and then apply the tool over time. After practicing different ways to use the tool, you’ll start noticing results and witness that you’re getting better at using the tool.

Take the New Parenting Tool Challenge

My doable challenge for you is to choose one (yes only one!) of the tools on my list of “Top 5 Positive Discipline Parenting Tools You Need in 2013.  These are my personal favorite parenting tools and all of them are tools that have been essential to me for parenting in a way that I feel good about – parenting that teaches life and relationship skills to my kids.

As you read over the list, you may think that they all look good, but again I encourage you to pick just one tool. Learn about that tool and practice different ways of implementing the tool until you feel you’ve mastered the tool and can use it well and often. To help you start learning your chosen tool, I’ll dedicate a blog post about each of the tools in January. So here’s the list, followed by some more information about each tool.

My Top 5 Positive Discipline Parenting Tools You Need in 2013

  1. Special Time
  2. Routines
  3. Positive Time Out
  4. Make Sure the Message of Love Get Through
  5. Help Your Children Discover How Capable They Are

Tool #1 – Special Time

This is my all time favorite parenting tool and this surprises a lot of parents. This one tool has been the glue that has held together my relationship with my children, even when one of us was going through a tough time or seemed to be caught in a series of power struggles.

Special time, often referred to as quality time is one-on-one time spent between a parent and a child without the distractions of others, homework, and power struggle topics. It’s time to get to know your child without asking him or her to do anything (such as clean a room) and simply enjoy being with your child. Ideally, special time happens at least once a week for an hour for ages 6 and up. For preschoolers, special time works well as 10 minutes of focused time on a daily basis.

By implementing the tool of special time, you’ll be surprised at how much you personally learn about your child plus you’ll add that sticky glue to the relationship so that when it’s time to set limits, you’ll have laid a foundation of trust and true interest in your child as a person.

Tool #2 – Routines

Would you love to stop nagging and reminding your kids about what to do next, or to remember to do their homework? Maybe it would make you jump up and down if you taught your child concrete steps to cleaning his room — a checklist of all of the tasks that need to be done to call a room “clean.”

What times are the super chaotic ones in your home? Okay, I’ll reword that. What times are the MOST  chaotic in your home and for your family? What times need some structure? Routines can be a big help so that everyone knows what happens first, second, third, etc.

When I introduce the concept of routines in my live workshops, parents often get this idea of routines confused with reward charts. To be clear, I don’t recommend using rewards or reward charts so my suggestion of creating routines isn’t about you being the monitor to doll out starts and check marks for a job well done. Using routines as a Positive Discipline parenting tool is different. I’ll post more in the next few weeks about this awesome tool that helps families in so many ways.

Tool #3 – Positive Time Out

Wow, this tool has saved my sanity. Positive time out can be used by all family members, but in this “choose your tool for 2013” context, I mean for you the parent to learn to take a positive time out. I know you feel your stress thermometer rise inside of your body when you’re parenting through a stressful moment. The pressure increases and before you know it, you’re yelling and you feel like your head might explode.

It’s so hard to step away from a parenting moment when we feel stressed, but in the long run, I have found that this tool has taught me so many other skills too. I’ve learned ways to calm myself. Each time I use this tool, I continue to model for my kids how to step away from a situation when I’m too upset to think clearly.

After you start taking positive time outs before you flip your lid, you’ll see a huge difference in how you parent once you calm down and then approach the situation again in a calm state, with your thinking cap firmly on. I feel so much better about myself and my parenting when I take a break (a positive time out) and try again later when the tension has had time to diminish.

Tool #4 – Make Sure the Message of Love Gets Through

Delivering a limit with love is super challenging, but once you do it, you’ll be hooked. When we set limits with an angry voice, sarcasm or threats, we ramp UP the tension, inject fear into the situation and lack the expression of love. Many of us believe that to be firm means to exclude love.

Would you like to set limits, follow through and say “no” while expressing love at the same time? This tool is probably one of the more advanced tools. It requires that you’re okay with your child being unhappy or disappointed about your answer or limit. One of Jane Nelsen’s classic examples of a parent setting a limit is, “My answer is no and it’s okay to be disappointed” said in a calm and empathetic tone. There are many ways to make sure the message of love gets through. I’ll be writing about a few this month in a blog post I’ll dedicate to this tool.

Tool #5 – Help Your Children Discover How Capable They Are

This is the best parenting tool for supermoms and superdads. In our current culture, many parents do too much for their kids (in the name of love) and prevent children from learning important life skills. To hand over some responsibilities to kids can be scary or parents and requires a little “letting go.” The letting go happens after parents take time for training a child on how to properly feed the dog, empty wastebaskets, vacuum the carpet, etc. Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t ever supervise or check up on the progress, but it does mean that you don’t micro manage the task or expect that your child will be able to complete the job like you would. Letting go also means that you avoid pampering your child by doing things for him that he can do for himself (or herself.)

Feeling capable can actually decrease the need for misbehavior. When child feel significant to their families by contributing to household chores and personal responsibilities, they feel more needed and connecting to their families. Another way to let children discover how capable they are is to give kids opportunities to problem solve and make up for their mistakes after they’ve hurt others (with words or hands) or damaged property.

More Help is On the Way

So those are my five favorite Positive Discipline tools. Remember just choose one to focus on and work at it until you feel pretty skilled at it. This process may take three months or the entire year, but I’d like for you to stick with the tool until you can use the tool and feel natural doing it.

Look for a blog post this month about each of these five tools. I’ll also post links so you can read other blogs (such as Jane Nelsen’s) and watch videos to help you learn your new tool of choice. If it helps you find my blog updates, you can “like” my Think It Through Parenting facebook page or follow me on twitter to make sure you get the updates. Another way to get updates delivered to your e-mail box is to sign up for my Think it Through Parenting mailing list. You’ll receive a weekly update and an occasional e-mail about special events. Right now if you sign up for my mailing list, you’ll also receive a free copy of the “Self-Care Starter Kit for Parents Who Do Too Much,” another great way to improve your parenting this year – by taking better care of the caretaker!



  1. Thank you for posting these! Since taking your class, I have implemented the “special time” every Sunday with my 9 yr. old daughter. It has really improved the way we communicate. I love it when she asks me what we are doing for our special time. While I sometimes fail, I try to use the positive time outs with my pre-schooler and have seen a difference in his behavior as well. It’s amazing what a few little changes can do! Please keep up the great work!

  2. Stephanie, I’m so glad to hear about the changes in your relationships and the changes in your kids! These kind of comments make my day.

  3. Kelly I love the tools you’ve chosen here maybe because they don’t tend to be the first ones that come to my mind but YES they are so important. Thank you for this reminder. I will share this blog with parents in my classes!

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