Some parents have the perspective that discipline needs to be only firm for children to get the message. Parents, if you look back on your childhood, you will probably remember plenty of examples in which adults were only firm when dealing with your misbehavior. But hopefully you remember one or two people who were able to stay calm and stay connected with you to convey love and trust while they helped you learn from your mistakes and focus on doing better for the future. This is the “kindness” part in discipline.

If you didn’t experience any kind and firm discipline from adults in your childhood, know that it’s a wonderful gift to give your child. It’s extremely powerful for children to feel the message of love come across while an adult is setting limits and problem solving about a child’s mistake or misbehavior.

How Being Kind and Firm Helps You and Your Child

When parents are only firm, without being kind (staying connected), children often respond with feeling resentment, rebellion, revenge or by retreating (withdrawing and not feeling confidence enough to take even positive risks in the future.) When parents are only firm, the message of love does not come through. By using kindness along with firmness, parents can convey love while setting limits and teaching new skills for the future.

When parents are only kind, they often aren’t setting limits for children and children often respond with feeling scared (because too much freedom is scary) or entitled that they should have everything they want. By being firm, parents can help children learn to accept limits and live within limits in life.

What Kindness is NOT

Using kindness does not mean that your child will always be happy or always like your decisions, but it does mean that you will treat your children with respect. Treating your child with respect shows that you value your child’s sense of self and value the relationship above your child’s current behavior. When parents solve issues using kindness and firmness, children learn how true respect “works” in any relationship. Your child may feel anger or disappointment. Your child might stomp off, whine or yell.

Using kindness does not mean that your child will immediately accept the limit you are giving. Even when I’ve been kind and respectful while setting some type of limit, there have been plenty of times that my child has attempted to push the limit. This is normal. Kids will test limits and it’s part of healthy development for them to do so.

At some point in my journey of learning Positive Discipline, I mistakenly thought my kids should appreciate that I was being kind at the same time I was being firm. Yeah, we parents just want to feel appreciated sometimes. Most kids (and adults for that matter) struggle with accepting the limits of life. It’s okay if your kids aren’t thanking you for using Positive Discipline tools. If your kids are always happy with your decisions as a parent, THEN get concerned.

All of the Positive Discipline tools use the concept of “kindness and firmness at the same time.” Sometimes you might have to take a parent time out before you can be kind and firm at the same time.  That’s okay too. Think of one way you’re been firm without being kind or kind without being firm. Now think of a new way you can address a child’s behavior with both kindness and firmness at the same time.

Kelly Pfeiffer

Positive Discipline Lead Trainer

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