A Place of Our Own
About the Series Feedback Glossary Search Go Español
Home Topics Activities Resources Episode Guide Active Learning
Positive Discipline

Dear Debi,
My oldest son has started saying “mine, mine” and takes toys away from her sister. I tell her, “if you take that toy, you have to give her one in exchange.” This seems to work so I’d like to learn more about positive discipline.
Jennifer , North Hollywood, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Teaches children appropriate behavior
  • Helps build confidence and self-esteem
  • Is learned through modeling
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Development Instructor
The objective of positive discipline is to have kids be able to self-discipline so that we don’t always have to be there to tell them what to do. This is the best way to teach them appropriate behavior because it preserves their self-esteem and doesn’t hurt their spirits.

Negative discipline can include criticizing, discouraging, blaming, shaming or even physical punishment. These forms of discipline can be very harmful to a child’s self-esteem because they focus on what the child did wrong and they don’t teach them what the appropriate behavior should be. Children can become very insecure and lose self-confidence, damaging to their self-esteem.

What we want to teach our kids is appropriate behavior in different circumstances. For instance, if you don’t want them to throw the ball at other children during play time, instead of saying, “Don’t throw the ball,” you may want to say, “Roll the ball on the floor.” Or if a child is hitting another child, instead of saying, “Quit hitting Johnny,” help them to understand that, “Hitting hurts.” These types of statements help children learn appropriate behaviors instead of focusing on what they did wrong.

The first step is to communicate your expectations with words so that kids understand what you expect from them. It’s also important to allow children to express their feelings and acknowledge them when they are upset or sad. Many times, children act out physically because they don’t have the ability to communicate their feelings. Giving them an outlet can be very important.

For example, if two kids are really going at it, redirect their behavior. Give them another activity to do that takes them out of that conflict or changes the environment. Children should also be given choices so that they feel some control over what’s happening around them. This will help a child be less resistant if the child feels like he or she has had a choice in what happens.

Remember to model appropriate behavior. Kids learn by watching us, so if we get upset and blow up when we have conflict or if we argue with others in front of them, they will learn from your example.
Child Care provider Comments
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
I think redirecting is a good way to go. I also like to give kids different options so they feel a sense of control in what happens to them. It’s important to intervene before a situation escalates and someone ends up hurt. I try to anticipate behavior and know what triggers certain children so it’s really about knowing each child and their personalities.
Provider for 10 years
It’s important to avoid always just saying “No” all the time. Instead of saying, “Don’t do that,” I try to say, “Why don’t you explore this toy?” It gives kids options and redirects their attention on what they can do. Also, kids need some sort of explanation as to why they can’t do something, so I try to explain that, for instance, “touching the computer is not allowed because it belongs to Mommy and Daddy, but you can come here and do this other thing with me.”
Family child care provider for 4 years
I think that it’s important to allow children to express their feelings. Many times kids act out because they don’t have the language skills to tell you or others how they feel. So they act out physically, maybe through aggressive behavior toward others. I like to give kids signs they can use to express themselves. If they want something and can’t verbalize it, I teach them to point or use signs to communicate what they want.

Red Light!  Green Light! Featured Activity:
Red Light! Green Light!
Teaching Self-Regulation Featured Video:
Teaching Self-Regulation
Topic: Social & Emotional Development
View Index
Learn More
View All Topics
Message Boards
Related Episodes
Separation Anxiety
Managing Aggressive Behavior
Bullying Behavior
Ages & Stages: 2 to 3 Years
How Your Words Can Affect Your Children
Managing Your Anger & Week in Review
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
The Education Development Center
1-800-225-4276 EXT. 2428
Developmental Milestones
PBS / The Whole Child / Emotional Development
© 2007 Community Television of Southern California. All rights reserved.