Choosing Positive Discipline

Guiding and directing children as they grow and develop is a serious endeavor for parents. We know family values are usually at the heart of all rules, boundaries, and limits that parents set for their children.

Research in family science has a lot to say about what works around discipline. According to two decades of research by Elizabeth Gershoff & colleagues, physical punishment like spanking has been shown not only to be harmful, but also ineffective.

Discipline and punishment are two very different things. Discipline is meant to help children learn to regulate their own behavior as they are gaining more and more independence. Parents who use positive discipline approaches are teaching their children what behaviors are desired and then using natural or logical consequences when necessary to guide and direct their children.

Blaming and shaming parents for the choices they make in guiding their children is also not helpful. When we look at the research around harsh parenting, we can choose to avoid harmful and ineffective techniques and utilize approaches that are less threatening and more positive! We can do this most effectively by encouraging behaviors we do like, communicating our messages openly and honestly, and by utilizing Stop. Breathe. Talk. for keeping our cool in the heat of the moment.

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Positive Parenting

Researchers have identified several different parenting styles, based on the way parents interact with their children.  Although parents exhibit characteristics from each of these parenting styles, they tend to favor one style over all the rest.

Study after study has found that the style of parenting known as authoritative parenting leads to the most positive outcomes for their child. Children of authoritative parents tend to do better socially and academically, while they also have fewer behavior problems. Below are some key characteristics of authoritative parenting that you can implement with your children.

  • Give appropriate choices. Authoritative parents allow independence by giving choices, but also maintain control by limiting these choices to only appropriate options.
  • Warm but firm. Authoritative parents set limits for their children out of love. They do not set rules “just because.” Instead, they set rules that will keep their children safe.
  • Explanations. Authoritative parents are willing to explain why they have rules. This helps children learn the importance of these rules, and use this information to make good decisions in the future.
  • Listen. Authoritative parents listen to and consider the opinions of their children. They engage in discussions with children. This lets children know they are valued, and also helps them think critically about situations. Ultimately, the responsibility always resides with the parent.

In what ways have you implemented these parenting practices?   How have you been successful?  We encourage you to share your stories with us.

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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