The path to a deeper connection with your child and a more enjoyable way to live!

It is ironic that the word ‘discipline’ stems from the Latin word ‘disciplina’ meaning instruction or knowledge (also found in the Latin word ‘discipulus’, one who learns), yet the modern verb ‘to discipline’ carries such negative connotations, conjuring up the concept of punishment, belittling correction and authoritative conditioning.  The fact is that discipline is about learning. Rather than serving as a fear-based response from child to adult as a result of something they did or did not do or used as a way to instil obedience or win a battle, positive discipline empowers and promotes understanding and cooperation. 

Throughout Julia Gabriel Education positive discipline is part and parcel of our approach to learning and very much a component of our EduDrama® methodology.  It characterises all our programmes and influences how we forge relationships and communicate with one another. And –  it is something you can implement at home in order to help your child’s holistic development. 

Here are six steps you can take to help you establish positive discipline as a culture for learning at home.

Over-controlling and harshKind and firm
The more you suffer, the better you learn
(The focus is on suffering)
The more you learn, the less you suffer
(The focus is on learning)
Misbehaviour is a crime and children are badMisbehaviour is a poor choice even good children make
Parents responsible for controlling childrenParents responsible for teaching children self-control and holding children accountable for their actions
Uses condescending lectures and blameIs respectful and focuses on solutions
Respects only parents’ rightsRespects parents’ and children’s rights
Arbitrary; based on parents’ whims and angerLogically related to misbehaviour
Reactive (revengeful)Proactive
Reminds child of past mistakes “I told you so”Allows quick return to normal routine
Decreases self-esteemMaintains self-esteem
Children become immune, developing an “I don’t care attitude” as severity of punishment escalatesChildren care about behaving well and correcting mistakes
Resentment builds, rebellion increasesRespect and responsibility grows, self-control and self-discipline increases



Parents naturally want their children to be happy, positive, loved and feel good about themselves. We want them to grow up to be capable and happy adults. We understand that parenting is not easy. What parent hasn’t lost their rag occasionally because they are tired of a battle and just want their child to listen and do as they say, even if that is not normally their style! But when we offer children choices, within reasonable limits, we enable them to cooperate and make their own decisions. Children raised with rigid limits, and few or no choices, are unable to think for themselves. Rather than ordering your child to bed, you might ask, “Would you like to hear one more story or play with your dinosaurs before bedtime?” The response values the child’s developing right to choose. 

When children obey out of blind fear, it may work in the short term, but it will build lasting resentment and rebellion over time. Positive cooperation on the other hand almost always works and promotes team work, self-responsibility and mutual respect.    


Prevention is always better than cure! And in the case of children’s behaviour, it is always a good idea to establish ground rules for them to follow in the form of tools of prevention that can ideally be employed before misbehaviour!

Tips for tools during and after an incident:

  • Practise what you preach by being a role model of positive behaviour yourself.
  • Understand and appreciate your child’s temperament. 
  • Encourage the behaviour you want to see by pointing out how well your child is doing when you see them behaving well.
  • Be interested in your child’s activities and enjoy their company.
  • Be aware of your child’s underlying needs and feelings.
  • Give clear, specific instructions.
  • Establish routines and follow them, such as meal times, bath and bed times…
  • Preempt potentially challenging transitions by planning for them. Moving house, changing schools, graduating from preschool and moving from one activity to another can all be difficult  for children to handle.
  • Acknowledge and encourage rather than praise.
  • Love unconditionally and never threaten abandonment.

If you feel your child is behaving unacceptably, where possible, deal with that situation as it happens:

  • Offer choices within limits of acceptable alternatives, such as, “Would you like to change into your pyjamas or brush your teeth first?” 
  • Communicate your own feelings, “I’m am so annoyed and frustrated right now.” 
  • Validate your child’s feelings too, “I can see that you are really angry.” 
  • Demonstrate appropriate behaviour yourself so young children learn what to do.
  • Use positive language, “Yes” rather than “No” for example.  “Yes, you can go out to play, after you have put the toys away.” “Making your bed would be very helpful.” 
  • Provide your child with information that helps them understand their actions, “Littering means that somebody else will have to pick it up for you!”  
  • Support your child to carry out potentially difficult tasks, such as apologising to someone!  “I think we should say sorry to Emily.”
  • Physically remove or restrain your child from a highly challenging situation if necessary, especially if it is potentially harmful to anyone involved.

Use these tools of consequence as a guide to help children learn what to do after a challenging incident:

  • Role model how to make amends if your child is too young to do it alone.
  • Expect restitution if rules have been broken e.g. Make sure the toy is returned or replaced; the wall washed; the room tidied, etc.
  • Take action yourself i.e. say sorry if you have broken a rule or hurt someone’s feelings.
  • Allow natural consequences. For example, if your child has forgotten to take their PE kit to  kindergarten, let them be reminded by their teacher.
  • Set and apply reasonable restrictions like grounding or removal of privileges when necessary.
  • Use self-control time-out. For example, “You can join in as soon as you are ready to play without snatching” (Useful website – for information on time out).
  • Use logical consequences to help your child understand that their choice means conditions apply.


It takes a great deal of awareness, pre-planning and collaboration between parents and children to establish a culture of positive discipline. Once in place however it enables children, and adults, to form positive relationships at home, at work and at play, and to be responsible for their jobs, emotions, bodies and behaviour. Positive discipline is a more rewarding, healthy and enjoyable way to live – and it starts with YOU! 

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