“Water Stays in the Tub” and Other Positive Statements

January 23rd, 2011

As promised, here’s another post with some reflections on discipline. First, a little background. Josh and I grew up with pretty different experiences when it came to parental discipline but we’ve (mercifully) had very little trouble coming to consensus on the main principles of discipline that we plan to use with our kids. I thank my lucky stars for this daily. Handling discipline with kids is tough and it’s absolutely essential that Mom and Dad present a united front!

We are big fans of the Love and Logic model of parenting. The basic premise of Love and Logic is that children should be given the opportunity to make choices (good and bad) and to then learn from the logical consequencs (good and bad) of those choices.

One of the suggestions of Love and Logic is to make positive, enforceable statements rather than negative statements whenever possible. This is helpful because it sets a tone of calm, respectful interaction (rather than lots of yelling and negativity ) and because negative statements — “don’t do that!” — almost inevitably ignite some sort of stubborn backlash in young children.

So, for example, instead of saying “Miss Mouse, don’t pour that cup of water on the floor of the bathroom!” I try instead to phrase it as “Miss Mouse, water stays in the bathtub.

Instead of “you may not have yogurt until you eat your broccoli” it’s “you may have some yogurt as soon as you finish your broccoli.

Don’t hit your brother!” becomes “Little Bear likes nice touches.”

In the heat of the moment it can be tough to phrase things in the positive and I certainly don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal. One really great thing about positive statements is that they become the “rules of the house.” The guideposts for expected behavior, which small people can be expected to learn and follow. We help Miss Mouse internalize these guidelines by asking her questions. More on that yet to come!

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