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A Positive Approach to Discipline that Can Work for Any Family

What is a teachable moment? It's learning through family. That's what Boys Town provides to tens of thousands of children and parents everyday. And that's what we'll focus on here. Stories of those who we've seen succeed, and ideas on how to help bring Teachable Moments to your home and family, too.

A Positive Approach to Discipline that Can Work for Any Family
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by Heather Butler, Boys Town Family-Teacher

tags: Discipline, Parenting Skills

A Positive Approach to Discipline that Can Work for Any Family

As a parent and a Family-Teacher at Boys Town, I have learned that Boys Town’s method of disciplining children can be incredibly effective for all parents.

At Boys Town, we focus on attaching a cost response to behaviors. So when a child does something – whether it is good or bad – there is a response in the form of a consequence.

For good behavior, the youth at Boys Town earn positive points, which they can use to “purchase” privileges like sweet snacks or extra free time outside. For negative behavior, they earn negative points, which could result in losing certain privileges, such as watching TV or playing a board game.  These types of responses are very motivational for children because they encourage them to use positive behaviors and avoid negative ones.

When my husband and I became Family-Teachers, we began using this same system with our own children. It was amazing how quickly this approach began to change our kids’ behaviors.  Before, we had struggled with the same issues most parents struggle with, including focusing more on stopping negative behaviors and not always following through by giving consequences.

When we began rewarding our children for their positive behaviors (sweet snacks and TV time) and always addressing negative behaviors with a cost response (having to go to bed early or not being able to play outside for a while), they started using the positive behaviors we were looking for more frequently.

Here are a few tips for effectively adopting Boys Town’s positive discipline approach in your family:

  • Set expectations for your child’s behavior you know he or she can meet. Make these expectations appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level, and consistently enforce them.
  • Work with your child to compile a list of positive and negative consequences for certain behaviors. That way, your child knows exactly what will happen when he or she behaves a certain way.
  • Make sure the “size” of a consequence – positive or negative – fits the behavior that earns it. For example, grounding a child from going outside for three days because he didn’t pick up his toys when asked would be too harsh of a negative consequence for that misbehavior; likewise, giving a child a bag of candy for making her bed would be too much of a positive consequence for completing that task.
  • When a negative behavior occurs, don’t make threats or give warnings. Simply tell your child he or she has earned a consequence and follow through with it.
  • For any behavior, give a consequence immediately. This will help your child understand the connection between what he or she did and the result. Making this connection is eventually what helps children learn skills and improve their behaviors.

I believe Boys Town’s model of discipline can be super-helpful for any parent because it can be easily molded to how a home is run and provide consequences that best motivate children to improve their behavior. It can also be modified as children get older so it can continue to be effective.

Most importantly, a positive approach to discipline helps children learn how to make good choices on their own and creates a healthier, happier, more nurturing home. And in the end, this is what every parent hopes to accomplish.