In recent years, a change in education has manifested itself on the part of parents who are working towards an increasingly conscious education that takes into account the overall well-being of young people. This has resulted in more and more families being interested in seeking a different way of educating their children, which will leave aside the more authoritarian traditional punitive methods.

But on this path of transition we also find lost, disoriented parents who have fallen into overprotection by trying to avoid authoritarianism, as they lack the tools that allow them to find a middle ground between both educational styles. And these fathers, mothers, and also educators, ask themselves, is education without prizes or punishments possible, without my child ending up a tyrant?

Fortunately, it is possible, thanks to the methodology of mutual respect, positive discipline .

What is positive discipline?

Fathers, mothers and educators. We have in our hands the responsibility to improve the world, promoting an education based on respect towards the other , an education based on love, on understanding, and on the use of error as an opportunity for learning… and not on anger, not on blackmail, not on vertical relationships that only generate discomfort and power struggles between parents and children. This humanist claim is what forms the basis of positive discipline.

This discipline has its origin in the individualistic psychology of Alfred Adler. Adler already explained that all people, in all situations, have the right to be treated with the same dignity and respect. And that is why he understood that the person, as the social being that he is, needs to forge the feeling of community through some key aspects, namely: belonging, and significance. That is, the human being needs to belong to and be part of the various systems he or she composes (the family, groups, community…) and to feel that he or she is important in such system, that with what he or she does, he or she contributes and is useful.

Likewise, Adler was able to see through his work that children who lacked love and affection developed behavioral problems; just as children who grew up without boundaries could also have many difficulties in developing their skills over the long term.

When the child feels that these aspects of belonging and meaning are not guaranteed, what we understand as “bad behavior” appears. Dreikurs, a disciple of Adler, went further and said that a child who behaves badly, is just a discouraged child , and coined the term we know as “democratic education”.

Understanding Democratic Education

This democratic education is based on the application of the fundamental principle of kindness and firmness at the same time . Kindness as respect for the child, firmness as respect for myself as an adult and for the situation. With both things in balance we can carry out an education that is respectful of everyone, and teaches the most important thing to children, life skills.

In this way we create a respectful environment in which we can teach, and in which children can learn, freed from negative feelings such as shame, guilt, pain or humiliation, and thus feel, through connection, that belonging, significance, and contribution is possible. In this way we contribute to the child exploring for himself the possible consequences of his actions, empowering him to create capable children.

The objectives of positive discipline

Positive discipline focuses on the long term , understanding that the child’s behaviour, what we observe (crying, having a tantrum,…) is only the tip of the iceberg, but that underneath it, there are deeper feelings, needs and beliefs that are forged in the child according to the decisions they make.

If we abandon the urge to immediately correct bad behavior , we can move on to validating the child’s feelings, and connecting before correcting, trying to understand the interpretation that children make about themselves and about the world, and what they are feeling, thinking and deciding at every moment to survive and thrive in the world. One more step to approach and empathize with them!

Positive discipline is therefore based on or on education that does not use prizes, but motivates and encourages. An education that does not punish, but does focus on solutions. An education in which limits are as necessary to guide children as love and respect. Because, as Jane Nelsen, the leading figure in the dissemination of this methodology, said, whose absurd idea was it that for a child to behave well, he or she must first be made to feel bad?

This is what we make a child feel when we use punishment , which can be summarized in 4 Rs: resentment, desire for revenge, rebellion, and withdrawal (feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem).

In short, an education that models skills, that teaches the courage to be imperfect by accompanying through confidence, that takes into account the needs of children and respects the child’s nature, that encourages the child to gradually learn self-regulating skills and become a competent, capable, self-motivated adult.