Several years ago, I became frustrated when conventional discipline strategies not only made my son’s behavior more problematic, but also damaged our relationship. I started seeking alternatives, feeling that neither of us were benefiting from my traditional methods, and that’s when I discovered positive discipline.
Today, I’d like to share with you the 3-step process, which I have used for nearly 6 years now, that has been effective and truly life-changing for my family.
Step One: Assess the Need
I used to think that every misbehavior was nothing more than defiance – a sign that my child was testing his boundaries. Therefore, I felt the need to punish him for his misbehavior every time. This kept us in a terrible cycle for several months. Once I finally understood that misbehavior wasn’t a push against me but rather a signal of an underlying need, I was able to stop punishing and start listening.
An amazing thing happened. Once he actually felt listened to and understood, and once I started helping him instead of punishing him, his behavior improved dramatically.
It isn’t always obvious what the need behind the behavior is, and with toddlers and preschoolers who can’t verbalize their feelings and intentions well, it can be tricky to figure out what is causing the behavior. Even just understanding that there is a reason for it, that they are not just bent on being defiant, helps us to be compassionate and responsive.
If the need behind the behavior is simply hunger or tiredness, meeting that need resolves the problem. If the need is connection or attention, quality one-on-one time will improve behavior. Sometimes the need is to be taught skills so that they can thrive within the boundaries you’ve set for them. Assessing the need is the first step to resolving any behavior problem.
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