Utilizing Positive Discipline To Raise A Child

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Parents often want to know the most effective way to raise their children. There are various parenting styles to choose from, multiple of which can be appealing—which may make the choice more difficult. 

You might have more than one child and want to switch up your parenting methods when the next one comes along. Alternatively, you may have a child with behavioral challenges that you believe could benefit from a different parenting style. Conversely, you might be expecting your first child and want to know which parenting style could be right for you and your newborn. 

If you’re a parent or caregiver looking to develop a plan from the beginning, consider using the positive discipline method.

Getty/Andreea Campeanu

What is positive discipline?

Positive discipline is the parenting practice of noticing and encouraging wanted behavior and redirecting unwanted behavior in children. Kids are often taught valuable social and life skills in the family that encourage them to behave healthily. Unlike punishment, which can have adverse long-term effects, positive discipline teaches children in a way that impacts them positively and teaches real-life lessons. 

This method can be used by parents, teachers, social workers, and others who interact with children. There are five essential criteria for positive discipline, including the following: 

  1. Being kind and firm simultaneously
  2. Helping kids connect with the world to find belonging 
  3. Teaching skills that can be effective for a child’s entire life
  4. Teaching social and life skills to promote positive character
  5. Teaching children that they are capable, independent, and able to make positive choices 

What is the Adlerian theory? 

Positive discipline as a parenting philosophy was developed using theories from psychiatrist and philosopher Alfred Adler. Adler believed that all children want to belong and believe they are important. He argued that when children are taught through positive discipline that they’re worthy and respected, they may act more socially acceptable and cooperative. 

Positive discipline thrives on the theory that children who relate to the world and people around them may misbehave less than their discouraged peers. All other behavior, Adler believed, stemmed from a lack of belonging or significance. Positive discipline theories support the idea that the key to positive behavior is to find a way to show children they matter. This theory can be vital for kids at home, in the classroom, and other settings. Positive discipline can allow children to develop emotional control, problem-solving skills, and self-discipline.

Examples of positive discipline 

Below are a few examples of the principles of positive discipline and how to use them at home. 

Be kind and firm simultaneously

To understand the principle of kindness and firmness, it may be helpful to look at an example like the following: 

Your child might want to go to their friend’s house late on a school night. You can say, “I love you, and the answer is no for tonight.” 

In this way, you’re being kind first but also giving them a firm answer through positive discipline. Positive responses can discourage emotional outbursts or violent behavior from severe punishment and power struggles. Positive parenting often encourages self-control, mutual respect, and the ability to react calmly to negative news.

Validate their feelings

Imagine your child approaches you and wants to have a chocolate bar ten minutes before bed. With positive discipline, you can say, “I know you want to eat that chocolate, but let’s pick out a healthier bedtime snack.” This example shows the child that you see their emotions and desires, even when they can’t have what they want. It can be essential to validate their feelings with love and understanding.


Ensure they understand 

Children may not innately know how to complete tasks like chores. For example, if you ask them to do the laundry, ensure they know how before you create expectations. Empower them by setting them up for success. Consider doing the laundry with them a couple of times until they seem ready to handle it alone. It may not be helpful to get upset with a child for doing an activity incorrectly when they didn’t have the knowledge to do it right in the first place.

Encourage independence

If your child is unsure about the knowledge behind a task, model it first, then let them take over. In addition, you might consider doing the task together until your child is comfortable, then let them do it alone while you watch. Research shows that this understanding can foster self-reliance. This self-reliance may spill over to other areas, like children working with teachers in a classroom. 

Show empathy, not rescue

Positive discipline can be valuable in teaching your child resilience and understanding. Rather than pointing out when your child didn’t take your advice and is experiencing the consequences, try offering empathy and suggestions for the future. Try suggesting rather than commanding. 

For example, if your child chooses not to take their coat with them and returns home freezing, you can say, “That looks uncomfortable; I bet a hot bath would help.” In this way, you’re not telling them what to do but offering a suggestion, a crucial tenet of positive discipline. The child retains their independence, as the choice is left up to them on how to solve the challenge due to not bringing their coat.  

Hear them out

Part of teaching children they belong and have value is showing them that they have opinions worth listening to, whether with friends, family, or classmates. With positive discipline, you may allow your child to help during family decisions and avoid criticizing their ideas with punishment. In addition, if they disagree with your decisions, give them time to discuss why. Even if you remain firm in your decision, giving them a chance to persuade you differently may show them that you value their opinion or the reasons behind their decisions. 

Connect with them

According to positive discipline, connecting with your child before correcting their behavior can be vital. Connecting can remind your child that their well-being comes first and show them that you care more about their health and safety than their behavior at home, in the classroom, or other settings. This strategy may help children develop intrinsic motivation in everyday life through mutual respect.

Give them autonomy

If your child wants to help around the house, positive discipline principles say it may be helpful to let them. The same logic can apply to a student who wants to help in the classroom. Give them a list of chores they can assist you with or tasks to complete. Try not to reward kids for positive behaviors in every circumstance, as a reward may detract from finding a reward in their own success.


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Support options 

When raising a child, it can be challenging to figure out what type of parenting style you’d like to use, and finding out how to discipline a child effectively can be confusing. If you’re a parent experiencing anxiety or stress, connecting with a therapist may be beneficial. 

If you’re often too busy for in-person therapy, you can also try connecting with a therapist through a platform like BetterHelp. Online therapy can be ideal for parents because you can meet from anywhere with an internet connection at a convenient time. This flexibility can make getting mental healthcare more manageable and convenient. Traditional options can involve long wait lists, long drives, and high costs. Teens aged 13 to 19 can also partake in online therapy through platforms like TeenCounseling, which may give them a sense of autonomy. 

Online therapy can be an effective resource for parents who want to improve their parenting skills and support their children. In one study, researchers found that parents participating in an online-based intervention experienced reduced anxiety, learned how to organize their daily routines better, and improved how they planned each day with their child. The children of these parents also saw improvements, including decreased anxiety symptoms. 


You can use many approaches as a parent while raising your child. Positive discipline is one method that may be effective for you and your family. No parent is perfect, and learning how to teach, communicate with, and encourage your kids productively can take time. Working with a therapist may allow you to face parenting difficulties more confidently and improve your relationship with your children. Consider reaching out to a provider online or in your area to get started.
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