Excerpted from Joan Durrant’s Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting

Dr. Joan Durrant was the principal researcher and co-author of the Canadian Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth; a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children and a co-editor of Eliminating Corporal Punishment: The Way Forward to Constructive Discipline (UNESCO). 

Her book  positive discipline

Babies 3 to 5 years

This is such an exciting stage! Your child wants to know everything!

Your child’s mind has developed tremendously by this age. Now she understands that she is capable of learning anything!

When she sees something new, she wants to know what it’s called, what it’s for, how it works, why it moves as it does ... At this stage, children ask so many questions!

Sometimes, parents get tired of trying to answer all of their children’s questions. Sometimes they don’t know the answers themselves!

But parents can build a strong foundation for their children’s learning by responding respectfully to their children’s questions.

If we respect children’s curiosity, they will experience the joy of learning. This feeling will stay with them as they enter school.

Parents who try to answer their children’s questions – or help them find the answers – are teaching their children many things:

it’s ok to not know everything
their ideas matter
there are many ways to find information
searching for answers and solving problems is fun

Children who learn these things will be more confident when they face challenges. They will learn patience. And they will learn that it is good to want to learn.

Sometimes, though, children want to learn about things that are dangerous. They might want to learn how to light a candle. Or what will happen if they jump from a tall tree. Or what will happen if they drop your favorite dish.

Because children cannot be allowed to do dangerous things, they begin to learn about rules at this stage.

The more your child understands about the reasons for the rules, the more likely she is to follow them.

Remember that your child wants to know “why?” Why do birds fly? Why do fish swim? And why can’t I light the candle?

When your child asks “why?” she is not challenging you. She really wants to know the answer.

Children have a right to seek information.
Article 13 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

girls walking

At this stage, children love to play imaginary games. They pretend to be all kinds of things, including grown-ups. Sometimes they become lost in their play because it feels so real to them.

Playing is your child’s “job”. It’s how he practices feeling what other people feel. He puts himself into other people’s situations and sees things through their eyes. Play is extremely important to the development of children’s empathy.

Play is also important for your child’s brain development. Through play, children solve problems, invent new things, do experiments, and figure out how things work.

Children have a right to play.
Article 31 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

 

swimming children

Children need time to play. It is another building block in their development.

If they have time to develop their imaginations, they will become more creative problem-solvers.

If they can take things apart and put them back together, they will realize that they can figure things out.

If they can draw and sing, they will become more confident in expressing themselves through art.

If they have opportunities to work out arguments, they will become better at resolving conflict.

Another feature of this stage is children’s desire to help. They want to sweep the floor, make treats, wash the clothes, paint the house, and build things.

By helping, they are “apprenticing”. They learn and practice important life skills by watching and helping.

When children help, they make many mistakes. They don’t do things perfectly. They have little experience with these tasks, so they might not do them as we would like them done.

But this is how they learn. Just as we are not always good at things the first time, children also need a chance to make mistakes and to learn.

When we encourage children to help, we give them a chance to learn. And when we let them practice, we are showing them that we respect their skills and their capabilities.

This message has a big impact on children. If they see themselves as capable, they will be much more confident about learning new things.

An important task for parents at this stage is to foster their children’s confidence in their abilities, by:

answering their questions, or helping them to find the answers making sure they have time to play
encouraging them to help

A young child’s confidence in his ability to learn is the foundation of all future learning.

He will face many challenges in the years ahead. If he begins this journey believing that he is capable, he is much more likely to overcome those challenges.

5. Problem Solving: 3 to 5 years

In this stage, children are extremely curious. They want to know how everything works – and why. They love to experiment with objects.

Imagine this...

Your child opens a cupboard, takes everything out, stacks the objects and knocks them down. When the objects fall, some are damaged. You feel your anger rising.

Take a moment and think about your child’s developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child has behaved in this way.

Did you include reasons such as:
a powerful drive to understand how things work

a love of experimenting with objects to learn about their characteristics

a natural desire to learn about the world around her

a strong need to play

a tendency to become “lost” in her play

not enough experience with objects to be able to predict which ones can be damaged

a lack of understanding of why it matters if those objects are damaged?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child behaved in a way that damaged the objects.

Now imagine this...

You are getting ready to leave for work. Your child is playing quietly with his favorite toys. When you are ready to leave, you tell your child that it is time to go, but he doesn’t stop playing. You tell him again and he still doesn’t stop. You start to become frustrated and angry.

Take a breath and consider your knowledge of this developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child is not responding to your instruction.

Did you include reasons such as:

a powerful biological drive to play

a deep involvement in his play activities

the importance of his play to him

a desire to complete what he is working on

an inability to understand why you need to leave right now

difficulty in seeing the situation from your point of view

his sense of being suddenly interrupted in the middle of an important activity?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child is not stopping his play to go with you.

Now imagine this...

You are preparing supper and you’re tired. You have everything planned and all of the ingredients are ready for mixing. Your child asks you if she can help. You know that it will take longer to prepare the meal if she helps and that it will take longer to clean up afterwards.

You really want to just prepare the meal yourself so you discourage your child from helping. But she is insistent. You can feel your stress level rising.

Take a moment to consider your knowledge of this developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child is being so insistent about helping you.

Did you include reasons such as:

a powerful desire to learn new skills

a natural drive to master challenges

enjoyment of the sensations of handling ingredients

curiosity about what happens when ingredients are mixed and cooked

an inability to understand why you would not want her to help difficulty in seeing the situation from your point of view
a desire to do the important things that adults do
a wish to be like you?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child is so insistent on helping you.

Now imagine this   

You are outside working in the yard. Your child is playing with a ball nearby. Suddenly the ball rolls onto the road, just as a car is coming. Your child runs into the road to get the ball. You are terrified that he will be hit by the car. You panic and run into the road to grab him. You know that he must learn to never do that again.

Before you react, think about your knowledge of his developmental stage. List as many reasons as you can for why your child would run into the road.

Did you include reasons such as:

a lack of experience with being hit by a huge, powerful machine

a lack of understanding of the relative size and power of a car compared to a child’s body

a lack of understanding of the impact of a moving vehicle on a child’s body

an inability to take the driver’s point of view

a lack of understanding of what it means to be seriously injured

a lack of understanding of death and its permanence

a tendency to become lost in play, unaware of everything else around him?

If so, you have applied your knowledge of developmental level to figure out why your child would run into the road.

 

Responding with positive discipline

3 to 5 years

The situation

Your child opens a kitchen cupboard and takes everything out of it. She stacks the objects and knocks them down. When the objects fall, some of them are damaged.

What should you do? Let’s think about each of the following responses and decide which one is best – and why.

  1. Take away her toys to punish her. 

  2. Slap her for getting into mischief. 

  3. Have her help you put the objects back. Try to fix the broken ones together. Explain to her that when some things fall, they can be damaged and that you don’t want that to happen. Show her the things that she can play with that won’t get damaged. Re-arrange your kitchen so that breakables are out of reach. Put unbreakable, safe objects in the low cupboards. 


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

 

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

  1. Taking away her toys 

  2. Slapping her 

  3. Having her help you fix things, explaining about damage, giving her an alternative, putting breakables away, making unbreakables easy to reach 


Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would

provide emotional security

show unconditional love


show affection


respect her developmental level

show sensitivity to her needs

show empathy with her feelings

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would

provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do young children like to play with your things?

 

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child’s developmental level.

  1. Taking away her toys 

  2. slappingher 

  3. Having her help you fix things, explaining about damage, giving an alternative, putting breakables away, making unbreakables easy to reach 


Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done!


A note on spanking/slapping/smacking/hitting

Sometimes parents think that slapping a child’s hand, spanking her bottom or hitting her with a switch will teach her an important lesson. Actually, what physical punishment teaches children is that:

we communicate important things through hitting

hitting is an acceptable response to anger

the people who they depend on to protect them will hurt them

they should fear their parents, rather than trusting them to help and to teach

their home is an unsafe place for learning and exploration

We need to think about what we want to teach our children in the long term. If we want to teach them to be non-violent, we must show them how to be non-violent. If we want to teach them how to stay safe, we need to explain to them and show them how to do this.

Think about the effect that being hit has on adults. When we are hit, we feel humiliated. We don’t feel motivated to please the person who has hit us; we feel resentment and fear. We might even feel like getting even.

Hitting children harms our relationships with them. It doesn’t give them the information they need to make decisions. And it doesn’t increase their respect for us.

The situation

You are getting ready to leave for work. Your child is playing quietly with his favorite toys. When you are ready to leave, you tell your child that it is time to go, but he doesn’t stop playing. You tell him again and he still doesn’t stop.

What should you do? Let’s think about each of the following responses and decide which one is best – and why.

  1. Tell him that if he doesn’t come right away, you will leave without him. 

  2. Grab him and pull him out the door. 

  3. Tell him where you are going and why you need to go. Set a timer to go off in 5 minutes. Tell him that you must leave when the timer sounds, so he should finish what he is doing. Reassure him that he will be able to go back to his play when you get home. Let him know when there are 2 minutes left and challenge him to a race to getting your coats and shoes on. 


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

    

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

  1. Threatening to leave without him 

  2. Pulling him out the door 

  3. Telling him where and why you are going, 
setting a timer, giving him time to prepare
for the transition, letting him know that
you respect what he is doing, making the departure fun 


 

Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would

provide emotional security

show unconditional love


show affection


respect his developmental level

show sensitivity to his needs

show empathy with his feelings

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would

provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do young children resist leaving their play activities?

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child's developmental level.

  1. Threatening to leave without him 

  2. Pulling him out the door 

  3. Telling himwhere and why you are going, setting a timer, giving him time to prepare for the transition,
letting him know that you respect what he is doing, making the departure fun 


Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done!

 

A note on children and transitions

It’s very common for young children to have difficulty shifting from one activity to another. Transitions are stressful for them. They don’t know if they will ever be able to return to what they are doing and they don’t know what lies ahead. With greater experience, they get much better at making transitions.

You can make transitions easier by preparing your child for them. Let her know ahead of time what the plan is. Remind her 10 minutes before the transition that you will be leaving soon and where you are going. Reassure her that you will come back (if that is the case). Remind her again 5 minutes later that you are leaving and where you are going. Help her to start getting ready to go.

It will be easier for you and your child if you make the transition into a game, such as a race, putting your hats on backwards, or otherwise distracting your child from what she is leaving. If the transition is fun, it will be much easier for her to make the shift.

  1.  t old enough to help and that she’ll just make a mess for you to clean up. 

  2. Tell her that she’s interrupting you and being rude and disobedient. 

  3. Explain what you are making and the names of the ingredients. Choose a task that her small hands can handle and show her how to do it. Then ask her to do it, offering help if needed. Thank her for her help. Repeat this if she wants to help some more. 


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

  1. Telling her she’s not old enough to help 

  2. Telling her she’s being rude 

  3. Explaining what you are doing, showing her how, setting her up for success, supporting and recognizing her efforts 


 

Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would

provide emotional security

show unconditional love


show affection


respect her developmental level

show sensitivity to her needs

show empathy with her feelings

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do young children want to help?

    

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child’s developmental level.

  1. Telling her she’s not old enough to help 

  2. Telling her she’s being rude 

  3. Explaining what you’re doing, showing her how, setting her up for success, supporting and recognizing her efforts 


Step 5 – Responding with positive discipline

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done!

A note on criticism

Sometimes parents try to correct their children by telling them that they are bad, rude, clumsy, immature, or incompetent. When children hear such criticism, they feel rejected and they feel like failures.

If they see themselves as bad, they are more likely to do things that we think are bad.

If they see themselves as incompetent, they are less likely to try to master new skills.

Children are learners. They depend on us to build their knowledge and their skills. They need our encouragement and support.

Children with high self-esteem are more successful because they are willing to try. They are happier because they feel good about their abilities to cope with failure. They have better relationships with their parents because they know their parents believe in them.

Parents can do a lot to build their children’s self-esteem. They can:

recognize their children’s efforts, even if they’re not perfect appreciate their children’s desire to help

support their children when they fail and encourage them to keep trying

tell their children all the things that make them special

We all thrive on encouragement. Replacing criticism with encouragement can have a powerful effect on your child.

The situation

You are outside working in the yard. Your child is playing with a ball nearby. Suddenly the ball rolls onto the road, just as a car is coming. Your child runs into the road to get the ball.

What should you do? Let’s think about each of the following responses and decide which one is best – and why.

  1. Slap him hard so that he learns never to do that again. 

  2. Tell him that he won't be able to play outside for 2 weeks. 

  3. Tell him, and let him see, how scared you are. Explain that cars can really hurt him. Let him touch a car to feel how hard it is. Sit with him and watch how fast they move. Let him sit on the front seat of a car to see how hard it is for drivers to see children. Practice stopping, looking and listening before stepping onto the street. 


Step 1 – Remember your long-term goals

What are some of your long-term goals that are relevant to this situation?

    

Check off each response that would lead you toward your long-term goal.

  1. Slapping him 

  2. Telling him he can’t play outside for 2 weeks 

  3. Showing him your fear, explaining why you were afraid, teaching him why cars are dangerous, practicing road safety 


Step 2 – Focus on warmth and structure

Compare each response with what you know about providing warmth. For each response check off whether it would

provide emotional security

show unconditional love


show affection


respect his developmental level

show sensitivity to his needs

show empathy with his feelings

Now compare each response with what you know about providing structure. For each response check off whether it would

provide clear guidelines for behavior

give clear information about your expectations

provide a clear explanation support your child’s learning

encourage your child’s independent thinking

teach conflict resolution skills

Step 3 – Consider how your child thinks and feels

Why do young children run into the road?

Step 4 – Problem solving

Compare each response with what you know about the developmental level of young children. Check off each response that would respect your child’s developmental level.

  1. Slapping him 

  2. Telling him he can’t play outside for 2 weeks 

  3. Showing him your fear, explaining why you were afraid, teaching him why cars are dangerous, practicing road safety 


Step 5 –

Now that you have thought about your long-term goal, ways of providing warmth and structure, and your child’s developmental level, which response would you choose?

If you chose #3, well done! 

 

 

 

Our Mission

The MISSION of the Action Team to End Hitting Children is to gather many people to do small jobs for the purpose of diminishing and finally ending the hitting of children. By "htiting" we mean to include beating, spanking, slapping, shaking, popping, and any other form of physical or emotional punishment that demeans the child and creates emotional, mental, and physical harm. Our strategy is to use many people to do small amounts of work that create momentum to make a difference. 

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