By: Angelie Grace R. Gante
Learning how to use these
strategies makes it possible for you
to meet the needs of individual
children. You will be able to choose
the most effective strategy in a
variety of discipline encounters.
Positive discipline strategies begin
with adult behaviors:
good limit setting
clearly communicating limits
Teaching more appropriate behavior
giving cues for the new behavior
giving choices, and supporting children in
their new behavior.
ignoring behavior when it is appropriate
to do so.
“Helping children save
face and preserve their
dignity in discipline
encounters is the most
important and essential
element in child
Developing reasonable limits that focus
on important things
Stating limits effectively
Helping children accept limits
Communicating limits to others and
reviewing limits periodically
Develop Reasonable Limits That Focus
on Important Things
• Adults influence children by stating their
expectations for desired behavior and helping
children understand that there are boundaries, or
limits, on behavior. Authoritative caregivers
understand the importance of proper boundaries
in relationships in general, and appropriate limits
in an adult-child relationship in particular. They
figure out and clearly communicate limits that
will be most helpful in encouraging children to
behave appropriately. They understand what a
good limit is and what benefits appropriate limits
have for children
Highly responsive, authoritative adults set
and maintain reasonable, fair,
developmentally appropriate limits. Their
limits focus on important, not trivial, things.
The limits protect children’s and adults’
health and safety and encourage the
development of healthy self-control. Their
limits also transmit values of dignified, fair,
humane treatment of people and animals to
Healthy self-control through limits
Self-control develops slowly in children. Reasonable,
fair limits can help children achieve internal control
because limits clearly communicate appropriate behavior
and reasons for that behavior.
Rules protecting physical health
Proper handling of food.
Washing and sanitizing toys and other equipment.
Labeling and storing toothbrushes properly.
Using tissues when sneezing.
Proper toileting and diapering routines, including
Rules protecting everyone’s safety
Appropriate limits ensure safety. Think about safety on different
Respectful treatment of others with limits
Responsible adults set and maintain limits about fair treatment
of everyone in a class. Children have to learn what respectful
treatment means; they learn this best from the words and actions of
adults. It also means clearly stating the behaviors that we will not
State Limits Effectively
Authoritative caregivers have a
clear, direct, and validating
communication style. If a goal in
guiding children is to help children,
we can best help them understand
necessary limits by stating these
Speak naturally, but speak slowly enough that the
child hears everything you say; use concrete words
and short sentences when stating limits
Tell a child exactly what to do rather than what not
to do, and be as positive as possible
Use suggestions whenever possible
Use direct, self-responsible statements when you
think it is necessary to make a reasonable request
Give choices whenever possible
Avoid giving a choice when the child really has no
Issue only a few suggestions at a time; avoid giving a
chain of limits
Allow enough time for the child to process information
and complete a task before issuing another suggestion
repeat a limit if necessary, but do it effectively
o manage your emotions well and repeat the limit calmly and with good will.
o call the child’s name again.
o pick up the item, and matter-of-factly hand the item to the child.
o repeat the request.
o avoid simply restating the limit in a snappish, peeved way because your
irritation will show and will likely
o bring out anger and stubbornness from the child; then you will have a full-
blown argument on your hands.
Help Children Accept Limits
Authoritative caregivers and teachers help
children willingly accept good limits. They do
several things to set the stage so that children
will accept legitimate boundaries on
behavior. Here are some practical ways to get
you started on helping children willingly
Tune in to the situation
o Observe what the child is doing before stating a limit.
o Be responsive and take into account what a child is doing
because her activity is important to her.
o Give children a reasonable amount of time to complete their
o Consider cleanup in a classroom.
o Decrease distance between you and a child.
o Get a child’s attention, politely.
o Touch a child on the arm or say her name quietly. Using
nonthreatening verbal or nonverbal cues and appropriate
o appropriate physical contact:
reassures a child, and is given in response to the child’s
Help children focus on the task at hand and give
Direct a child’s visual attention to a specific object or
Have the child make contact with a specific object.
Make your specific request. A child is much more likely
to comply with your request when you have properly
Give reasons for rules and limits
Children accept limits much more readily when
they understand the rationale behind them.
Three practical suggestions will help you use reasons well:
give short, simple, concrete reasons, decide when to
state the limit, and decide whether you need to restate the
Communicate Limits to Others;
Review Limits Periodically
Communicate classroom limits to every person who works
in your classroom
Communicate information on limits to parents
Teach Helpful or Appropriate Behavior
How to ask for something
How to listen when others talk, not interrupting them
How to join a play or work group
How to put things away when they complete a project
Skills for participating in a group, such as where and how to sit, how
to listen, how to offer an idea, and how
to get the teacher’s attention
Mealtime manners, such as passing things and waiting their turn
Give Signals or Cues for Appropriate Behavior
Encourage Children’s Efforts to Accept Limits
and to Be Cooperative or Helpful
Promote new behavior that is “self
Observe children to determine whether they
have learned what they need to learn and
whether they have accepted a limit
Recognize and encourage a child’s efforts
Ignore Behavior (Only When It Is Appropriate to
The ignore strategy is appropriate for some behaviors but
completely inappropriate for others.
Do Not Ignore These Behaviors
Do not ignore children when they treat someone rudely,
embarrass someone, are intrusive, are disrespectful, or cause an
undue disturbance. Young children do some of these things
because they might not yet know a better way of behaving, and
some older children may act this way because they have not
learned to treat others with respect. With younger children, state
guidelines and teach the better way. Avoid ignoring inappropriate
behavior. Older children must learn from adults to value
politeness, to respect boundaries, and to adhere to limits that
convey these values
It is safe to ignore some behaviors, usually behaviors
that are not hurtful, not destructive, not disrespectful, and
not dangerous. In fact, it is a good idea to ignore behaviors
whining or arguing about limits.
any other effort to distract you from following through on a
efforts to pull you into an argument.
a child’s efforts to try to make you angry
Guidelines For Using the Ignore
Tell the child that you will ignore a specific,
targeted behavior whenever it occurs.
Realize that it takes time to effectively use the
Decide to ignore the behavior completely, to
give no attention.
Redirect Children’s Behavior—Divert and Distract the
Diverting and distracting the youngest children
accomplishes both of these tasks. An adult can be most helpful
by immediately doing something to distract the child from the
forbidden activity and steering her toward a different activity.
Redirect Children’s Behavior—Make Substitutions
with Older Children
Substitution: a form of redirection; an adult shows a child
how to perform an activity or type of activity in a more
acceptable and perhaps safer way. Substitution is an excellent
strategy to use with children who are at least older toddlers or
young preschoolers. Substitution is a good strategy to use with
older children because it acknowledges the child’s desire to
plan and engage in a specific activity.