The latter of the four – working with children on solutions instead of punitive measures – is an important concept referred to throughout the book. As common sense as it might seem, problems cannot be solved when there is too much emotion involved so a cooling off period is needed.
The author calls it a positive time-out, a very interesting and for me a new concept. It is basically a time-out not meant as a punishment but to help children feel better. They can choose their own time-out area and the whole purpose of this withdrawal/cooling off period is explained to them in advance, i.e. to wait until they can access their rational brain instead of solving a conflict while in an anger mode. And the best thing – adults can use it too!
I was excited to discuss this with my almost eight-year-old after (yet) another episode of her talking back and me getting upset. She was very keen on it and we even came up with a secret code to remind each other that some positive tome-out is needed.
While it is probably not impossible to apply positive discipline with older children, Nelsen does mention in the book that it is best to start using these concepts with younger ones so they internalise them by the time they reach teenage years.
What we often forget is also the importance of mistakes as opportunities to learn. Here Nelsen speaks about three R’s of recovery from mistakes – firstly recognising that a mistake was made, then reconciling (apologising) and lastly resolving – working on a solution together.
What I also appreciated about the book are numerous positive discipline strategies presented, such as getting children involved in mealtime planning, cooking and cleaning; letting them experience natural consequences of things (e.g. laundry will not get washed if it is not put in a laundry basket); staying out of children’s fights; offering (limited) choices instead of making demands and the approach to allowance money. Nelsen also dedicates a whole chapter to the subject of family meetings, ideally held once per week and aimed at discussing issues of importance for family. The book contains detailed suggestions as to how to organise these and their benefits.
In terms of single parenting, there is a short passage in the book rejecting the myth that children are deprived if they don’t have two parents. Here, a parent’s attitude to the situation that is merely different (and not wrong) is very important. Nelsen has a separate book on Positive Discipline for Single Parents though where this topic is explored in more detail.
Jane Nelsen’s book taught me a lot and also made me become aware of my own predominant education approach that is based on control. Needless to say that neither too much control nor an excessive permissiveness work. Nelsen speaks about the four lifestyle priorities (comfort, control, pleasing and superiority) and how they transpire in parenting as well as possible parenting liabilities linked to these priorities. Truly an eye-opener on consequences of different parenting styles and filled with useful advice on how to improve these.
As the author suggests herself, the book needs multiple readings in order to be comprehended in its entirety. What I hang on to while applying it in real life situations – and with my almost eight-year-old there are many – is to have compassion for myself and not to give up!