Positive Discipline When/Then Technique

by Heligirl on October 31, 2011

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles,Positive Discipline

My daughter has been very capable of understanding the positive discipline concept of when she does ABC, then she can XYZ since she turned 3. This concept is known in the positive discipline community as the when/then technique or principle. It teaches kids responsibility, accountability and gives them some control over the outcome.

The concept is very simple. You lay down the rules straight away: “When you pick up all your toys, then we’ll start the movie,” “When you’ve eaten all your supper, then you can have dessert,” “When your homework is finished, then you can play video games,” etc.

The next step is to stick to your guns. Don’t give a when/then if you don’t intend to stick to it.

If your other children or you and your spouse were really set on seeing that movie and your youngest isn’t going to pick up the blocks, you’re not teaching a good lesson if you make this statement, then end up letting him watch anyway even though he didn’t clean up.

In that instance, a consequence might be better. (“If you don’t pick up your blocks, then I’ll take them away for a week.”)

See the difference?

When/Then in Action

We’ve put when/then to work here at the Heligirl household time and again and it really does work. For instance, we have a little habit in the mornings of watching Sesame Street. The kids know they can’t watch until they’re dressed. This is a great motivator to get them dressed. They hear me tell them, “When your dressed, then we’ll watch Sesame Street.”

Then I wait. When they ask again to see the show, I remind them again. I have to bite my tongue not to tell them over and over, or even say “I told you”¦”. On days we have to get out of the door by a certain time, I remind them that if they’re not dressed soon they’ll not be able to see any of the show.

The trick is to stick to your guns. You’re giving them the choice and the power. If you nag or guilt trip, you’re undermining yourself. That said, I know there will be times they won’t do the one thing to get the other. They may pitch a fit about it. In those cases, I simply state, “Honey, I know you understood the rule. I have faith the next time, if you really want ZYX, you’ll do ABC.” Smile. Repeat if necessary in response to screaming, crying and flailing. Keep your voice calm and loving.

This technique really does work. It’s not the right one for every situation, but when you do use it with consistency kids learn quickly and really do pick up on it. Just keep in mind if you’re introducing it to very young kids, or you’ve just started using it, it will take some time. But once the kids get the hang of it, you’ll find this technique to be very valuable.

Today’s Tip: Use when/then phrases to clearly communicate what you need the kids to do before they get to do or have something else in order to foster responsibility, accountability and compliance.

{ 1 comment }

Twitter: NolaTricia
October 31, 2011 at 9:00 am

Great post! My problem is sticking to my guns! I forwarded this to my husband. Thanks!
Tricia recently posted: Happy Halloween| Safety Tips

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