Can Discipline Nurture Children?

Sign Up for Our Newsletter


I run a support group for Day Care Providers in a small city in MA. Some of the members have a concern about the nurturing of one member in particular. She readily admits she spanks her own children (Bible backed) and says she does not hit the daycare children. I do believe her but I do have a question about a discipline technique she uses on them. If they misbehave she sends them to a table where they must put there head down for a minimum of five minutes. I have shared with her that a time out usually makes it hard for a child to rejoin a group. I reserve a think time near the group when the behavior won't stop and during the think time they have a stuffed toy or book or puzzle. She will not let them have anything. I have checked this out and it is not abuse, but some of the members and I as well do not find it a very nurturing way to work with children. One member in particular finds it a blow to a child's self esteem. I would like your opinion and suggestions. I have also been called by our local R&R agency to develop a workshop on discipline in day care. I know you have several books, but can you suggest one that would be good for all ages through age five? I would so much appreciate your help.



I'm one of a team of Positive Discipline Associates who answer questions from the web-site. I asked to respond to your question because I have been an early childhood educator for 37 years (home provider, child care center, community college instructor and lab school lead teacher; and I now train providers throughout Iowa as a part of Iowa State University Extension). I am a fellow "concerned soul" about the abuse of "time-out" in child-care and by well-intending parents in their Christian homes.

I am also the co-author of "Positive Discipline in the Christian Home," and teach this series in our home church with my husband. We are both invested in Positive Discipline, and believe that it is not only important to teach in churches, but that it also has a life-altering vision for professionals in child-care. I appreciate your passion for respectful relationships and your concern about the provider who doesn't understand that she is using a worn-out tool: punishment!

You specifically ask for a book that is good for all ages – birth through 5 – I often purchase "Positive Time-Out" because it is reasonably priced, and right away introduces them to all the major tenets of Positive Discipline in a very easy format. Positive Discipline is rooted in Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs principles, while much of educational teaching on "discipline" is punishment/reward or behavior modification-based. Although Positive Discipline is a radical shift away from these practices, I find the world of child care to be very hungry for discipline tools that teach and are respectful and create meaningful connections. Positive Discipline follows the following criteria for effective discipline:

Four Criteria for Effective Discipline

1. Does it help children feel a sense of connection? (Belonging and Significance)
2. Is it respectful and encouraging? (Kind and firm at the same time)
3. Is it effective long-term? (Does it consider what the child is thinking, feeling, deciding?)
4. Does it teach important life skills? (Respect, concern for others, problem-solving, cooperation)

As you can see, all of these criteria are compatible with your concern for "nurturing the child. Too many people don't understand that discipline can be very nurturing.

The other book I HIGHLY recommend is "Positive Discipline for Child Care Providers" – it is a newer book, and I love to write it into training proposals or grants so that providers can get their own copy to keep to refer back to.

I would also suggest using the following two points when discussing how time-out can be used as a punishment or ... when doing Positive Discipline; it would be used as a tool for teaching how to take care of yourself when you are "out of sorts." The time-outs you describe in your question are very un-like the Positive Time-Out we teach. Often we expect children to DO better only if we make them FEEL worse. (This is the unconscious underpinning of subscribers to punishing a child who does a wrong thing.) Even common sense tells us that the opposite is true – when you feel good, you DO good things; when you feel bad, you aren't going to DO better!"

Many adults don't realize that the typical outcomes of using punishment are: resentment, rebellion, retreat, and/or revenge. Perhaps a discussion about these two points at your next support group will help each of you have a clearer understanding of what discipline is – and what it isn't.

Also, Fay, just to let you in on a couple of opportunities for you if you should become interested in training the Positive Discipline Way ...Facilitators in the Positive Discipline network take a series of training to get better at what they love. The "TEACHING PARENTING" 2-day workshop is one you won't want to miss for your own continuing education, if you find you enjoy Positive Discipline as much as so many of us who start with a book, just like you will likely do. Once you take the 2-day training there are also opportunities to move up in training status from a Positive Discipline Associate In Training (PDAIT) to a Certified Positive Discipline Associate (CPDA), etc...Perhaps you'd want to schedule a workshop in your area and gear it to child care providers.

In wrapping up my answer to you, I want to encourage you to take "provider reform" seriously and s...l...o...w... It takes time for paradigms to shift, and I have faith you will be able to bring about more quality care in MA. Because of your heart for the children ... with encouragement, Mary Hughes (Omaha, NE.)

Online Learning

Positive Discipline offers online learning options for parents, teachers, and parent educators. Learn in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. You have unlimited access to our online streaming programs, so you can watch and re-watch the videos as often as you like.