by Dr. Jane Nelsen
Rudolf Dreikurs taught the importance of being both Kind and Firm in our relations with children. Kindness is important in order to show respect for the child. Firmness is important in order to show respect for ourselves and for the needs of the situation.
Authoritarian methods usually lack kindness. Permissive methods lack firmness. Kindness and firmness are essential for Positive Discipline.
Many parents and teachers struggle with this concept for many reasons. One reason is, they don't feel like being kind when a child has "pushed their buttons." As adults we need to model controlling our behavior if we want children to learn how to control their behavior. Sometimes it is the adults who may need to take some Positive Time-Out until they can "feel" better so they can "do" better.
Another reason adults have difficulty being kind and firm at the same time is that they don't know what kind and firm looks like. They may be stuck in the vicious cycle of being too firm when upset–or because they don't know what else to do; and then being too kind to make up for being too firm.
One of the biggest mistakes some parents and teachers make when they decide to do Positive Discipline is becoming too permissive because they don't want to be punitive. Some mistakenly believe they are being kind when they please their children, or when they rescue them and protect them from all disappointment. This is not being kind; it is being permissive.
Being kind means to be respectful of the child and of yourself. It is not respectful to pamper children. It is not respectful to rescue them from every disappointment so they don't have the opportunity to develop their "disappointment muscles." It is respectful to validate their feelings, "I can see that you are disappointed" (or angry, or upset, etc.). Then it is respectful to have faith in children that they can survive disappointment and develop a sense of capability in the process.
A wonderful way to apply this principle of Kindness and Firmness is to use the phrase I love you, and the answer is "no". Listen to the following podcast as Mary Nelsen Tamborksi (Jane Nelsen’s youngest daughter) tells a delightful story about being at her wits end before remembering this Positive Discipline tool.