“What is your experience with positive discipline?” asked Dr. Katharine Kersey at my entrance interview into the Early Childhood Education graduate program at Old Dominion University. Dr. Kersey was a true education guru; a woman who had authored numerous educational texts, had been the recipient of several national awards, and had even appeared on several talk shows including the infamous Oprah.

“What kind of a profound thing could I possibly say to wow someone of this stature?” I thought as I nervously scanned the bookshelves in her office, hoping that one of the texts would somehow take animation and shout out a viable answer.

At that point, I was fresh out of college and had minimal experience in the world of education. Interviewing wasn’t exactly a strong suit of mine either. After stumbling over a few words, she politely asked me to tell her about my relationship with my parents. Ding, ding, ding!

No, I hadn’t studied education in college. I didn’t know the professional jargon or latest trends either. However, one thing I DID know was that I grew up under a roof teeming with positivity. I then spoke with ease about the close relationship I maintained with my parents, the continuous support and guidance they offered, as well as the trust they put into my brother and me daily. I watched her eyes light up. At this point, I knew I was in.

While it would take some specific training and self-reflecting to master the type of positive discipline she was referring to, I knew the heart of it was already deep within me. I lived it. I believed in it. I understood the incredible impact that a reliable, encouraging relationship could have on a child and wanted to learn more.


The below resource is an invaluable teaching and parenting tool. It contains a variety of strategies that will help you discipline a child, without having to resort to negative language or harsh punishment that is typically counter-productive. These tips and tricks will help you maintain a happy, healthy, loving environment that teaches and trains students to be independent, self-confident individuals. Pick one or two to try at a time!

For reference to the complete document, please see The 101 Positive Principles of Discipline. You can find a list of her other wonderful publications here.

The 101 Positive Principles of Discipline

By: Dr. Katharine Kersey

The Top Ten Principles

1. Demonstrate Respect Principle – Treat the child the same way you treat other important people in your life – the way you want him to treat you – and others. (How would I want her to say that to me?)

2. Make a Big Deal Principle – Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior – with attention (your eyeballs), thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs, special privileges, incentives (NOT food).

3. Incompatible Alternative Principle – Give the child something to do that is incompatible with the inappropriate behavior. “Help me pick out 6 oranges” (instead of running around the grocery store). If your husband is annoying you by playing his Gameboy, instead of berating him, simply ask him to help you by drying the dishes.

4. Choice Principle – Give the child two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you. “Would you rather tiptoe or hop upstairs to bed?” (“You choose or I’ll choose.”) This can be used with spouses. “The garage needs to be cleaned out. Would you rather do it tonight or Saturday?”

5. When/Then – Abuse it/Lose it Principle – “When you have finished your homework, then you may watch TV.” (No homework – no TV.)

6. Connect Before You Correct Principle – Be sure to “connect” with a child – get to know him and show him that you care about him – before you begin to try to correct his behavior. This works well when relating to parents, too. Share positive thoughts with them about their child before you attack the problems!

7. Validation Principle – Acknowledge (validate) his wants and feelings. “I know you feel angry with your teacher and want to stay home from school. I don’t blame you. The bus will be here in 45 minutes.”

8. Good Head on Your Shoulders Principle – Tell your child – frequently – especially as s/he reaches the teen years – “You have a good head on your shoulders. You decide. I trust your judgment.” This brings out the best in the child and shows him/her that eventually he will be in charge of his own life and responsible for his/her own decisions.

9. Belonging and Significance Principle – Remember that everyone needs to feel that s/he belongs and is significant. Help your child to feel important by giving him important jobs to do and reminding him that if he doesn’t do them, they don’t get done! Help him/her feel important by being responsible.

10. Timer Says it’s Time Principle – Set a timer to help children make transitions. “When the timer goes off, you will need to put away your books.” “In five minutes, we will need to line up for lunch.” It is also a good idea to give the child a chance to choose how long he needs to pull himself together. “It’s okay to be upset, how long do you need?” Then allow him to remove himself from the group and set the timer. You may offer the child a choice (and set the timer) when it’s necessary for him to do something he doesn’t want to do. “Do you want to pick up your toys/let Susan have the wagon/take your bath -in one minute or two?”

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