Discipline Strategy: Think Prevention First

One of the most powerful discipline strategies you have is to prevent negative behavior before it happens. Read about how to prevent rather than react.

Family happy and holding hands

One of the best positive discipline strategies you can have as a parent is to prevent negative behavior from ever happening.

“While we discuss many discipline options, we desire that our readers think prevention first and foremost”

(On Becoming Childwise, page 11)

Prevention is not a new concept to us in life, much less to us in parenting. And yet, just like in life, we find ourselves reacting to situations rather than focusing on prevention.

Reactive parenting leads to basically band-aid solutions. By that, I mean that we are covering a situation with a band-aid rather than healing the wound (nothing against band-aids, they are great for minor injuries, just not when stitches are required).

It is better to move your finger out of the way before the knife gets there than to cover up the deep wound with a band-aid.

I know, we can’t always prevent any bad habit from happening. That just isn’t possible. But that needs to be our first effort.

Prevention is a Powerful Parenting Tool

The idea of prevention also isn’t new to this blog. I have several articles that discuss the concept of prevention.

You can learn how to prevent tantrums and mis-behavior by reading Ask & Tell. You can prevent unwanted behavior from escalating with the tips found in A Simple One-Liner To Keep Your Preschooler On Track.

Get your child in the habit of accepting what mom has to say by teaching “Yes Mom.” Another great trick for prevention is Training In Times of Non-conflict.

Of course, the ultimate in prevention is to start your preventative thinking from day one. Both Babywise and The Baby Whisperer talk about this. I have a post inspired by thoughts from the Baby Whisperer called “Start As You Mean To Go On as a Parent.”

I also have a post inspired by the -wise series titled “Why Prevention is a Powerful Parenting Tool.”

The principles in these posts apply to any prevention situation. Another early concept from the wise series is Proactive and Directive parenting, as opposed to reactive parenting.

We want to avoid the trap of Credit Card Parenting from the very beginning.

So there is a lot on this blog for you to turn to for more on prevention.

Set Your Child Up for Success

Childwise points out that

“Preventing wayward behavior…[means]…not creating the conditions that pull children off-track[. This] translates into less correction you will need to do”

(page 11)

What does this mean for you?

Let’s think about the idea of logical consequences. Many of you are seeking help with discipline and want to understand how to apply logical consequences better.

>>>Read: 10 Guidelines for Using Logical Consequences

Last Friday, I wrote a post with ideas for logical consequences surrounding problems with diaper changes.

Do you remember my main point in that post? It was to distract baby during a diaper change, and distract from the beginning of it.

You don’t want to wait until baby is throwing a fit to give her a toy to distract her with. You give it to her as soon as she is on her back, maybe even before.

Remember, also, how I mentioned that with my girls, I was trying to give them toys at the diaper change by about 4 weeks old?

My experienced mommy brain knows it is much easier to prevent behavior than to correct behavior. That idea to prevent takes over the knowledge I have that a four week old can’t even hold a toy during a diaper change 🙂

As the first quote in this post says, “…think prevention first and foremost.”

As I have been thinking about and writing this post, I have thought a lot about my own children. I really for the most part do not have discipline problems. Yes, sometimes they do things they shouldn’t. We have our moments, but for the most part, things are pretty smooth around here.

I think a lot, if not most or all, of the credit for that goes straight to prevention.

I am a person who easily sees the domino effect from a decision. I can quickly follow a pattern in my head of “If X, then y, then z…” I can follow that to the end.

Prevention comes quite naturally to me, and I have seen how helpful it can be as a parent.

Using prevention as a discipline tool pinnable image

How to Use Prevention

The first step in understanding prevention is to acknowledge that actions have consequences.

You must realize that what you do will impact your child’s behavior, for better or worse. As Childwise says, don’t create situations that pull your child off track.

I think sometimes acknowledging prevention means that you have to make sacrifices.

I know that keeping a child up past her bedtime will mean she will get mischievous and grumpy. This does no create an atmosphere for obedience and cooperation.

I think prevention also means you get to know yourself as well as your child.

Preschoolwise comments that it is better to say yes to something before your child whines, not after. So if you know you will give in to something if your child whines say yes before she whines. Prevent the whining.

I think sometimes we say no hoping she won’t whine about it, but if you know you will give in, just say yes the first time. Rest assured if you know you will give in, she knows even better.

This means you need to know your child and know how she reacts in different situations. Does she get cranky if a meal is late? Are you going out close to a meal? Then bring snacks. Prevent the meltdown.

Prevention doesn’t mean your child always gets what she wants in order to never make her sad or upset.

It means respecting her needs and not giving in to tantrums. There will be times you will say no and she will not be happy. This is when you will stand your ground.

You will say no when it is necessary, so you can have the strength of will to not bow to hers.

If you are having major discipline issues, I would suggest you focus your efforts more on preventing behavior before it happens than addressing behavior after it happens.

Keep in mind that prevention is the most difficult with your oldest child unless you have a lot of experiences with young children. You don’t necessarily know that X and Y lead to Z, so you will do things that you later realize was unwise.

That means you will make mistakes. That is okay! You will get the hang of it.

Remember, think prevention first.


4 thoughts on “Discipline Strategy: Think Prevention First”

  1. Yes, yes, and yes! My 4YO suddenly has started acting like he can't hear what I say, even when he asks me a direct question and I answer while he's standing in front of me. The issues are distraction, self-absorption, and the fact that I am droning instructions at him all day long! (I realized after watching a recent family video.) I have made a resolution to do "training in times of non-conflict," especially giving instructions at his eye level before going somewhere, so that I can be quiet while we're there…and then if there's a real problem I can use my voice to get his attention. I really should re-read all the posts you mentioned! Thank you!

  2. Kristy, I think you have a good idea to record yourselves and it will give you an idea of what you should/could change.

  3. thanks for this post. :)you are right, it's the hardest with the oldest. i realize all the 'mistakes' i've done with her and now slowly working to correct them while preventing them with my 2nd.i'm still working on Room-time and first-time obedience with my 18mth. just curious, Val, what were you doing before you had kids? teacher? you are really experienced with kids. 🙂

  4. Grace, no, I was a technical writer 🙂 It all has just kind of come naturally to me 🙂 This will be strange, but I think a lot of my ability in the discipline department comes from my animal experience. I showed miniature horses and sheep. We also had goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, fish, hampsters, gerbils…A lot of the same principles apply to children and animals, like "start as you mean to go on", prevention, and consistency. If I can get a stallion to stand perfectly still in the show ring while I drop his lead line and walk away, then I can do almost anything! lol


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