Kindness and Firmness

It was all going so well – your children were having fun, feeling loved and happy – but whoops, dishes were left on the couch, chores are undone, and someone just said something really rude to Gramma.  Did you let your boundaries or family agreements slip? Sometimes it seems like we are on a perpetual teeter totter trying to balance being kind and firm.

We want our kids to have fun, feel cared about and be happy, so we are kind until it feels like they are getting out of control and a little bit crazy …and then we desperately need them to follow the rules, be respectful, and do their work, so we get firm. The back and forth is exhausting!

In the words of Positive Discipline, we talk about “getting out of the dance.”

Starting with yourself, do what it takes to steady yourself and return to calm. Try some self-regulation activities, like stepping outside and going for a walk . Once you are calm, try the below suggestions for modeling firmness and kindness.

Modeling Firmness and Kindness


“I” Statements

Say what you need and make requests, starting with “I”. You might say, “I need you to clean up your art supplies,” rather than “you need to clean up your art supplies.”

Connect Before Correct

Connect with your child by crouching down to their level, and using a touch, your eyes, or making a guess at how they are feeling. Connecting sends the message “I see you, I value you.” After connecting, offer correction or direction. You might say, “Wow. I think that is the biggest tower I have seen you build!  How did you get it so high? It is 5:00 now. What has to happen before dinner?  Yes, you are right…clean up time!


Help a neighbor

Write a thank you note. Give compliments. Make a donation.  Acts of kindness demonstrate for our kids and give them a chance to practice what it means to be kind.

Be kind to yourself

What one thing can you do each day just for you? Prioritize that and make it happen– just like you would prioritize an activity for your child. It is a great model for your kids and will allow you to show up as your best self.

One-On-One Time

Spend 15 minutes of scheduled one-on-one time every day. Children need to feel a sense of deep connection with parents and caregivers, especially now. Find a time and a place where you can fully engage in play or conversation led by your child. Let your child guide what you do together. Try it for 10 days in a row and see what happens!


Try Kindness and Firmness at the Same Time

I Need a Hug, Positive Discipline

Kind and Firm Parenting for Parents of Teens, Positive Discipline Association

How to get kids to listen with “Connection Before Correction”, video from Think It Through Parenting

Connect Before Correct, video from Honestly ADHD – Connect before Correct for children with ADHD.

Understanding Stress Behaviors in Children, Facebook video from Sound Discipline – Facebook Live Interview with Sahara Pirie; includes important information about connection.

Q&A: When children are disrespectful, video from Sproutable – Lots of great tips on connection and firmness.

The Whole-Brain Child, book by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson

No-Drama Discipline, book by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson


The importance of AND

Try these phrases when you need to be firm with your children:

  • I love you, AND the answer is NO.
  • I know you don’t want to stop playing Minecraft, AND it is time for ______________ .
  • I know you would rather watch TV than do your homework, AND homework needs to be done first.
  • You don’t want to brush your teeth, AND we’ll do it together. Want to race?
  • I know you don’t want to mow the lawn, AND what was our agreement?
  • You don’t want to go to bed, AND it is bedtime. Do you want one story or two stories as soon as your jammies are on?

Adapted from Kind and Firm Parenting, Positive Discipline