In Positive Discipline a fundamental concept for teaching our children confidence and self-reliance is to be kind-and-firm at the same time.

Kind-and-Firm is one of the first concepts we explore in my Positive Discipline Series.

Let’s visualize for a moment the extreme version of “kind” parenting. What comes to mind?

“Over-indulgence”, “spoiled”, “kids rule”, “anything goes”, “chaos”, “freedom”

Now let’s imagine the opposite of that – extreme “firmness”:

“Mean”, “control”, “yelling”, “tight”, “order”, “no freedom”, “on-schedule”

What happens for most of us is that we oscillate between these two extremes trying to find that ever elusive balance. I’m here to buck the trend and say stop looking for balance! 


Okay, nice idea, but how do I do that and what does it look like?

Here’s a real-life example that I hope will bring kind-and-firm AT THE SAME TIME to life:

Putting my four-year-old son to bed had become a predictable and exhausting routine. We’d read two stories and just when I was giving him one last kiss he’d say,“Mommy, lay with me for a tiny – just lay with me for a tiny, please?”

On kind nights I’d say, “Okay honey, tonight I will.” I’d lay with him, but feel annoyed with myself. I was a sucker, yes, but for that moment felt relieved that I had the patience to hang in there until he fell asleep.

On firm nights, I’d feel highly annoyed with him.  My tone of voice and body language would push him away saying, “No, I’m done tonight. You’ve had your stories and mommy needs time alone.”

What matters here is how I felt: angry and worried – I’d created this person who’d become a bottomless pit of need or maybe he’d become a spoiled monster. (Transforming the little moments blog).

Kind or mean, oh, I mean firm… deep down I felt out of control.

In neither situation did I feel neutral, peaceful or good about my parenting.

This pattern continued until one evening, after I’d attended a Positive Discipline training, I came home to put my little guy to bed with a renewed perspective – a PD shot in the arm.

I had an image in my mind of how I could actually be kind-and-firm AT THE SAME TIME during our bedtime routine.

I read him two stories. When it was time for me to leave he made his usual plea for a “tiny.” I took a deep, calm, affirming breath, looked at him and said, “Honey, I have complete faith in you to fall asleep on your own.”

Without a word he rolled over in bed, pulled up his covers and proceeded to go to sleep. Shocking but true!

I will always remember that moment: I felt kind, conveying love through my tone of voice, and firm, conveying genuine, soft confidence (without that mean edge). My guess is that my son absorbed how I felt and in turn trusted my actions and himself. This interaction of love and grounding became his security blanket. His need for prolonged engagement dissolved.

Kind-and-firm parenting can feel slippery – hard to put your finger on. Keep taking small steps in the direction you want to go and when you hit that kind and firm zone – you’ll know it. Take time to acknowledge yourself – remember how it felt for you and how your child responded. Write it down – replay it in your mind and tell your friends and family! Most importantly, sit and relish it for yourself.

When we linger on our successes, no matter how small they may seem to us, we change our brains and we increase the likelihood of repeating such successes! (Buddha’s Brain.)


Have you had that “Aha” moment with being kind and firm at the same time? Celebrate it by sharing it with us here!

Bonus: What does parenting with kindness and firmness have in common with a tree?

Are you interested in learning more about kindness and firmness?  Here’s an article and podcast from Jane Nelsen and another real life example from Kelly Bartlett.