Positive Discipline Parent Education

About This Program

Target Population: Parents of children and adolescents (birth through 18 years) who are typically developing; and teachers of children (toddlers through adolescence) who are typically developing; parents, teachers, and service providers of children with special needs (infants through teens), including children with disorders of attachment, children on the autism spectrum and children exposed to trauma

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 18

Program Overview

Positive Discipline Parent Education promotes an internal locus of control, self-regulation, understanding others' perspectives, and the desire to contribute in meaningful ways to the community. The model can be categorized as a form of "authoritative" parenting — one that promotes a strong parent-to-child connection, as well as clear boundaries/limits. This parent education program teaches parents specific tools to help implement authoritative parenting. Furthermore, these tools are designed to help parents balance being kind and firm at the same time. Examples of parenting tools include encouragement, using curiosity questions, tone of voice, acting without words, validating feelings, and limit setting. This program gives parents alternatives to using rewards and punishment.

Positive Discipline Parent Education is taught in groups using an experiential model. Participants engage with the material through role-play and activities that invite them to connect the new material with their current life. The model also gives parents/caregivers the opportunity to practice new skills within the safe environment of the class.

Program Goals

The goals of Positive Discipline Parent Education are:

  • Decreased harshness in parenting
  • Decreased reactivity in parenting
  • Increased connection to child
  • Increased skill in self-regulation
  • Increased skill in communication
  • Increased skill in sharing and teaching responsibilities
  • Increased skill in solution-focused problem-solving
  • Ability to build family connections using family meetings

Logic Model

View the Logic Model for Positive Discipline Parent Education.

Essential Components

The essential components of Positive Discipline Parent Education include:

  • Class sessions utilize one of the Positive Discipline Parent Education book series depending on the client audience (i.e., Positive Discipline for Parenting Preschoolers, Positive Discipline for Parenting in Recovery, etc.). There also is a workbook and tool cards that can be used as supplemental resources. The workbook is organized by the weekly lessons. There are 52 Parenting Tool Cards.
  • No matter the size, frequency, or duration, the curriculum is taught experientially, taking the learning from the head to the heart and deepening the integration and behavioral change. The minimum recommended number of sessions is 4.
  • The recommended class size is 15 to 25, but classes are sometimes up to 40 adults.
  • Large groups of 100 to 300 can be done as a one-time introductory presentation or workshop.
  • Experiential exercises can be utilized even in large group settings.
  • Session format:
    • A warm-up
    • Parenting Information: Chapter discussion, mini-lecture, or activity (including an "Introduction to Adlerian Philosophy" at the first class)
    • Experiential activities
    • Parents Helping Parents Problem Solving Steps
    • Establishing a practice (homework related to topic)
  • Core concepts covered in sessions:
    • Long term vs. short term parenting
    • Cultural competency
    • Adlerian concepts overview
    • Belonging and significance
    • Belief Behind Behavior: thinking, feeling, deciding (getting in child's shoes)
    • Mutual Respect
    • Self-care and adult development
    • Understanding self
    • Parenting styles
    • Development/temperament/current brain science
    • Firmness/setting limits
    • Kind and firm at the same time
    • Developing autonomy
    • Mistaken goals
    • Encouragement
    • Solutions
    • Mistakes are opportunities to learn
    • Family Meetings
    • Emotions and emotional regulation
    • Parents Helping Parents Problem Solving Steps
    • Taking time for training/skill building (parents and children)

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Positive Discipline Parent Education directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Caregivers of children with relationship challenges, behavior challenges, power struggles, sibling fights, communication problems, emotional and self-regulation (parent and child) problems, lack of motivation and follow through, problems with routines, problems with family work, homework challenges, problems following disciplinary actions, and lack of mutual respect
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: Through regular Family Meetings, the family system is actively engaged in collaboratively problem-solving solutions to the behavior challenges experienced by children in the family. Through family meetings, family members learn to work cohesively to plan family events, take responsibility for family chores, and acknowledge and encourage one another for efforts made to support the health and well being of the family.

Recommended Intensity:

2- to 2.5-hour weekly class

Recommended Duration:

6–10 weeks (12 or more total hours recommended)

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Daily Living Setting
  • Hospital
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
  • Group or Residential Care
  • Justice Setting (Juvenile Detention, Jail, Prison, Courtroom, etc.)
  • Public Child Welfare Agency (Dept. of Social Services, etc.)
  • School Setting (Including: Day Care, Day Treatment Programs, etc.)
  • Shelter (Domestic Violence, Homeless, etc.)
  • Virtual (Online, Telephone, Video, Zoom, etc.)


Positive Discipline Parent Education includes a homework component:

Assignments are given out of the Positive Discipline book and workbook to read, reflect, and practice concepts learned. Parents practice family meetings and other specific parenting tools based on the Parents Helping Parents Problem Solving Steps Activity, an experiential activity facilitated in each session.


Positive Discipline Parent Education has materials available in languages other than English:

Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Spanish

For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

  • Room with chairs for participants and facilitator arranged in a circle
  • Easel and easel pad, markers

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

There are no minimum educational requirements for being trained in this program. Completion of the Positive Discipline Parent Educator Certification is needed. This Parent Education training is available in multiple languages in person or online. Online has live interactive (synchronous) as well as an independent study (asynchronous) learning options.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Program Manual(s)

The manual information is:

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:
  • Certification Workshops are provided in the United States and worldwide by Certified Positive Discipline Trainers to train/certify Positive Discipline Parent Educators.
  • Trainers are listed on the Positive Discipline Association website at www.positivediscipline.org
  • Parenting Classes are offered in the US and other countries by certified Positive Discipline Educators.
  • There is also an on-line training for people without access to a local trainer.
  • Advanced training is provided by Positive Discipline Lead Trainers at least yearly in the U.S., Latin America, France, and China.
  • Training materials are available in multiple languages (English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), French, Portuguese, and Polish.
Number of days/hours:
  • To become a Positive Discipline Trainer:
    • Complete the Positive Discipline Parent Educator Certification Workshop (13 hours in person or online via Zoom training, plus completion of activities and an assessment). Asynchronous independent study options are also available.Documented/evaluated practice (a minimum of three 6-week parenting classes with submitted required documentations including evaluations)
  • Advanced Candidate Training (28 hours – in person and online options - both synchronous with experiential learning.
  • Positive Discipline Certified Trainers train and mentor Parent Educators. Certified Parent Educators provide parenting classes.

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Positive Discipline Parent Education.

Formal Support for Implementation

There is formal support available for implementation of Positive Discipline Parent Education as listed below:

Formal support available long term includes online mentoring (individual and group); Parent Educator Open Form (support for parent educators as they plan, market, teach, and evaluate their programs). Program effectiveness evaluations utilized at all levels of training. Conferences and Think Tanks available for professional development in multiple countries and languages. Online continuing education available and coordinated across time zones and multiple languages.

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Positive Discipline Parent Education as listed below:

Online mentor groups provide opportunities for parent educators and trainers to be observed facilitating activities in the curriculum and provided with feedback for professional development purposes. There are also annual Think Tanks parent educators and trainers attend to practice facilitation and receive feedback. Think Tanks are both in person or online via Zoom. Trainers are required to attend at least once every 3 years for certification renewal. Other fidelity measures include self-report submitted following parenting classes. Self-report submitted following all workshop to train parent educators. Evaluations focus on professional standards, facilitation skills, understanding of, and ability to deliver Positive Discipline content experientially. Evaluations are submitted for Staff and Board review.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are no implementation guides or manuals for Positive Discipline Parent Education.

Implementation Cost

There are no studies of the costs of Positive Discipline Parent Education.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Positive Discipline Parent Education.

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Carroll, P. (2022). Effectiveness of Positive Discipline parenting program on parenting style, and child adaptive behavior. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, 53(6), 1349–1358. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10578-021-01201-x

Type of Study: Pretest–posttest study with a nonequivalent control group (Quasi-experimental)
Number of Participants: 91


  • Age — Intervention: Mean=36.4 years; Comparison: Mean=35.1 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Intervention: 75% Hispanic; Comparison: 75% Hispanic
  • Gender — Intervention: 75% Female; Comparison: 94% Female
  • Status — Participants were parents and their children invited by a local nonprofit service provider to participate in a free, seven–week workshop on Positive Discipline and a comparison group of parents involved in local adult schools.

Location/Institution: A local nonprofit service provider and local adult schools

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to determine the effectiveness of a Positive Discipline Parenting Program (Positive Discipline) [now called Positive Discipline Parent Education] on parenting style and child adaptive behavior. Participants were assigned to either the Positive Discipline intervention group or to a semi-equivalent comparison group. Measures utilized include the Positive Discipline Parenting Scale (PDPS), Spanish adaptation of the Parental Stress Scale (PSS), Parenting Dimensions Questionnaire-Revised (PDQ-R), and the Child Adaptive Behavior Inventory (CABI). Results indicate that attendance in Positive Discipline parenting workshops was related to a decrease in authoritarian parenting style, a decrease in permissive parenting style, and a decrease in parental stress. It was also related to an increase in child academic competence, and a decrease in externalizing-hyperactive behavior (both parent-report). Limitations include the use of a nonrandomized no-treatment control group, the use of entirely parent–reported measurements, unknown generalizability to other demographic groups, small sample size, high attrition, and a relatively short 3-month follow-up period.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Candan, H. D., & Doğan, S. (2023). Effectiveness of the Positive Discipline program applied to parents of preschool children: A randomized-controlled trial. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, S0882-5963. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedn.2023.06.013

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 72


  • Age — Intervention Group: Mean=37.2 years; Active Control Group: Mean=36.1 years; Non-Contact Control Group: Mean=36.4 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — Intervention Group: 91% Female; Active Control Group: 100% Female; Non-Contact Control Group: 96% Female
  • Status — Participants were parents of preschool-aged children registered to the Family Health Center.

Location/Institution: Izmir, Turkey

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to test the effectiveness of the Positive Discipline Parent Training program [now called Positive Discipline Parent Education]. Participants were randomized to either the Positive Discipline Parent Training intervention, an active control group, or to a non-contact control group. Measures utilized include the Assessment of Parenting Attitudes of Couples Scale (APCAS) and the Parent-Child Communication Scale (PCCS). Results indicate that parents in the intervention group demonstrated an increase in cooperation with their children after the training and during the follow-up period. In the intervention group, parents’ oppressive and authoritarian attitudes decreased after the training and during the follow-up period; spouses’ democratic attitudes increased after the training and their overprotective attitudes decreased in the follow-up period. Parent–child communication and unhindered listening increased in the intervention and active control groups. The problem-solving skills of the intervention group increased after the training and during the follow-up period, and sensitivity increased in the follow-up period. Limitations include the online nature of the study as only parents with technology can participate, more mothers participated than fathers, and a lack of follow-up for the non-contact control group.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Ferguson, E. D., & Gfroerer, K. (2023). Evaluating the efficacy of Positive Discipline parent education. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 79(2), 105–120. https://doi.org/10.1353/jip.2023.a904854

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 258


  • Age — 36–45 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — 176 White, 50 Asian American, 23 Hispanic/Latino, and 9 Not Reported
  • Gender — 150 Female and 108 Male
  • Status — Participants were parents and their children invited by a local nonprofit service provider to participate in a free, six–week workshop on Positive Discipline and a comparison group of parents involved in local adult schools.

Location/Institution: Five U.S. cities across varied regions (Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest)

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of the study was to examine the effectiveness of Positive Discipline parent training [now called Positive Discipline Parent Education]. Participants were randomly assigned to the treatment group or a wait-list control group. Measures utilized include the Parenting Scale (PS), the Parental Values Inventory (PVi) and the Triandis Scale. Results indicate that posttest one indicated parents who attended at least four of the six-week sessions showed a statistically significant decrease in autocratic (authoritarian) parenting, a decrease in parent over-reactivity, and a decrease in harsh parenting practices compared to the control group. Posttest two results showed parents adopted more positive parenting attitudes, behaviors, and practices after attending at least four sessions of Positive Discipline. Furthermore, a statistically significant decrease in corporal punishment (e.g., hitting, slapping, spanking) was reported. Limitations include children in the study sometimes did not exhibit an understanding of what was being asked of them, many parents did not bring their children back for posttest two, and control group parents received the six-week parenting class after the treatment group, therefore there was no parent comparison group at postintervention follow-up.

Length of controlled postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

Gfroerer, K., Nelsen, J., & Kern, R. (2013). Positive Discipline: Helping children develop belonging and coping resources using Individual Psychology. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 69(4), 294–304. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-03802-003

Holliday, M. (2014). Authoritative parenting and outcomes of Positive Discipline parent training: Parenting style and perceived efficacy. (Doctoral dissertation). https://www.proquest.com/openview/e0364ec4330f381838dcaaa2b4c25056/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750

McVittie, J., & Best, A. M. (2009). The impact of Adlerian-based parenting classes on self-reported parental behavior. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 65(3), 264–285. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2009-23639-006

Contact Information

Kelly Gfroerer, PhD, LPC
Title: Executive Director
Agency/Affiliation: Positive Discipline Association
Website: www.positivediscipline.org
Phone: (866) 767-3472

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: January 2024

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: November 2023

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: April 2011