Kelly Bartlett teaches positive discipline strategies

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kelly Bartlett is a Wilsonville resident, parent of two and a certified Positive Discipline educator.Does the idea of “positive discipline” seem like an oxymoron? When children misbehave, is a positive response the right one?

For Kelly Bartlett, the answer is, “yes.” She is a parent of two and a certified positive discipline instructor. She has been introducing Wilsonville parents to the approach through a series of presentations at area grade schools. Her final presentation will be at Lowrie Primary School, 28995 SW Brown Road, March 20 from 6 to 8 p.m.

“Each school gets to do one or two parent education nights a year,” Bartlett said. “They were all interested in positive discipline, and we decided I would rotate to each school.”

Parents who attend the free session can expect to receive an introduction to the concept of positive discipline. In a nutshell, it involves parents working with children to solve behavior challenges, rather than a more traditional discipline approach — what Bartlett calls a “doing to” approach.

“It’s all about meeting a child where they are at, their level of discipline, and understanding their temperament and needs,” she said.

One of the first steps involves looking in the mirror.

“There are all these pieces of the puzzle we call parenting,” Bartlett said. “The first piece is all about self-awareness. We talk about our emotions and what kinds of triggers we have, what causes us to push over the edge and how we can be more aware of those and model for kids.”

Bartlett’s instruction comes from experience. She is a parent of two, a first- and a third-grader who both attend Boones Ferry Primary School.

“I started getting into positive discipline when my kids were toddlers,” she said. “It really resonated with me because I could see it developed some long-term skills.”

For example, Bartlett discusses how to take a common discipline tool — the good old timeout — and improve it.

“Many parents aren’t using it as effectively as they could,” she said. “Make it positive, not punitive, so kids can learn and grow long-term skills. The focus should be on calming down and feeling better. ... It’s about learning to step back and say, ‘I need to calm down. I need to take a break.’”

The crux of positive discipline strategies is to convey the message that while kids’ feelings are legitimate, their actions may not be.

“It’s a crazy idea to think that to make kids do better we have to start by making them feel worse,” Bartlett said. “It’s better to make them feel OK — your feelings are OK. It doesn’t feel good, but it’s normal. It’s about coming to an acceptance of your feelings. They’re OK but not all your actions are.”

So far, Wilsonville parents at Boeckman Creek and Boones Ferry primary schools have been receptive to Bartlett’s message.

“It works best if it’s like a conversation,” she said. “I encourage them to ask questions. We’ll take breaks and talk about issues that come up.”

For those interested in learning more, the free presentation will be followed up by a four-week class series at Boones Ferry starting the first Thursday in April. The series of two-hour sessions is available for $100 per person or $150 per couple.

The free presentation on March 20 at Lowrie is appropriate for children of all ages and open to the public. Light refreshments and childcare for children 4 and older will be provided. For more information, visit Bartlett’s website at

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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