How to discipline your child – a positive approach to child discipline

child discipline

What Is Discipline?

  • Helps the child learn self-control
  • Builds the child’s self-esteem
  • A tool to succeed in life


Purpose of Discipline

The purpose of discipline is to guide children to choose what is right through teaching and learning rather than forcing.  It develops inner controls that last a lifetime.

Challenges present school-aged children to their parents

  • Disrespectful behavior.  Includes talking back, negative body language, and lack of self-control.
  • Uncooperative behavior.  Includes refusing to do home work, not helping around the house, refusing “to listen”.
  • Difficulty moving through schedules.  Includes having difficulty going to bed or getting upon time.
  • Winning, begging and having tantrums.

Parenting styles

Take a look at your current parenting style and how you use discipline. The American Mental Health Association describes three styles of parenting:

  • An authoritative parent attempts to direct the child’s activities but does not insist on obedience for its own sake.  The parent is realistic about use of restrictions, and shares with the child the reasoning behind the parental policy of using firm control. This is the most effective form of parenting.
  • An authoritarian parent values obedience as a virtue, and favors forceful measures when the child’s actions or beliefs conflict with what the parent thinks is right. This is a less effective form of parenting.
  • A permissive parent offers him or herself as a resource to the child, not as an active agent responsible for modifying or shaping behavior, and allows the child to regulate his/her own behavior as much as possible. This is a less effective form of parenting.

Discipline techniques

The discipline techniques you choose may depend on the type of inappropriate behavior your child displays, your child’s age, your child’s temperament, and your parenting style. The following techniques are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the National Mental Health Association:

  • Discipline with love
  • Listen and communicate
  • Focus on the behavior, not the child
  • Respond immediately
  • Relate the discipline to the offending behavior in duration and severity
  • Be realistic
  • Remain calm
  • Be fair
  • Do not harm or injure
  • Set boundaries
  • Make it a learning opportunity
  • Be consistent
  • Be creative
  • Develop rules and expectations in advance
  • Use timeouts
  • Reward or praise desirable behaviors
  • Model desired behavior
  • Encourage the child’s cooperation and understanding
  • Develop behavioral contracts and incentive charts

The above techniques are applicable to all ages, but psychologists note that starting early is better.  Once kids about 10 or 11, discipline gets a lot harder.  Kids don’t care as much what the parents think about them.

Use of Corporal Punishment for child discipline

Expert organizations strongly oppose the use of corporal punishment in homes and in schools.  It provides only a temporary change in a child’s behavior and tends to be counterproductive. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers several child discipline alternatives to spanking and other forms of corporal punishment.  Some children respond well to time-out sessions and loss of privileges.

There may be times when you don’t know what to do to help your child learn appropriate behavior. You may have tried all these techniques to no avail. Or you may not know how to change from what you’re doing now to something that will be more effective. Any time you have questions about your child’s behavior and discipline, check in with your child’s doctor.

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