22 Discipline Ideas That Really Work
At one time or another, all parents struggle with
disciplineestablishing and enforcing limits,
and getting their kids to speak to them
respectfully and do what they're supposed to do.
But remember: discipline isnt only about
correction. Its also about teaching kids to
control themselves and care about others so they
can grow up to be productive members of society.
Here are some approaches you can use to help your
kids to do just that:
1. Be firm. Set reasonable limits, explain them,
and enforce them.
2. Be consistent. Your child will learn to adapt
to inconsistencies between you and your partner: if
you allow jumping on the bed but she doesn't, for
example, the child will do it when he's with you
and won't when he's with your partner. However, if
you allow jumping one day and prohibit it the next,
you'll only confuse your child and undermine your
attempts to get him to listen when you ask him to
3. Compromise. Kids can't always tell the
difference between big and little issues. So give
in on a few small things once in a while (an extra
piece of birthday cake at the end of a long day
might avoid a tantrum). That will give the child a
feeling of control and will make it easier for him
to go along with the program on the bigger issues
(holding hands while crossing the street, for
4. Be assertive and specific. "Stop throwing
your food now" is much better than "cut that
5. Give choices. Kathryn Kvols, author of
Redirecting Children's Behavior, suggests, for
example, that if your child is yanking all the
books off a shelf in the living room, you say,
"Would you like to stop knocking the books off the
shelf or would you like to go to your room?" If he
ignores you, gently but firmly lead the child to
his room and tell him he can come back into the
living room when he's ready to listen to you.
6. Cut down on the warnings. If the child knows
the rules (at this age, all you have to do is ask),
impose the promised consequences immediately. If
you make a habit of giving six preliminary warnings
and three "last" warnings before doing anything,
your child will learn to start responding only the
eighth or ninth time you ask.
7. Link consequences directly to the problem
behavior. And don't forget--clearly and simply--to
explain what you're doing and why: "I'm taking away
your hammer because you hit me," or "I asked you
not to take that egg out of the fridge and you
didn't listen to me. Now you'll have to help me
clean it up."
8. No banking. If you're imposing punishments or
consequences, do it immediately. You can't punish a
child at the end of the day for something (or a
bunch of things) he did earlier--he won't associate
the undesirable action and its consequence.
9. Keep it short. Once the punishment is over
(and whatever it is it shouldn't last any more than
a minute per year of age), get back to your life.
There's no need to review, summarize, or make sure
the child got the point.
10. Stay calm. Screaming, ranting, or raving can
easily cross the line into verbal abuse that can do
long-term damage to your child's self-esteem.
11. Get down to your child's level. When your
talking to your childespecially to
criticize--kneel or sit. You'll still be big enough
that he'll know who the boss is.
12. Don't lecture. Instead, ask questions to
engage the child in a discussion of the problematic
behavior: "Is smoking cigars okay for kids or not?"
"Do you like it when someone pushes you down in the
13. Criticize the behavior, not the child. Even
such seemingly innocuous comments as "I've told you
a thousand times..." or "Every single time you..."
gives the child the message that he's doomed to
disappointing you no matter what he does.
14. Reinforce positive behavior. We spend so
much time criticizing negatives and not enough time
complimenting the positives. Heartfelt comments
like Im so proud of you when I see you
cleaning up your toys, go a long way.
15. Play games. "Let's see who can put the most
toys away" and "I bet I can put my shoes on before
you can" are big favorites. But be sure not to put
away more toys or to put your shoes on first--kids
under five have a tough time losing.
16. Avoid tantrums. Learn to recognize the
things that trigger your childs tantrums. The
most common include exhaustion, overstimulation,
hunger, and illness. Keeping those factors to a
minimum will go a long way toward reducing
17. No spanking. Its bad for the kids and
bad for you. Children who get spanked are more
likely to suffer from poor self-esteem and
depression. Theyre also more likely to
believe that its okay to hit other people
when theyre mad. After all, you do.
18. No shaking. It may seem like a less violent
way of expressing your frustrations than spanking,
but it really isn't. Shaking your baby can make his
little brain rattle around inside his skull,
possibly resulting in brain damage.
19. No bribes. It's tempting to pay a child off
to get him to do or not do something. But the
risk--and it's a big one--is that he will demand
some kind of payment before complying with just
20. Be a grown-up. Biting your child or pulling
his hair to demonstrate that biting or hitting is
wrong or doesn't feel good will backfire.
21. Offer cheese with that whine. Tell your
child that you simply don't respond to whining and
that you won't give him what he wants until he asks
in a nice way--and stick with it.
22. Set a good example. If your child sees you
and your partner arguing without violence, he'll
learn to do the same. If he sees you flouting
authority by running red lights, he'll do the
Above all, make sure you understand your child.
Trying to discipline him without understanding why
he's doing what he's doing is a little like taking
cough syrup for emphysema: the thing that's bugging
you goes away for a while, but the underlying
problem remains--and keeps getting worse with time.
The most direct way to solve this is to simply ask
your child whats going on and why hes
acting the way he is--in many case he'll tell you.
If he won't tell you or doesn't have the vocabulary
to do so, make an educated guess ("Are you writing
on the walls because you want me to spend more time
©2009, Armin Brott
* * *
It's clear that most American children suffer
too much mother and too little father. - Gloria
nationally recognized parenting expert, Armin Brott
is the author of Blueprint
for Men's Health: A guide to a health
Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, and Advice for
New Father: A Dad's Guide to the First
Dad's Guide to the Toddler
Single Father: A Dad's Guide to Parenting without a
Partner and Father for
Life. He has written on parenting and fatherhood
for the New York Times Magazine, The
Washington Post, Newsweek and dozens of
other periodicals. He also hosts Positive
Parenting, a nationally distributed, weekly
talk show, and lives with his family in Oakland,
California. Visit Armin at www.mrdad.com
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