Child Discipline Methods

I recently met with a group of moms and noticed the confusion about child discipline methods.  They asked questions like, “What are the best ways to discipline a child?”  “How to discipline children effectively?”  “What are some good discipline techniques?”  So today, I’m going to share some concrete examples of disciplining a child.

Before I talk about effective child discipline methods, I want to share a story so you can learn proven ways to discipline a child and do it without thinking too hard:

It was a hot summer day, and Mom was excited to take her two young boys to the beach. About mid-day, six-year-old Joey started throwing sand at his brother. In response, Mom said sternly, “If you don’t quit throwing sand, I’ll give you a good reason to stop!” Within minutes, Joey was throwing sand again. Frustrated, Mom yelled, “That’s it! Get yourself over here right now, young man! You are ruining our time. Why can’t you be like your brother and act nice?” Mom slapped Joey firmly on the wrist and said, “Now, stop it!” Then, she proceeded to give him the silent treatment.

Joey’s mom came to me and wanted to me to show her effective child discipline methods.  She was tired of resorting to punishment and spankings.  Truth be told, she wanted to know how to get her son to listen the first time.  Here are the key questions I asked her:

  1. Why is Joey acting that way?
  2. What do you want Joey to learn at this moment?
  3. How can you best teach Joey that lesson at this moment?

There are several possible reasons to describe the “why” behind Joey’s misbehavior:  power, attention, or unwilling to listen to his mom.

Warning:  Effective parents are not always focused on good discipline techniques.


I say this all the time: “If you want to lead well, you need to read well.”  Before you assume that Joey is misbehaving, it’s important to look deeper.  Joey’s misbehavior MAY actually be stress-induced behavior.

Joey may be hungry, angry, lonely, tired, insecure, or feels like he needs to prove his worth.  Anytime those factors are present, Joey’s behavior is not a rational choice.  He is, to some degree, in the grip of those hidden forces and needs parenting that addresses those forces.

Once Mom can determine if Joey’s actions are driven by misbehavior or stress-induced-behavior, then she has the clarity and confidence she needs to discipline children effectively.

Ways to discipline a child who is driven by stress-induced behavior.

Take a break by asking Joey to remove himself from the immediate setting so he can calm down and relieve his stress. For example, asking Joey to sit briefly on his beach towel away from the fun until he can relax and act appropriately. She could have said something like, “Joey, it looks like you’re struggling a bit. How about sitting over here with me until you can show me that you are calm enough to join your brother again and make better choices?”

Ask a thinking question by saying, “It seems to me that you want to play with your brother, but it’s hard to ask him.  Sweetie, what do you think might happen if you use your words and ask your brother to play instead of throwing sand at him?”

Employ a time-in, where Mom finds her compassion.  She invites him to come close to her and then lets Joey have his meltdown in her attentive presence. Your goal is to provide a calm “holding environment” for your child’s upset.  Expressing emotions with a safe, attentive, accepting adult is what helps kids move through difficult and intense feelings.  It also helps them learn how to self-soothe and problem-solve at the same time. She could have said something like, “Sweetie, you seem to be struggling a bit. Come over here and sit by me because I want to understand you better.  Can you put words to what’s going on?

Ways to discipline a child when you are not clear if it’s misbehavior or stress behavior.

Redirect Joey’s behavior by saying something like, “Hey sweetie, instead of throwing the sand at your brother, go ahead and try building a sand castle together.”

Ignore the unwanted behavior because sometimes it’s good for parents to let the natural consequences do all the talking and teaching.  It can be a great way to let kids figure life out on their own and discover what happens when older brothers have had enough!

Good discipline techniques for children who misbehave

Withdraw a privilege, such as playing in the water, for a period of time. She could have said, “I know that you can figure out how to play nicer, so young men who throw sand lose 5 minutes of play time with their brother.”

Verbally reprimand by saying something like, “Stop that and play nice! Throwing sand can damage eyes. I want you guys to have fun and use the sand to build something, not to hurt each other.”

Offer choices by asking him, “Joey, would you like to stop throwing the sand and start playing nice, or would you like to sit on the towel away from your brother?”

Employ a time-out and remove Joey from the immediate setting. Rather than ask Joey to take a break and remove himself, go ahead and tell Joey to sit on his beach towel away from the fun until Mom (not Joey) determines that he’s ready to rejoin his brother and act appropriately. She could have said, “What a bummer. Looks like your poor choices have earned five minutes on your towel buddy.  Your job is to stop playing now, sit on the towel and calm yourself.  I’ll let you know when your five minutes is up.”

A Point to Ponder:

Yes, punishment stops unwanted behavior; however, when it is used consistently, it can have several negative effects.  So, when you are about to show disapproval for your child’s behavior, try to use discipline and focus on emotional connection first before correcting any behavior.  Over time, you will become and remain an attractive teacher to your child.  In the end, everyone will thrive!


If you want to discover how to get your kids to listen the first time without raising your voice, then click this link to get all the details!


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Steve Cuffari

Author: Steve Cuffari For many, Steve Cuffari is the mentor that parents call on to make their parenting style warmer, easier and more affective. He is the founder of inTouch Parenting, a company devoted to helping today's parents calm the chaos, raise emotionally intelligent kids, and nurture families that thrive.         read more about Steve Cuffari here...

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