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5 Options For How To Discipline Kids

Five Options For How To Discipline Kids


When my firstborn was one I knew we had a tough one on our hands. My husband and I had plants in the living room we consistently told him he wasn’t allowed to touch. We would often wonder if he understood what we were saying. One day he made it clear. He walked out to the middle of our living room about five feet from the plants. With his back facing the plants, he slowly walked backward until he was next to them. Then, with a casual look away from the plants that said, “Nothing to see here,” he gradually moved the back of his hand over the plants. I’ll admit it made me laugh. But I also knew then and there that we would need to learn how to discipline kids, and quick.

Wouldn’t it be great if effective child discipline was one size fits all? Unfortunately, it’s not. Each child is unique, and the type of discipline that he or she best responds to will likely be too.

Here are 5 effective discipline options.

1. Time-out

This is a popular discipline technique for younger children who simply need to calm down and have a moment to think about the rule that’s been broken and how breaking that rule did not achieve the result he was after.

  • Works best for: A child whose temper or emotions are out of control and who needs to be calmed before any type of constructive conversation can take place.

  • Tips for success: Make the length of the time-out reasonable for your child’s age. A 2-year-old won’t even remember in 10 minutes what she was doing that resulted in the time-out, so keep it short and get back to talking about the rules and the consequences using this Think About It printable. Many experts recommend one minute in time-out for every year of the child’s age (3-year-old: 3-minute time-out).

2. Withholding Privileges

If your child lives to play video games, then losing that privilege for a week for failing to turn in homework can be an effective way to get his attention. The same principle can apply to cell phone use, TV time, participation in extra-curricular activities, etc.

  • Works best for: The child who values a specific privilege highly and whose respect for parental expectations can be addressed by leveraging that activity.

  • Tips for success: Set the stage for this scenario by making it known ahead of time that the privilege in question is just that—a privilege, not a right—and that respect and obedience will be required to keep it.

3. Spanking

We know parents have strong feelings both for and against this type of discipline; but, for some children, it is effective when nothing else is. The key to successful spanking is knowing how and when to apply it.

  • Works best for: Younger children who seem totally content to be in time-out for the rest of their lives or who fail to respond to other types of correction most of the time. Used most often with a defiant child for lying or for doing something dangerous.

  • Tips for success: Never spank your child when you’re angry or upset. Wait until you’ve calmed down so that when you spank, you are acting rather than reacting. Explain to your child that this will be the consequence of certain behaviors, and remind her of the reason for the discipline before you administer the spanking. Spank your child only on the behind, and let this only be one of the methods of correction in your bag—not the sum total of your discipline strategy. If you need discipline options, try these 21 Creative Consequences.

4. Social Restriction

This involves taking away your child’s social outlets and chances for interaction with friends.

  • Works best for: The social butterfly (often tween or teen girls) who values time with friends and communicating non-stop as much as oxygen.

  • Tips for success: Like all types of discipline, layout this consequence as a possibility before rules are broken. Give the social isolation specific parameters and a finite length of time which is reasonable. For example, it may mean no phoning or texting of friends for a period of time, or no friends over to hang out, or both. Be specific and stick to the plan, no matter how hard it is or how much she pouts. When the social privileges are returned, your child will likely work harder to keep them. As always, if you use this option, focus on behavior modification through love.

5. Extra Chores

Some children will do anything to reduce the amount of manual labor in their lives, including obeying their parents. If this is your child, a few extra jobs around the house might be a good reminder when they get off track.

  • Works best for: The child who really doesn’t like chores and doesn’t value any particular privilege enough to miss it.

  • Tips for success: This can be a very effective tool for correcting the child who shirks his normal household responsibilities. The idea is, “When you fail to do your fair share, it causes other members of the family to have to work harder…” Make sure the chores are age and skill level appropriate and remember why it is that in discipline, firmness doesn’t require harshness.

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