My child won’t listen! Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, it does to most of us. As parents, we all have to deal with kids being defiant at some point or another. But we’re not alone as researchers have proven it to be a recurring problem world-wide. And, the good news is there is a reliable way to deal with it, by knowing exactly how to discipline a child and having an effective discipline approach that actually works.
Because having to discipline our kids is one of the most important, yet probably also the most difficult parenting skills we need to conquer. And we need to do that whilst building mutual respect and trust. Not always that easy …
Sharing our best parenting tips on how to discipline a child
Talking about kids who act defiantly will always remind me of the time when my son was about three years old and every single request became a power struggle. Whatever we asked him to do, he would do the exact opposite and try to defy our discipline strategies in every way possible!
But we were able to find a discipline approach that works and these are three things that helped us succeed
- we learned to appreciate age-appropriate behavior and therefore the reason for him acting defiant
- discovered the best forms of discipline with rules and logical consequences that actually works
- our discipline approach became more consistent, reasonable and therefore more effective
And I want to share with you all the information you need, to create your own effective discipline strategy because I know we are not the only parents having difficulties with kids who don’t listen. You are about to discover all the best discipline tips that worked for us, and I know it will help you too!
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Let’s start with the basics
Kids discipline defined
Knowing how to discipline a child starts with understanding what exactly it means. And, the definition of kids’ discipline being two-fold, sometimes makes it confusing. We need to understand both parts in order to practice discipline effectively, so let’s start there
Kids’ discipline is defined as
1. the practice to train kids to obey rules by sharing knowledge and skills and
2. using consequences to correct disobedience
When reading this, some questions immediately arise
- how do we practice discipline?
- what are the rules kids have to follow?
- what happens when the rules are disobeyed?
Those are all important questions regarding kids’ discipline we will be looking at. And, because I get so many questions from concerned parents on this topic, I will answer some of the most commonly asked ones too, including
- is it good to discipline your child?
- when should a child be disciplined?
- how do you discipline a child who won’t listen?
After reading this post, you will know the answer to all of these and be ready to take control of disciplining your kids in an effective, peaceful way.
When does discipline actually work
Medical literature lists the following criteria for practical discipline
” To be effective, discipline needs to be
given by an adult with an affective bond to the child
consistent, close to the behavior needing change
perceived as fair by the child
developmentally and temperamentally appropriate
self-enhancing, ie, ultimately leading to self-discipline “
There is certainly value in keeping these criteria in mind when practicing discipline. But I think whether our kids perceive the consequences as fair might be debatable … but we should make sure our discipline approach always results in self-discipline as that should be our main goal when disciplining our children.
Before we start answering all the pressing issues it’s important to remember
Discipline is not punishment
We need to see it as an opportunity to mold our kids into the well behaved, grateful and responsible children they can be. It’s our time to lead by example and teach them the life skills they need to have happy, well-balanced and successful lives.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to discipline our kids and we have to start by changing our negative perceptions around it. We need to discipline using rules and consequences that are created to be learning experiences.
Time to find some meaningful answers on how to discipline a child
How should we discipline a child
By using positive discipline strategies to help our kids learn self-control, emotional restraint and wise decision making. When they conquer these vital life skills we have succeeded in raising confident kids.
And of course, your next question should be
What does a positive discipline strategy look like
An effective discipline approach needs to consist of two base pillars and then actions to either understand and follow the rule immediately or follow-through of the consequence in order to get rule obeyed. The two base pillars are
- a reasonable rule and a
- logical consequence
Let’s discuss an example to help us understand what a positive discipline strategy needs to include. Say your bedtime routine looks something like this
- brush teeth
- read a story together
- 10 minute quite time
- lights off
but you can’t get your kids to brush their teeth before bedtime. The success in getting your kids to stick to your routine lies withing establishing the two base pillars
- the rule – brush teeth before bedtime
- the consequence if not the rule is not obeyed – no story
Then it’s up to you to implement the rule and stick to the consequence, no matter what.
I also know that sometimes this sounds easier than it actually is. And when dealing with strong-willed kids, you need to up your game a bit. This does however not mean your discipline strategy needs to look any different, it simply needs to include rule and consequence extensions to make it more powerful.
So let’s say teeth brushing time, or any other activity turns into a power struggle, it’s a sign that you have to realize it’s not working and you must add extra steps to ensure obedience.
That is what we will discuss next
Positive discipline strategy extensions
Consider adding these additional steps when you are struggling to enforce a rule or dealing with a strong-willed child
- specify a time for the action to be completed
- in our example, we ask the kids to be finished brushing their teeth within 5 minutes or the consequence, which was no storytime, would be enforced
- make consequences on-point and focused on the current situation
- if they don’t enjoy storytime, it will be difficult to have them obey
- think a bit further, most strong-willed kids prefer to choose their own outfits, so if storytime is not an on-point consequence, take away their privilege to choose their outfit the next morning if they don’t obey the rule
- use visual aids like star or reward charts
- establish a working routine
- following a routine is especially useful during infant and toddler years as it makes them feel safe knowing what to expect
Therefore by adding one or more of these extensions, you can make your discipline strategy a lot more focused and powerful, demanding obedience even from strong-willed kids.
What are the rules our kids have to follow
The rules are made by you and should always be logical. Either as a simple rule on things that need to be done or including some of the extensions, we discussed above. The golden rules here are:
- stay consistent and
- make sure your kids understand the rule
- always follow through on the consequences
Consistency is super important to teach respect. And respect and trust are easily banished when we use inappropriate discipline like shaming, name-calling, negative guilt, verbal abuse or yelling. Be sure to avoid those at all times.
The aim of your discipline strategy at various ages
Discipline takes on various shapes and forms depending on your child’s developmental stage. As well as your cultural beliefs and routines. Here are a couple of noteworthy discipline intentions according to age and super useful to help you practice effective discipline
Create a routine around sleeping, feeding and play to
- learn self-soothing
- prevent overstimulating
- instill feelings of safety
One to two-year-old toddlers
A solid discipline approach is necessary to ensure your toddler is
- not harming him or herself
- safe from feeling abandoned
The best way to practice discipline in this age group is to always stay with your toddler and use attention redirection. This is a great resource to effectively discipline your child in the first three years.
Two to three-year-old toddlers
This is the time when most of us feel frustrated and doubting our discipline methods.
Simply because your toddler begins to fight for power, autonomy, and self-assertion. This is normal toddler behavior … so don’t fight it, embrace it …
Take back control by
- setting limits
- establishing routines and
- using reassurance and
- short verbal explanations
Three to six-year-old pre-schoolers
Approval and praise are very important here. Pre-schoolers need consistent rules and routines. Avoid long-form verbal explanations as you are wasting your time at this point. Rather use
- attention redirection
- suitable consequences, following directly after the misbehavior
Six to twelve-year-old kids
Conflicts arise in this age group due to the need for freedom and autonomy. Consistent rules and consequences are essential here.
The best tips to discipline a child at this age a using positive discipline strategy
- encourage good performance and
- avoid judgment
Thirteen to eighteen-year-old adolescents
Your adolescent is sure to
- challenge your family rules
- accept peer practices as the most relevant
- demand independence
The best way to practice effective discipline in this age group is to
- be there for your teenagers, even when they seemingly don’t want guidance and approval … they do!
- avoid power struggles and long verbal explanations
- stop expecting the worse
- set age-appropriate rules
- enforce logical consequences that teach accountability, responsibility, trust, and self-control
What happens when the rules are disobeyed
Consequences need to be faced!
Newton said for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
This physics law also holds true when it comes to kids’ discipline. When rules are disobeyed there has to be consequences.
Although I do believe discipline should be more pro-active than reactive. In other words, we should discipline our kids to give them the necessary self-control and problem-solving skills to handle life situations better. But I still like to use Newton’s rule because discipline is there to help kids learn that every action has a consequence for which he or she is responsible.
And by encountering an unwanted consequence, it will remind them to choose wiser next time.
It’s all about learning there are always decisions to be made, and consequences to bear based on the decision made. And our job is to teach our kids what good choices are and how to make them.
Remember to keep in mind
disobedience should never be followed by punishment. Science has repeatedly proven that physical and/or verbal punishment does more harm than good. And, remember we said that discipline is never supposed to be a kind of punishment, physical or other. There are simply consequences when rules are not followed. And these should always be appropriate to the situation and age of our kids.
The most difficult part of practicing discipline with consequences, it not as much finding logical consequences as it is to allow consequences to happen. We don’t like sending our kids to school with dirty clothes because they forget to put it in the washing bin or send them to bed without a story because they didn’t brush their teeth.
But when we can’t follow through on consequences, there is no lesson to be learned other than unaccountability and unreliability.
Is it good to discipline a child
After reading this far, I know you already know my answer to this one! It’s not good to discipline your child, it’s essential! It teaches them vital life skills including
- responsibility and
- a healthy conscience
It’s your responsibility as a parent to discipline a child. And if you are still not convinced, here’s some food for thought.
One of the most common teenage disorders is obesity. Do you think we as parents have any control over this? To some extent, we do. How can we expect our teens to make responsible nutrition decisions if we didn’t teach them how to do it?
Making your nagging toddler eat his veggies is a form of discipline and vital when you want to avoid developmental delays and nutritional deficiencies. Similarly teaching our kids from young to eat healthily will help them understand the importance later in life.
So, if we don’t practice healthy eating discipline from a young age will they suffer from nutrition and eating disorders later in life? There’s a good chance.
This makes us realize again that discipline is one of the most important parenting skills we need to master as it is fundamental to raising happy and healthy kids.
So is it good to discipline your child? I think so …
What is the appropriate consequence for disobedience
Consequences should always
- follow directly after misbehavior
- be brief
- be executed with love, respect and
- in a kind and trust-building way
Effective forms of discipline
Discipline with a logical consequence teaches kids what is wrong and what is right and help them make good decisions.
Time-out, quiet time or taking a break
Time out can be used as a consequence after 24 months of age and throughout primary school years. It is an effective approach to enforcing discipline and will help kids learn self-control.
Here are some tips to use time-out correctly
- enforce time-out immediately after misbehavior
- one minute per year of age, to a maximum of 5 minutes
- identify an appropriate place without distractions
- send kids away with a simple explanation of why they are sent
- after time out, have a fresh start with a new activity
We don’t always have to use a time-out but simply need to redirect attention by taking a break or enforcing quiet time. This is as simple as walking away from an activity or focusing on a different one to gain back control and get a grip on emotions.
Removal of privileges
A great natural consequence that will help your child learn to appreciate privileges. Decreasing favorite pass times like watching TV or reading will incentivize them to obey rules.
Removal of privilege-consequences, that work well for teenagers specifically, is
- earlier bedtime
- less screen time
- less time with friends
Ineffective forms of discipline
There are certain forms of discipline that do more harm than good and we have to avoid at all means. Here are the most common ones
- long-form explanations
- inconsistent rules and consequences
- not following through on consequences, ie idle threats
- irrational or non-age appropriate consequences
- physical or verbal punishment
When should a child be disciplined?
At all times! Remember we said discipline is not punishment. It’s you teaching your child life skills.
And, that is something you need to do all the time. No matter where you are, or what you are doing, your kids need to
- know the rules
- understand the consequences of disobedience
And that will keep them safe and emotionally comfortable knowing what is expected from them. So remember
When kids have set boundaries they are free to enjoy life
Discipline is not only there to teach our kids good behavior but also to correct unwanted habits. They need to learn how to behave and also how not to behave. Discipline is therefore not used to control our kids but to teach them how to control themselves both socially and emotionally.
How do you discipline a child who won’t listen
Simple. By not engaging in a power struggle and following through on your rules with consequences.
Consequences are not negotiable and the responsibility lies with us to set rules and stick to it. As soon as our kids realize they can avoid being punished by struggling and defying our rules, we are back to step one.
But when this happens. Don’t panic. It simply means we need to set new or more logical rules, enforce them no matter what, and make sure our kids understand and obey them. Even when it takes a couple of frustrated tantrums and scream sessions (from them, never you!) to get it going.
Benefits of an effective discipline approach
In addition to all the social and emotional skill benefits we have already discussed, an effective discipline strategy will change your family life to enjoy more
- fun and
Isn’t that exactly the kind of family life we all strive towards?
So start today to plan and implement your discipline strategy and enjoy the immense benefits for you, your kids and your family. Leave a comment and let me know your biggest discipline struggle.
7 Must-know tips to discipline a child effectively
With answering all these kids’ discipline questions, we touched on seven brilliant tips you must know to discipline your kids effectively and peacefully. Here is a quick summary
- never yell, rather use attention diversion
- acknowledge good behavior and use positive reinforcement as it provides kids with an incentive to follow the rules
- set boundaries that are consistent and reasonable
- avoid power struggles and never enter into arguments
- know and accept age-appropriate behavior
- use logical consequences like time-out and removal of privileges
- choose your battles wisely and focus on what is important only, in other words, concentrate on events related to the safety of your child and others and not trivial matters
Grab your own discipline tips copy
Download and print out your own copy of the 7 tips on how to discipline your child template including the effective and ineffective forms of discipline. It’s available in an easy-to-use PDF worksheet.
Well, there you have it. All the most important information you need to know on how to discipline a child, with positive and peaceful parenting strategies. Hope it helps!
A final thought on how to discipline a child
None of us are perfect parents. No matter how hard we try. We all get tired and irritated at times. So if we can’t be perfect at practicing discipline, what do we need to do to raise obedient kids? We need to gather trustworthy information on how to discipline a child effectively, like everything you read here today, and use it to the best of our abilities without being discouraged by imperfect moments.
it’s not about getting it right all the time, it’s about having the knowledge and doing the best we can with it
Recommended discipline resource
When you need more discipline tips that really work, you have to check out no-drama discipline, it’s a must-read for all intentional parents.
- How you can raise brilliant kids
- 7 Super simple strategies to be an awesome parent
- How to be an awesome mom
- Effective discipline for children
- Childhood discipline
- Measurement of parental discipline and nurturance
- Discipline for young children
- Surprising reasons why we need to discipline children
- Discipline techniques that can worsen behavior problems
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