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8 Components of Effective Discipline

Posted: January 18, 2016 11:22 pm

It’s important to distinguish between punishment and discipline.  Punishment means to inflict a penalty for wrongdoing.  Discipline, from the root disciple, means to teach or train.  It’s critical that we use discipline to teach children how to be good, rather than inflict punishment when they’re not.

  1. A good relationship with a child is a prerequisite to effective discipline.
    When parents have a good relationship with a child, almost any form of discipline is effective.
  2. You must be in control of yourself.
    If you feel like you’re going to explode, take a time-out. It’s impossible to discipline effectively when you’re out of control, and it does more harm than good.
  3. Don’t yell, nag, or belittle!
    These are very ineffective techniques, and they harm the relationship more than help the situation. Some kids get unconsciously “turned on” by turmoil. When you feel like yelling, talk softly.
  4. Have a goal in mind for the behavior you’re trying to change.
    By viewing the process to change the behaviors you don’t like in a positive light, you’re more likely to be helpful to your child. Example: A mother with the goal of having her child stay near her in a grocery store would be more effective if she gave him a lot of positive attention for the time he stays near her, rather than giving him a lot of negative attention when he goes away from her.
  5. Develop a plan for discipline before you’re actually in the situation.
    This also prevents you from overreacting. Discipline should be as immediate as possible and should be a reminder to the child on how to change his or her behaviors. It should not be an assault.
  6. Whenever possible, use natural and logical consequences.
    Ask yourself, what’s the natural or logical consequence to the misbehavior? If the child is acting up at dinner, then he/she doesn’t get to finish dinner if everyone else is done.  If the child refuses to put away his or her toys, then it is logical that they will be taken away for several days.  Using these natural or logical consequences help children learn cause and effect and teaches them that they are responsible for their behavior.
  7. Attitude is everything.
    Many parents ask my opinion on spanking. I generally tell them that whether or not you spank a child has nothing to do with effective discipline.  How you discipline, not the method, is what’s important.
  8. Never withhold love, affection, or time from a child who has misbehaved.
    When children are in trouble, they need you the most. Let them know it’s their behavior you’re disciplining, but you still love them very much.

Learn how you can change your life for the better by changing your brain.  Get your copy of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life Revised and Expanded 2015, by Daniel G. Amen MD, one of the world’s foremost experts on brain health:

  • Tanis Robertson

    What is a natural/logical consequence to not cooperating with bedtime or morning daily routines?

    • What behaviour is disrupting the routine, and what is causing the disruption? It could be anxiety about going to school in the morning, seeing mommy leave, excess (unspent) energy from the day, and so on. You can observe when the behaviour begins to change and work from that point backward to understand the cause. The consequence depends on the cause, because when you have a given cause that produces an effect, and you want to change the effect, you can start at the root. You may want to ask, “what part of my relationship with my child creates a space for this behaviour to be a response?”, or “how can I train my child to respond differently to this situation?” I cannot point to a specific solution without knowing the cause, but generally you want to reinforce calming behaviours and break up behaviours of excitement or anxiety in the situations you outlined. So, if your child drinks pop or watches television within an hour of bedtime, consider removing those options and creating a time to interact with your child in a relaxing way, like offering a warm bath or reading a story. I hope these ideas are helpful and somewhat reflective of Dr. Amen’s philosophy. Good luck Tanis 🙂

    • Ginger Lee Tolman

      This gets asked a lot in my Love and Logic parenting classes that I teach. “What if there isn’t a logical consequence?” Think about it, what is lost during these times? TIME. This is where you use the “Energy Drain” technique. If your child is young and not going down for bedtime, the next day when they want something from you, you can reply with “Oh, man! I would love to take you to the park today, but I used up all of my park time trying to help you go to bed. It really drains my energy. How would you like to put that energy back?” Then, if wanted, provide them with choices: “Some kids like to let mom relax on the couch while they dust the house. Other kids like to hire a baby sitter so mom and dad can go to the movies. etc.” This helps them realize that whatever is lost, must be made up. In this instance, time. Hope that helps!

    • Dr. Daniel Amen

      Hi Tanis – Let your child know that he/she still has to get up at the same time the next day, even if
      they are tired, and go to bed earlier the next night, because they have not slept enough to
      “wash their brains.” When we sleep our brains actually eliminate waste and this helps the brain function better. For morning routines — They lose screen time when they get home,
      and have to do more chores because they have drained their mom’s energy with their lack of cooperation.

  • There is nothing logical or natural about toys being taken away if you don’t put them away. That is simply puniitve. The natural consequence is that the house is messy and it is harder to find things and that maybe people get hurt if things are in the way. Helping children learn executive function skills like organizing things or sticking to a clean-up plan of action do not come from punitive acts. I am surprised to find this advice from a “brain doctor.”

    And spanking absolutely matters! Spanking destroys the brain – no relationship with your parents will help that damage and a child’s ability to self regulate is greatly harmed by this kind of abuse. Spanking is a form of abuse, not discipline.