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How To Know When Your Child Needs Discipline

This is not about feeling good about parenting. Your job is to educate your kids through discipline so they have the skills to cope and the capacity to grow.


  • TIP: Ignore harmless behaviors rather than being so unyielding you inadvertently spur negative, though perhaps normal, reactions.
  • Step 1: Punish their defiance immediately and with firm, unemotional clarity. Allow them to ask questions and make suggestions but be clear that you are the authority who makes the final decision.
  • Step 2: Correct them when they speak disrespectfully, coaching them to repeat the complaint politely, until they get it right. They need help in how to conduct civil conversation. Model it by staying calm.
  • Step 3: Admit what you may have created by your inconsistency. If they are acting on your example, don’t discipline: demonstrate integrity and model the behavior you expect.
  • FACT: Twenty-two states still allow schools to use corporal punishment, as of 2009.
  • TIP: Ask the child, in age-appropriate circumstances, to participate by announcing what they need to perform well and thereby avert trouble.
  • Step 4: Assign consequences whenever a child, having been reminded or warned, violates expectations beyond just being on time. Give them a chance to choose, and then act, so they know they brought this on themselves.
  • Step 5: Swat the child on the seat of their pants once – don’t spank – if a warning fails to get their attention. The shock of the abrupt move jogs them enough to pay attention as you point, scold, explain, and direct.
  • Step 6: Remove the toddler from the area if they are hitting someone and isolate them in a room as a consequence for being anti-social and dangerous.
  • TIP: Spell out rules and expectations ahead of time, being consistent with your partner so there is no confusion.
  • Step 7: Demand the school-age child should get up, come to meals, get to school, and finish homework on time. Failure to respect the schedule has consequences.
  • Step 8: Teach discipline as soon as the child is able to move around. Your voice carries weight – deep, sharp, one-word warnings get their attention if they are about to touch or eat something that could hurt them.

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