Do You Really Know How to Discipline Your Child?

Knowing how to discipline a child is something that many parents struggle with. Learn what discipline really means and effective strategies and tips on HealthyPlace.

Knowing how to discipline a child is one of the top issues that parents struggle with. Children are still learning social norms and acceptable behavior. As they grow, they begin to internalize rules and limits, a process that involves testing them. Remembering that they’re learning, processing, and testing your rules will help you avoid reacting without thinking and punishing them. Even though it’s hard to know with certainty how to discipline your child, you can learn to do it positively and well.

How to Discipline a Child: Know the Meaning of “Discipline”

The word discipline doesn’t mean punish. To discipline means to teach. The act of disciplining your child is about guiding them and teaching them tools for positive behavior. Through your teaching over the course of their development from infancy to adulthood, good behavior will prevail over misbehavior.

There is a common misconception of what it means to discipline a child. Rather than punishing that child as a short-term solution of a misdeed, at the heart of child discipline are long-term goals. How do you want your child to be, to function, as an independent adult? Your answer will guide you when you discipline your child.

True discipline isn’t problem-focused. It’s focused instead on shaping your child to develop positive character traits. Approach discipline as long-term goals to concentrate on teaching your kids how to behave and function in society. To discipline a child means to guide them every day as they build respect and responsibility and self-regulation skills.

When you think of disciplining your child, let these questions guide you:

  • Will my actions guide my children?
  • Does what I’m doing teach them to be respectful to others?
  • What messages are they taking from my discipline?

Discipline and Your Parenting Style

There are different approaches to parenting, all with different discipline styles. How to discipline a child effectively involves adopting the most helpful parenting style. Three major parenting styles are authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive parenting. Of these, authoritative is considered by parenting and child development experts to be the healthiest.

Regarding discipline, authoritative parents have a healthy approach. These parents:

  • Create firm expectations, boundaries, and limits
  • Make them clear to their kids
  • Consistently follow through with consequences when their kids misbehave
  • Know that discipline is about love and affection, and they use them to show their kids that they’re valued even when they make mistakes.

The other two styles are examples of how not to discipline a child.

  • Authoritarian parents have clear, rigid rules
  • Enforce them with punishments
  • Show little affection for their kids.
  • Permissive parents set few rules, and the ones they make are undefined and enforced inconsistently  
  • They lavish love and affection onto their kids.

There are healthy ways to discipline your child. The following strategies and tips will guide you so you can guide your kids.

How to Discipline a Child: Effective Discipline Strategies and Tips

The following ideas will help you know how to discipline your child in a way that fits you, your child, and your long-term goals for them.

Reward the good. Pay attention to your kids, and catch them being good. Tell them when you notice them doing something positive. Occasionally reward your kids for good behaviors in order to reinforce the cooperation and character traits you are teaching them. Observing and pointing out positive behaviors is more effective than waiting for them to do something wrong and then punishing them for it.

Structure and consistency. Your child needs structure and routine in order to thrive. To behave well, they need clear and specific guidelines. To follow rules and stay within boundaries, kids need to know what they are. Be open in your communication and ensure that your child understands what you expect and what they consequences will be if they break the rules.

Discipline for the big picture. When you remember that discipline means guiding your kids so they grow into well-functioning adults, you will be more confident in knowing how to discipline your child. Use these principles to help you:

  • Look for underlying reasons for their behavior. Are they tired, hungry, or emotional from a rough day at school? Talking to them about these is more helpful than punishing them for misbehaving.
  • Be respectful of your child, even when you are delivering a consequence.
  • Always be willing to create fresh starts. When you’ve given a consequence and your child has had some space and time to cool down, offer a fresh start. The consequence still holds, but your child learns how to move on after problems.

Discipline isn’t an easy part of child-raising, but it’s important in order to facilitate healthy development and character-building. The more you know about how to discipline your child, the easier it will become.

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article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 17). Do You Really Know How to Discipline Your Child? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Last Updated: January 17, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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