8 Ways to Discipline Your Child Without Spanking

Spanking is one of the most widely debated parenting topics. While most pediatricians and parenting experts don't recommend spanking, the vast majority of parents around the world admit to spanking their kids.

For many parents, spanking can feel like the fastest and most effective way to change a child's behavior. And it often works in the short-term. But, studies show corporal punishment has long-term consequences for kids.

If you're looking for alternative to spanking, here are eight ways to discipline your child without using physical punishment.

How to Discipline a Child

  • Time-Out
  • Losing privileges
  • Ignoring mild misbehavior
  • Teaching new skills
  • Logical consequences
  • Natural consequences
  • Rewards for good behavior
  • Praise for good behavior


There are lots of ways to discipline kids without spanking them.
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Hitting kids for misbehavior (especially aggression) sends a mixed message. Your child will wonder why it's OK for you to hit them, but not OK for them to hit their sibling. Placing a child in time-out can be a much better alternative. When done correctly, time-out teaches kids how to calm themselves down, which is a useful life skill.

But in order for a time-out to be effective, kids need to have plenty of positive time-in with their parents. Then, when they're removed from a situation, they will begin to learn to self-regulate, appropriately express their emotions, and make different choices in the future.


Losing Privileges

The goal is not to punish your child into submission, but to help them learn to make better choices for the future. This takes practice, however. If they make a poor choice, teach them the consequence is a loss of a privilege. The loss should be related to the behavior.

Make it clear when the privileges can be earned back. Usually, 24 hours is long enough to teach your child to learn from their mistake. So you might say, "You've lost TV for the rest of the day, but you can earn it back tomorrow by picking up your toys the first time I ask."


Ignoring Mild Misbehavior

Selective ignoring can actually be more effective than spanking. This doesn’t mean you should look the other way if your child is doing something dangerous or inappropriate. But you can ignore attention-seeking behavior.

When your child tries to get attention by whining or complaining, don’t give it to them. Look the other way, pretend you can't hear them and don't respond. Then, when they ask nicely or behave, return your attention to them. Over time, they will learn that polite behavior is the best way to get their needs met.  


Teaching New Skills

One of the main problems with spanking is that it doesn’t teach your child how to behave better. Spanking your child because they threw a temper tantrum won't teach them how to calm down the next time they are upset.

Kids benefit from learning how to problem-solve, manage their emotions and compromise. When parents teach these skills, it can greatly reduce behavior problems. Use discipline that is aimed at teaching, not punishing. 


Logical Consequences

Logical consequences are a great way to help kids who are struggling with specific behavior problems. Logical consequences are specifically tied to the misbehavior. 

For example, if your child doesn’t eat their dinner, don’t let them have a bedtime snack. Or if they refuse to pick up their trucks, don’t allow them to play with them for the rest of the day. Linking the consequence directly to the behavior problem helps kids see that their choices have direct consequences. 


Natural Consequences

Natural consequences allow children to learn from their own mistakes. For example, if your child says they are not going to wear a jacket, let them go outside and get cold—as long as it's safe to do so. Use natural consequences when you think your child will learn from their own mistake. Monitor the situation to ensure that your child won't experience any real danger.


Rewards for Good Behavior

Instead of spanking a child for misbehavior, reward them for good behavior. For example, if your child fights with their siblings often, set up a reward system to motivate them to get along better.

Providing an incentive to behave can turn around misbehavior fast. Rewards help kids to focus on what they need to do to earn privileges, rather than emphasize the bad behavior they're supposed to avoid.


Praise for Good Behavior

Prevent behavior problems by catching your child being good. For example, when they are playing nicely with their siblings, point it out. Say, “You are doing such a good job sharing and taking turns today.”

When there are several children in the room, give the most attention and praise to the children who are following the rules and behaving well. Then, when the other child begins to behave, give them praise and attention as well.

1 Source
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  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. What’s the best way to discipline my child?.

By Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, an international bestselling author of books on mental strength and host of The Verywell Mind Podcast. She delivered one of the most popular TEDx talks of all time.