10 Common Child Discipline Mistakes Fathers Make

Father scolding his middle school aged son in the kitchen
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Discipline mistakes that fathers make can produce unintended results and create barriers to children's future good behavior. Watch out for these mistakes in your parenting and discover ways to overcome these ineffective tools.

Losing Your Temper

While the behavior of your child may make you crazy at times, you should always try to avoid discipling them when you're angry. Raising your voice, swearing, or getting out of control tends to teach the child that yelling, anger, and violence are acceptable in their relationships with friends and family.

Instead, when you feel the anger boiling up, take a few seconds or minutes of time-out and regroup. Children respond best to a calm, reasonable approach that is direct and precise.

Engaging in Physical Punishment

Physical punishment such as spanking, jerking a child by their arm, or hitting in any way is ineffective. It teaches a child that the way to deal with conflict is to use physical force. Again, take a timeout if you are tempted to use physical discipline.

Learning alternative child discipline skills can also help you break the tendency to lash out physically. Remember, your principal role is a teacher, not an enforcer.

Being Inconsistent

Many fathers may discipline their children in an inconsistent manner. The same behavioral offense will have different responses at different times. If one time your child uses a swear word you just laugh, and the next time (perhaps in a different company) you impose a grounding, the child will become confused and not know what is expected.

A well-established and understood set of rules and standards with defined consequences tends to work the best. Being consistent in child discipline is the best way to teach them what is or is not acceptable behavior.

Using Bribery

Trying to bribe a child to behave in a certain way by promising a reward only teaches a child that they get a prize if they act inappropriately first, and then change their behavior. You want them to act appropriately for the first time.

A good child discipline alternative is to remind them how good it feels to make the right choices or to simply give the predetermined positive consequence for positive behavior.

Having Unconnected Consequences

Children respond best when the consequences of their behavior seem to naturally flow. For example, staying out past curfew should have a consequence such as coming in earlier the following weekend. If the child proves that they cannot be trusted to live with a curfew, then they have to rebuild that trust over time.

Avoid giving an unrelated consequence, like a grounding for having an overdue library book. Try to find natural consequences. A child who punches a hole in a wall during a fit of anger could incur the logical consequence of having to pay to repair it or repair it themself. When the consequence does not fit the infraction, the lessons are not always learned.

Being Played Against the Other Parent

It is critical for parents to be united in the disciplinary strategy. If a child can run to one parent and find leniency, it tends to destroy the other parent's credibility. Never override the other parent's disciplinary decisions in public.

If you have a disagreement, discuss it privately with one another. Try to share the child discipline role between both parents regularly.

Confusing Your Role

Don't feel obligated to get your child's consent for the discipline you impose. You are the parent and have the responsibility to discipline. Your word on a disciplinary matter is final and is non-negotiable. As your child matures, you can begin to share reasons why you feel as you do about things, but in any case, your word is final.

Imposing Excessive Guilt

Trying to use guilt or shame almost always backfires. "I slave my life away for you, and you can't even clear your dishes off the table," and similar statements should be avoided. If you make a child feel responsible for things that go wrong in your life, you are acting like a codependent, not a parent. Stay away from the guilt trips and just impose consequences.


Pulling the child aside and giving them a monologue of all the reasons why some behavior was bad usually results in resentment rather than learning. A better approach to child discipline is a dialogue of finding out why the behavior was not what it should be. For example, if a child fails to do homework on time, a lecture on the value of education is probably not going to result in a change of behavior.

A more productive approach is to Identify the reasons why the homework was not turned in and then develop a plan to address the reasons.

Using Comparisons

"Your older sister was so good at practicing the piano every day; why can't you seem to get it?" You might see this approach as reassuring and offer hope. But instead, comparisons just breed resentment.

Maybe the older sister loved and had a talent for the piano, while the current child excels at something else and does not feel a passion for piano. The comparison serves no useful purpose. Try to see each child as a unique individual with their own talents and strengths.

A Word From Verywell

By being aware of these common mistakes in our approach to child discipline, you can see them coming and make adjustments. Finding better approaches like the ones suggested can help any dad become a better and more effective parent and teacher. Better techniques can lead to better behavior in the long run.

11 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wayne Parker
Wayne's background in life coaching along with his work helping organizations to build family-friendly policies, gives him a unique perspective on fathering.