Surprising Reasons Why We Need to Discipline Children

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If you’ve ever known kids who are not regularly disciplined by their parents, you’ve probably seen some very stark examples of why it’s important to discipline children.

Discipline is not only good for children, but it is also necessary for their happiness and well-being. Discipline is as vital for healthy child development as nutritious food, physical and cognitive exercises, love, and other basic needs. Without discipline, children lack the tools necessary to navigate relationships and challenges in life such as self-discipline, respect for others, and cooperating with peers.


Contrary to what some parents may mistakenly believe, children who are not regularly disciplined are not happy. In fact, failure to discipline children often results in kids who are unhappy, angry, and even resentful. To those around them, a child who is not disciplined will be unpleasant company, and a child without discipline may find it difficult to make friends.

For school-age children, in particular, learning how to manage their own behavior and regulate their negative impulses is particularly crucial. As elementary-school-age children head into adolescence and the turbulence of the teenage years, they will be much more likely to successfully navigate challenges and temptations if they have the tools to discipline themselves.

How Discipline Works

There are many reasons why a parent may not want to discipline a child. Some parents may be reluctant to discipline children because they want to avoid conflict or because they don’t want to have their child be angry at them. Others may be unable or unwilling to devote time and energy to the task of disciplining children.

Some people may have unpleasant memories of being disciplined when they were children and may want to make things easier on their own kids by relaxing rules and giving them more free rein.

But the fact is, discipline is not about creating conflict with your child or lashing out in anger. Child discipline, when done correctly, is not about trying to control your child but about showing them how to control their own behavior. It is not about punishing a child for doing something wrong but about setting clear parameters and consequences for breaking rules so that they learn how to discipline themself.

A child who has been taught right from wrong and has a solid sense of what is negative and positive behavior will know when they have done something wrong. They will want to behave correctly out of a desire to be a good citizen and a member of their family and society—not because they fear punishment.

Setting Foundations for Good Behavior

What many parents who are reluctant to discipline children may not understand is how damaging it can be for a child to lack boundaries. Without discipline, children will be deficient in important life skills including the following:

  • They will be more likely to engage in negative behaviors that are harmful and even potentially dangerous for themselves as well as others.
  • They will be unhappy.
  • They will be willful, selfish, and generally unpleasant company.
  • They will lack self-control.
  • They will not have social skills that are important for making friends such as empathy, patience, and knowing how to share.
  • They will not know what is appropriate behavior.
  • They will not respect their parents or other authority figures.

Traits Discipline Encourages

On the other hand, children who have been given firm but loving guidance will benefit from traits and abilities like the following:

  • They are more responsible and enjoy "being good" and helping others at home, at school, and in the world at large.
  • They are more self-confident. They know their opinions and feelings will be heard and that their parents love them even when they make mistakes.
  • They are pleasant to be around and are more likely to have an easier time making friends.
  • They have more self-control and are more self-sufficient.
  • They know that they are accountable for their mistakes or misbehavior, and are more likely to make good choices because they want to, not because they fear punishment.

A Word From Verywell

Of course, how we discipline is as important as whether or not we discipline. Disciplining a child does not mean yelling or losing one’s temper (though being human, all parents can certainly have those moments when we can get angry or frustrated by a child’s bad behavior).

The key to positive child discipline is keeping your cool (and giving yourself a time out if necessary) so that you can communicate with your child calmly about what is and is not acceptable behavior and how they can make better choices and learn from his mistakes.

3 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.
  1. Effective discipline: A healthy approach. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(1):43-52. doi:10.1093/pch/9.1.43

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Parenting knowledge, attitudes and practices.

  3. Hosokawa R, Katsura T. Role of parenting style in children's behavioral problems through the transition from preschool to elementary school according to gender in Japan. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;16(1) doi:10.3390/ijerph16010021

By Katherine Lee
Katherine Lee is a parenting writer and a former editor at Parenting and Working Mother magazines.