Top Child Discipline Techniques and Ideas

As any parent with more than one child or child care provider can attest, what works in terms of a disciplinary approach for one child may not work as well with another. With differences in how kids react to discipline also comes an increased likelihood for parents to be less-than-consistent in their approach.

As a result, it's really no surprise that more than one-third of parents don't think their methods of discipline work well, according to a 2007 study of 2,134 parents with kids ages 2-11. Fortunately, child experts have indicated that there are some common basics to positive and effective discipline strategies for parents. Here are a few techniques to try:


Consistency Is Key

Since everyone has a different parenting/caregiver style, it's not practical to say that all discipline should be consistent all the time. Do try, however, to instill consistent rules, approaches, and even goals and rewards each day. Kids can find change or inconsistencies confusing, and may test limits or boundaries to see how far they can go with different adults. 

Consistency is crucial to predictability when it comes to parenting. When parents are consistent in their reactions and consequences, they become predictable to their children. Their child becomes able to predict how they will react in specific situations.


Seek Out the 'Why' of Misbehavior

When your child throws a cup and its contents spill on the carpet, a disciplinary consequence should be rendered, right? However, if you take the time to seek out the "why" to the behavior rather than just the action itself, you might be closer to figuring out your child's problem (at least in this instance).

If you determine that they threw their cup because the straw was clogged, for example, you might assess a different outcome or have a different conversation than if they threw it because they didn't want milk for a drink. Or, maybe they were mad at something else entirely, and this was how they handled it. By knowing the underlying cause, parents can then guide their child toward more appropriate behavior.


Avoid Power Struggles

Choose your battles very carefully—but once you've picked a battle then a parent/adult, in most cases, should win. Only address those issues that are truly important (safety is always a key battle) and let some of the other things go. If possible, offer choices while still setting reasonable limits.

But if an issue is important, parents should try to refrain from giving in to their child, even if it's "just this once." If you do this, then every time this particular issue comes up, your child will remember that you might just change your mind again and cave.


Emphasize and Praise Good Behavior

If your child's bad behavior won't cause any harm, such as a tantrum, whining, or another misbehavior, you can choose to ignore it. In these instances, an effective positive disciplinary approach can involve praising good behavior and rewarding it with hugs, high-fives, or special activities like a trip to the park.

While ignoring a screaming child is much easier said than done, they will eventually learn to associate good behavior with positive attention and praise, while learning that their bad behavior gains them nothing.


Keep Your Cool

Some children become intrigued seeing a rise out of an adult; blowing your top can be interesting to watch. But losing your temper can also be confusing to your child. Do your best to keep calm and in control, and if necessary, tell your child you're taking a brief "time out" to assess the situation and decide the appropriate consequence before taking action.

Don't give your child the opportunity to take advantage of your frazzled, mad, or emotional state. If you've made a mistake, learn from the experience by taking measures to stay calm, cool and collected the next time you feel anger starting to arise.

When you keep your cool and take a voluntary time out, you are modeling this positive behavior for your child. Knowing how to calm yourself down is an important skill to keep practicing and be able to teach your children.


Seek Out Discipline Supporters

Whenever someone else is watching your child, be sure to communicate your discipline style and request that the caregiver adopt a similar fashion. Likewise, if you do not believe in a certain approach (like spanking or a time-out chair), be sure to indicate this to a babysitter or early education teacher as well.

If you're checking out a new day care or preschool, take the time to ask about their disciplinary approaches. Parents may find that if they match their approach to the methods used at a child care setting, the results become more effective. The reason may be that kids respond to discipline tactics that are used with their peers. Consistency in discipline is important!


Learn Parenting and Discipline Styles

There are different types of parenting styles and approaches to discipline. Educating yourself on the various theories will help you feel informed and more in control when choosing how to react to a situation with your child.

Whether you choose positive discipline, boundary-based discipline, gentle discipline or another type, it is important to learn what each style is and choose the one that best fits your family and your parenting style.

16 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 Robin McClure
 Robin McClure is a public school administrator and author of 6 parenting books.