5 Different Types of Child Discipline

Although new parenting books and child discipline strategies are always surfacing, many "new" parenting ideas are actually subtypes of five basic types of effective discipline. Parenting experts don’t always agree on which specific type of discipline is best in each situation. However, a kind but firm authoritative approach that uses consistent limits and consequences while also validating feelings is most often recommended.

Determining which type of discipline is right for your family should be a personal choice based on your temperament, your child’s temperament, and your family's discipline philosophies. There isn’t a single type of discipline that will work for all kids or all families and in every situation. It’s likely that you might take an eclectic approach, where you use a few different techniques from each type of discipline. Learn more about different types of discipline and how to use them.

Types of child discipline
Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin 

Positive Discipline

Positive discipline is based on praise and encouragement. Instead of focusing on punishment, parents keep making discipline about teaching.

Parents teach problem-solving skills and work with their children to develop solutions. Positive discipline uses family meetings and an authoritative approach to addressing behavior problems. Here's an example:

  • A 6-year-old refuses to do his homework. A parent using positive discipline might sit down with the child and say, “I know your teacher wants you to get your math paper done tonight and you don’t want to do it. What can we do to get that paper done so you’ll be able to show Mrs. Smith that you got all your homework done on time?”

Gentle Discipline

Gentle discipline focuses on preventing problems. Redirection is often used to steer kids away from bad behavior.

Kids are given consequences, but gentle discipline isn't about instilling shame. Instead, parents often use humor and distraction. The focus of gentle discipline is about parents managing their own emotions while addressing a child's misbehavior. Take this example:

  • A 6-year-old refuses to do his homework. A parent using gentle discipline might respond with humor by saying, “Would you rather write a two-page paper explaining why you didn’t want to do your math tonight?” Once the situation is diffused, a gentle disciplinarian would offer to look at the math paper alongside the child to discuss getting it done.

Boundary-Based Discipline

Boundary-based discipline focuses on setting limits and making the rules clear upfront. Kids are then given choices and there are clear consequences for misbehavior, such as logical consequences or natural consequences. Here's how it would play out in this case:

  • A 6-year-old refuses to do his homework. A parent using boundary-based discipline would set a limit and make the consequence clear by saying, “You won’t be able to use any of your electronics tonight until your work is done.”

Behavior Modification

Behavior modification focuses on positive and negative consequences. Good behavior is reinforced with praise or rewards. Misbehavior is discouraged through the use of ignoring and negative consequences, like the loss of privileges. For example:

  • A 6-year-old refuses to do his homework. A parent using behavior modification might remind the child of any prearranged rewards already in place by saying, “Remember, once you get your homework done, you get to use the computer for 30 minutes.” Praise would be offered if the child chooses to comply. The parent would ignore any protests.

Emotion Coaching

Emotion coaching is a five-step discipline process that focuses on teaching kids about feelings. When kids understand their feelings, they can verbalize them rather than act on them. Kids are taught that their feelings are okay and parents help teach them appropriate ways to deal with their emotions. Such as when:

  • A 6-year-old refuses to do his homework. Using emotion coaching, a parent helps the child identify feelings saying, “I know it makes you sad that you can’t play because you have to do your homework. Math can be hard and frustrating when you don’t know the answers or it takes a long time. Let’s draw how you feel when you do your math homework.”
5 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. American Academy of Pediatrics. What's the best way to discipline my child?.

  2. Effective discipline: A healthy approach. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(1):43-52.

  3. Augustine ME, Stifter CA. Temperament, Parenting, and Moral Development: Specificity of Behavior and Context. Soc Dev. 2015;24(2):285-303. doi:10.1111/sode.12092

  4. Setting limits for responsive discipline. University of Minnesota Extension. July 10, 2019

  5. How to Shape & Manage Your Young Child’s Behavior. Healthychildren.org. American Academy of Pediatrics.

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.