Discipline: Knowing the Facts

Discipline is never the fun part of parenting. In fact, many parents dread the moment when they’ll need to discipline their child in hopes of teaching him or her to behave in a better manner. Oftentimes, parents are influenced on discipline by their culture, society, friends and family. Parents look to who they know and what worked for others. However, it is very important that parents look to childlife experts who dedicate their lives, time and money to understanding children and how it is that we can all help them grow and succeed in life. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that not all childlife experts agree on the role of various disciplinary methods.

In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 16,916 children were observed and interviewed, as well as their parents. Parenting practices, along with discipline, were observed. At the end of the study, there were interesting findings on results of discipline. One result concluded, “children in low-risk families were also negatively affected by harsh parental discipline concurrently and over time. In conclusion, harsh parental discipline predicted emotional and behavioral problems in high- and low-risk children and moderated the effects of family poverty and adversity on these problems.” Overall, harsh discipline had a negative impact on all children who received that treatment.

Another study that looked for ways in which they could help advocate for good behavior found that “when communicators praise consumers, an assertive tone may be more effective in encouraging behavior, whereas scolding requires a non-assertive tone.” In other words, to produce results, an assertive yet loving voice is a driving force. Often times, praise is more powerful than a yell. When positivity is used in place of harsh discipline, better results are produced and children are  encouraged.

So what are the ages at which certain discipline practices should occur?

  • 0-2: With curiosity and mirroring at an all time high, parents should say “no” and remove the child from the situation if possible. Mobility brings on a lot of learning for both parents and children.
  • 3-5: Children are becoming aware of who they are and what they can do. Parents, explain to your child why they can’t touch something or go somewhere. Praise them for what they do well and right.
  • 6 to 10: At this age, timeouts and consequences for actions are a good thing. Unrealistic threats don’t do a lot to help the child. Kidshealth.org states “Huge punishments may take away your power as a parent. If you ground your son or daughter for a month, your child may not feel motivated to change behaviors because everything has already been taken away.”  Be sure to try and understand what your child needs.
  • 11 and up: Taking away privileges is by far the most effective form of punishment at this age. “Remember to give a teenager some control over things. Not only will this limit the number of power struggles you have, it will help your teen respect the decisions that you do need to make. You could allow a younger teen to make decisions concerning school clothes, hair styles, or even the condition of his or her room. As your teen gets older, that realm of control might be extended to include an occasional relaxed curfew.”

Disciplinary spanking is one of several methods of correction in the discipline of a child. When used properly, it can be useful and effective. Like all methods of correction, when used improperly or on impulse, it can be counter-productive and detrimental to the parent-child relationship. How a parent uses a corrective measure will often determine its effectiveness. If you choose to use spanking, the guidelines in the following ACPeds parent information handout will help you maximize its effectiveness: Disciplinary Spanking

Each child is different and has different needs and parents need to adjust accordingly. Children will grow and remember the ways in which they were disciplined. Remember that the way your child is disciplined, can determine a lot of successes and failures later in life.

To better understand discipline and know when and how to, see the links below.

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Block, S. D., Poplin, A. B., Wang, E. S., Widaman, K. F., & Runyan, D. K. (2016). Variation in acceptable child discipline practices by child age: Perceptions of community norms by medical and legal professionals. Behavioral Sciences & The Law, 34(1), 95-112. doi:10.1002/bsl.2237

Flouri, E., & Midouhas, E. (2017). Environmental adversity and children’s early trajectories of problem behavior: The role of harsh parental discipline. Journal Of Family Psychology, 31(2), 234-243. doi:10.1037/fam0000258

GRINSTEIN, A., & KRONROD, A. (2016). Does Sparing the Rod Spoil the Child? How Praising, Scolding, and an Assertive Tone Can Encourage Desired Behaviors. Journal Of Marketing Research (JMR), 53(3), 433-441. doi:10.1509/jmr.14.0224

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