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We store items in an attic that we don’t use daily but occasionally need. Likewise, the Discipline Toolset is in the attic, because we don’t use these tools constantly. We use discipline when other efforts have been unsuccessful or when more serious problems arise.

If we are frustrated and don’t have the knowledge or skills to properly repair something in our house, we might hit it with the closest tool we can find. Sometimes, this approach can make the item start working again, but we haven’t really solved anything and might have caused more damage. Sooner or later, the problem will arise again. It is better to take the time to use the best tool correctly.

Some parents lack the knowledge or skills to discipline appropriately. When they are frustrated, they get desperate. Thinking a drastic measure will shock children into obedience, they punish them. While punishment might bring some short-term change, the underlying problem still exists and the punishment itself usually creates new problems. When we use discipline appropriately, we can teach children self-discipline, self-responsibility, and how to learn from their mistakes.



The Discipline Toolset asks us to consider four important parenting ideas:

  1. There is a difference between “discipline” and “punishment.” Discipline is the best tool to use if we want to reach our positive, long-term parenting goals.
  2. There are four important parts of discipline that must be present for it to be effective. If any parts are missing, it turns our discipline into punishment and/or makes our discipline tools ineffective.
  3. There are specific discipline tools we can choose for certain types of problems.
  4. With this toolset, we now have all the tools we need to plan the most appropriate response to any problem.


Usually, we use the Discipline Toolset as the last of several attempts to resolve a Parent problem. Sometimes, when we are dealing with extreme behavior, we use the Discipline Toolset as the last part of our three-sentence PASRR response formula. If we use the Discipline Toolset too often or misuse it, the tools lose their effectiveness.



As with other terms in The Parent’s Toolshop, “discipline” has a specific meaning, which is different from “punishment.”



Punishment is over-controlling, autocratic parenting method. One of its basic beliefs is that children must feel bad to “learn their lesson.”


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Punishment imposes physical or emotional suffering, such as spanking, slapping, yelling, criticizing, or using guilt trips. It is common to find parenting advice such as “make sure you take away your child’s favorite activity” or “make the quarreling children sit together in an uncomfortable chair until they work out the problem.” Why restrict a favorite activity if it has nothing to do with the misbehavior? We want to add suffering! Why not let children sit in a comfortable chair or a “heart-to-heart corner” like I have in my house? Adding this extra suffering is sure to cause the children to dread problem solving, because it is an uncomfortable, punishing experience! Ideally, we want our children to someday sit together voluntarily to resolve problems. We shortchange our children’s abilities when we assume they must suffer to learn.

This idea, that people must feel bad to learn, is illogical. Imagine if every time you sat to read this book, chains whipped around your legs and you could not move from your chair. How would you feel about reading this book? How would you feel about me? Could you concentrate or would you be distracted from the lessons? Any time someone is suffering, it makes learning more difficult and builds resentment toward the person who inflicts the suffering.

Parents most commonly use punishment to exert power or get revenge. Most parents wish they could control their children’s behavior and feel angry, hurt, or frustrated when they can’t. Punishment can feel satisfying to angry, frustrated parents, but does not help children learn self-control and self-discipline. Punishment teaches parents, not children, to be responsible for controlling children’s behavior. It becomes the parent’s job to catch children being good and reward them, then catch them being bad and punish them.

The most extreme punishments impose physical suffering; other punishments are usually the result of parents misusing discipline. Slaps across the face or hands, pushing or shoving, grabbing arms, necks, or ears and dragging are all physical forms of punishment that border on abuse. It’s sad, but in many countries, children (and often wives) are viewed as property and parents (or husbands) are allowed, by law, to abuse them.

Spanking is a punishment chosen by many parents of young children. Most parents spank when they are frustrated by a situation or because nothing else seems to work. Spanking is usually a reflection of the parent’s lack of skill, patience, self-control, or knowledge. Some parents, however, actually believe spanking is a valuable, effective parenting tool—and some parenting resources even offer rules for spanking. (I won’t!) Spanking teaches fearful obedience to the person who has the most physical power.1 While spanking seems to quickly curb misbehavior, long-term research studies have found that the more a parent spanks a child for misbehaving, the worse, over time, that child behaves.2

The most common justification for spanking and physical punishment (also known as “corporal” punishment) is the “Spare the rod, spoil the child” quote from Proverbs. In the 23 Psalm, it says, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” In both instances, the “rod” is a shepherd’s cane, which the shepherd uses to guide the flock, not beat it into submission. Another ancient definition of “rod” is a standard of measurement. Each night, shepherds used a rod to stop each sheep for a health inspection before allowing it to join the other sheep. Using these interpretations, the scripture instructs parents to provide standards and boundaries for children and to lovingly guide them—or children will become spoiled.



Punishment is an illusion; it only seems to work. If children stop misbehaving, parents get an immediate payoff, which reinforces the belief that the punishment worked. Sure, sometimes punished children behave, but they are motivated to avoid negative results. We want children to choose positive behavior because they understand the value of it.


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Punishment reinforces or escalates intentional misbehavior cycles. Punishment gives misbehavior attention, even if it’s negative attention. Since punishment is based on power, it escalates power struggles. Punishment is often a parent’s way to get revenge, which escalates revenge cycles. If punishment occurs for even small offenses, children may give up.

Children become immune to punishment. Eventually, children develop a defensive “You can’t hurt me” attitude. Parents feel their threats and punishments must become increasingly harsh. This increases the risk of the punishment crossing the line into abuse.

Punishment cancels responsibility. Once the suffering is over, children think they have paid for their mistake. If they are willing to “do the time,” they can again choose to “do the crime.” The only lessons children learn from punishment are the importance of power, how not to get caught, and that others are responsible for controlling their behavior. Children don’t learn self-discipline or to make amends for the results of their actions. 

Before choosing a discipline, ask yourself, “What will this discipline teach?” 

Physical punishment teaches unhealthy lessons:

  • Superior people have the right to hurt those who are inferior.
  • Physical violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts and get revenge.
  • It’s okay for parents to hit children.
  • Parents can do whatever they want, even if it is unreasonable or harmful. Children must do whatever parents say.
  • If I hit you because I “love you,” then hitting is acceptable in love relationships. That’s how people show love.

Physical punishment breeds violence. All abusive people witnessed or experienced abuse at some time in their lives. They may not like being violent, but they have not learned other ways to express themselves or resolve conflict. The good news is that not all abused children grow up to be abusive adults. They have free will and can make a conscious choice to break the punishment/abuse cycle and learn healthier skills.

If you say, “I spank, but I’m not abusive,” consider the effects of milder physical punishments. Many nonabusive parents who once used physical punishment make comments like the following:

  • “I always slapped my kid’s hand, until he started slapping me back.”
  • “I used to spank my kid, but he’s getting too old for that.” (Now these parents must either increase the physical punishment or change their whole approach.)
  • “I saw my child spanking her doll and yelling at it, the way I yell and spank her.”
  • “My child hit another child because he didn’t get what he wanted. I realized that’s what I do!”

Usually, the children are imitating adults (not just parents) who have made a powerful impression on them. For many parents, these experiences are a wake-up call that what they are doing is unhealthy and ineffective.

Punishment lowers self-esteem. Punishment hurts. It’s difficult for children to understand how any-one who hurts them could also love them. Punished children begin to see themselves as unloved and unlovable. They believe they are worthless because they have been told they are bad people.

The emotional scars can last a lifetime. People do not need physical scars to feel abused. Many adults can vividly remember how they felt when they were punished as children. Their obedience was out of fear, not out of respect or from having “learned their lesson.” If you ask them why they were punished, most cannot remember what they did wrong, only how they felt about the punishment and the punisher.


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A Graduate’s Story. During a group discussion about discipline, a woman said, “When I was a child, my momma would beat me with a switch until I bled. She was mean and abusive and I hated her for it! I didn’t learn nothin’ from it. My grandma also lived with us and there were lots of times she whipped me with a switch—and I’m glad she did! She wasn’t mean and I always learned my lesson. So isn’t it okay to whip kids if we aren’t mean about it?”

I was surprised by this mother’s comparison and decided to explore it further. I asked her, “When your grandmother whipped you, was it just as hard as your mother’s whipping?” She said, “Sometimes. There were lots of times she left marks, too, but I learned from her whippin’s.” Still confused, I added, “Then what was so different about your grandma’s whippings?” She explained, “My grandma would sit me on her lap and explain what I done wrong and why it was wrong. Then she told me I had to get a whippin’ for it and had me go outside and pick the switch she would use.” Now it was making more sense to me. I asked her, “Is it possible that the reason you learned from your grandma’s punishment was that she sat you on her lap and taught you right from wrong?” She thought for a second and I think I might have actually seen a light bulb go off above her head. She said “Yes!” So I added, “Do you also think it is possible that if your grandma had those talks with you without the whipping that you also would have learned a lesson?” She willingly nodded her head in agreement. Then I asked one final question, “Looking back, which do you remember more, your grandmother’s lessons or the whippings that came after them?” She thoughtfully answered, “the whippings.” “So,” I concluded, “if you had learned the same lessons without the whipping, do you think you’d remember them better?” “Definitely,” she said cheerfully.

Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline, sums up the effects of punishment as “The Four R’s of Punishment3 .” When parents use punishment, it can have any or all of the following results. 


RESENTMENT (“This is unfair.”)

REVENGE (“They are winning now, but I’ll get even.”)

RETREAT: Reduced self-esteem (“I am a bad person.”) or sneakiness (“I won’t get caught next time.”)

REBELLION (“I’ll do it anyway, just to prove who’s in control.”)



The basic belief of discipline is that children can learn from their mistakes without adding extra suffering. In fact, the more one learns, the less one suffers. The suffering children experience in discipline is usually the natural result of what they did. When someone else inflicts extra suffering, it turns the discipline into unhealthy, unhelpful punishment.

The word “discipline” comes from the Greek word “ disciple.” Disciples follow a leader who guides them. The parent’s role in discipline, therefore, is that of teacher and leader, not controller. The focus is on solutions and lessons, not imposing consequences. Discipline teaches several important lessons:

  • Behavior is a choice. Every action has an effect, positive or negative. (This is a universal law of nature!) Therefore, children’s behavior choices determine whether they will experience positive or negative outcomes. When children choose irresponsible behavior and it does not reward their goals, they see no purpose in continuing to act negatively. If we show them positive ways to meet their goals, they naturally choose these more effective behavior. Poor behavior choices are mistakes that provide opportunities to learn better behavior.


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  • Children are responsible for controlling their own behavior. Parents are responsible for holding children accountable for their behavior choices and helping them see the lesson each mistake holds. With punishment, parents do something to children. When trying to overpower or control children, parents decide the discipline for them. If parents use these quick fixes rather than long-range teaching, children miss opportunities to learn self-discipline. Ideally, we want to involve children and plan the discipline with them. Only then will children fully understand their behavior (and its outcome) are within their control.

Discipline has “Four R’s4 “ too. For discipline to be effective, it must meet all the following criteria. 



To be effective, discipline must be:

REVEALED ahead of time, whenever possible.

Logically RELATED to the behavior.

REASONABLE in extent and/or time limit.

Mutually RESPECTFUL to children and parents.

If any of the “Four R’s of Discipline” are missing, it can bring on the “Four R’s of Punishment.”



If we want self-disciplined children, they need to know their behavior is a choice. Revealing discipline lets children know what they can expect from their behavior choices—misbehavior has negative outcomes and positive behavior has value. When we reveal these behavior choices and the outcomes, children can make educated decisions about their behavior.

A Graduate’s Story. I took my two girls and three other children, all under age five, to swim at a lake. In the car, I realized how difficult it would be to watch so many kids and prevent an accident. As we drove, I revealed my rules for swimming. I said, “It’s important that you stay in the shallow water, because you could drown if the water is too deep. You can walk into the lake until the water touches your bellybutton. Then you need to stop. If you choose to go out farther in the water, I’ll know you’ve decided to sit with me on the beach until you are ready to swim safely.”

When we got to the lake, the kids went into the water. One boy inched his way into the water. He called to me, “Lory! The water’s touchin’ my bellybutton!” Then he stopped. My daughter and another child went out too far. I called to them, “The water is above your bellybutton!” The girls came out of the water and ran over to my towel. They said, “We’ve decided to take a break for awhile.” I was surprised that they said this and knew they probably wanted to save face, so I didn’t add any lectures. They were actually disciplining themselves!

The most effective discipline is preventive discipline. Use questions to help children figure out and understand the need for a rule. For example, “What could happen if you ride your bike in the street? (Wait.) So where should you ride your bike?” We can reveal discipline with helpful questions. “If you ride in the street, are you showing you are ready to handle bike privileges responsibly?” (Wait.) We can then present discipline as a choice. “So you can ride your bike on the sidewalk or put the bike away.”

Revealing discipline differs from making threats.   Threats are power plays. “If you don’t stop _____, I’m going to ___.” Threats send the message that it is the parent’s responsibility to control the child. Threats challenge children to test the parents’ willingness to follow through. Revealing


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discipline is most effective if we ask helpful questions such as “What would happen if you did that?” This helps us avoid lecturing or threatening. If children understand the value of positive behavior, have the skills to behave appropriately, understand the results of negative behavior and still make a poor behavior choice, they either forgot (PU) or are testing whether the outcome will really happen (PO). Therefore, consistent follow through is vital. If children complain or accuse parents of being unfair, parents can ask children to think about the choices and outcomes they discussed earlier. Poor behavior choices are a normal part of growing up, but children can learn from these mistakes and make improvements for the future.

Sometimes threats are vague, with no realistic consequence. “If you don’t stop, you’re going to get it!” These are empty threats—parents let off steam, but their words are just hot air. The most common threat is a 1-2-3 threat, “You have until I count to three to do it.” Counting teaches children they don’t have to do “it” the first time parents ask. Children rarely respond at 1, because they know we won’t follow through until we reach 3!

Some threats repeat the same statement in a louder or firmer tone of voice. “Please stop . . . I said, ‘Stop!’ . . . STOP IT OR ELSE!” These threats condition children not to respond unless parents yell or threaten. We might as well say, “Keep it up. I’m not really angry, yet.” Our goal is to have children respond the first time we ask them to cooperate. If we need to say something more than once, we want each statement to make a specific, different, increasingly firm message. Our first sentence invites cooperation (Step A: Prevent the problem). The second Acknowledges their feelings, but Sets limits (Steps B and C1). At this point we have made it clear that this behavior is unacceptable. If children misbehave again, they either haven’t mastered the proper behavior (PU) or are doing this to serve a purpose (PO). To Redirect the misbehavior, without starting or escalating negative behavior cycles, our third statement Reveals their choice—a positive way to meet their purpose or experience the effect of continuing the behavior. This last statement lets children know that the next step, should they choose to take it, is discipline.

Sometimes, we can’t reveal discipline in advance, because we don’t always expect a problem. When these situations arise and we want to reveal the discipline for repeated misbehavior, we quickly move through the Universal Blueprint’s PASRR formula (detailed above). If the behavior is so severe that immediate discipline is necessary, it is best to use problem solving to discuss the problem and reveal discipline. We learn how to do this later in this chapter.

Threats make parents responsible for children’s behavior choices and invite rebellion.
Respectfully reveal children’s behavior choices and hold them accountable. 


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If discipline isn’t logically related to the misbehavior or lesson children need to learn, it seems like the parent made up an unfair punishment or is trying to get revenge. This shifts the focus away from the lesson to who is in power. Together, these attitudes can cause or escalate power struggles, revenge cycles, and rebellion.

If the logical connection between a behavior and the effect isn’t obvious, state it or ask a helpful question so the child can figure it out. Otherwise, children don’t understand the logic of the discipline.

A Graduate’s Story. This week, I had a situation where my discipline really backfired, but I can’t figure out what I did wrong! My son, Chad, said he’d be home at five o’clock. We needed to eat before we left for church at six o’clock. At five thirty, Chad came home. I said, “We had an agreement that you would be home at five. Hurry up and eat.” When six o’clock arrived, Chad had finished his meal, but not his dessert. I told him he couldn’t have his dessert because he came home late. He became very upset and yelled at me and said I was being unfair. We had an agreement, I was respectful when he broke his agreement, and he didn’t have time to finish his dessert, so it seemed like a logical discipline.

This mother didn’t do anything wrong, but she did neglect to state the logical connection between being late and not getting dessert—their need to leave for church on time. She said her son couldn’t have dessert because he came home late. Her son didn’t see how dessert and being late were logically related. She would have been clearer to say, “We need to leave at six, so you don’t have time to eat your dessert.” Sometimes we need to explain that “Because A (misbehavior) happened, B happened. Therefore, C (discipline) is the outcome (or solution).” We can also ask this as a question, “What happened when A (misbehavior)?” (The answer is B.) “So what do you think will happen now?” (The answer is C, a logical outcome.)

Choose the most logically related discipline tool for the situation. Many parents use one discipline tool for everything—restrictions, grounding, or time-outs. Each of these disciplines, however, are only logically related to certain types of misbehavior. If any of these options become a regular way of disciplining, without any logical connection to the misbehavior, it decreases the effectiveness of the tool. It also brings on one or more of the Four R’s of Punishment. Since people can misuse discipline tools, to punish, we will learn when and how to apply each tool, according to the Four R’s of Discipline.



“Reasonable” usually relates to time—how long a discipline lasts.

  • If the time is too short, children might not learn the lesson the discipline can teach.
  • If the time is too long, children resent that they’ve learned the lesson but are still being punished. It seems unfair, which causes resentment and rebellion. This shifts the focus from the lesson to our power to make them suffer longer.

Consider the cost and benefit of the discipline. For example, a messy room is less important than the value of participating in a community project. If children plan ahead, they have time to do both. If children don’t clean their room and the parent doesn’t let the child participate in the community project, the child is missing out on a lesson far more important than cleanliness. Reduced playtime would be more related and reasonable.

Discipline must be enforceable, so we aren’t forced to back down. What if we say, “Leave the room” to older children and they refuse to go? It’s hard to make them leave without physical force, which escalates the situation and borders on punishment or abuse. We can say, “I will leave” and still enforce it.

When setting time limits for discipline, consider hours or even minutes, rather than days or weeks. Use times in your regular routine as possible time markers. For example, “I can see you need to come inside until we finish lunch.” Or “You’ll have another chance to try after school.” With young


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children, start with the shortest time possible (minutes) and make it tangible. (“It will be time to leave when Sesame Street is over.”) Remember the child’s sense of time and make it age-appropriate. (We discuss time limits further in the “Restrictions” section.)

Focus on the lesson and the “next chance to try,” not on the discipline itself. We want to give children a chance to practice what they learn from discipline while the lesson is still fresh. After we decide a reasonable time, focus any further comments on when their “next chance to try” will occur. Express your confidence in their ability to choose more wisely next time. Describe in positive, specific terms the behavior you want to see, “You can have another chance (when) to show you can (describe positive behavior).”

For example, “You can have another chance after dinner to show you can keep your bike on the sidewalk.” (Notice, I did not say “. . . not ride in the street.” Remember, “Don’t say Don’t.”)

Every time the same behavior occurs, increase the length of time by small increments. (This is called a “progressive” restriction, which we will discuss further in the “Restrictions” section.) If a time is unreasonable, any increase makes it even more unreasonable. If it is short and reasonable, with a chance to improve, any repeated misbehavior can be connected to the lesson. “When someone (behavior), it shows they haven’t learned how to (describe positive behavior) yet. During the next (time) you can plan a way to show you have learned this behavior.”

“Reasonable” can also refer to the extent of the discipline. Avoid tacking on extra suffering. It shifts the focus from the lesson to the parent’s control and desire for revenge. For example, a child was supposed to do the dishes, but some dishes weren’t cleaned properly. An unreasonable discipline is to clean all the dishes again. The child will ask, “Why should I have to wash a clean dish?” The honest answer to this question is because the parent wants to make the child suffer. There are few, if any, circumstances when “If you don’t do the job right, you have to do the entire job again.” If my hair stylist misses a lock of hair, I won’t ask her to cut all my hair again! If I miss a few leaves when I’m raking, I’m not going to throw the pile of leaves back on the lawn and start over! If the focus of the discipline is on learning, it must be reasonable. Only those dishes that are still dirty need to be washed again. I can ask my stylist to even up the haircut. I can simply rake the remaining leaves. This teaches a much healthier lesson about mistakes: “Mistakes can happen, but we want to fix them or prevent them if possible.”

A Parenting Class Discussion. A man in my class said, “When I was a child and misbehaved, my parents would threaten to throw away my favorite toy. Several times they followed through with this threat.” Clearly, this was not logically related or reasonable, so I asked him, “What did you learn?” He said, “I learned never to get attached to anything, because it could be ripped away, and never to show my love for a favorite toy or friend or that would be the first thing I’d lose.” The class was stunned. Several people, including me, had tears in our eyes as we sighed, “How sad!” I’m sure his parents had no idea their punishment affected their child so profoundly. It taught him nothing about proper behavior and much about conditional love, rejection, and the risks of attachment. 

Reasonable discipline is enough (time or extent) to teach the lesson, without being so much (long or extreme) that it shifts the focus to who is in power or adds extra suffering. 

If we set an unreasonable discipline and children show they are ready to change their behavior, follow these suggestions for canceling discipline: 

  1. Admit that you overreacted out of anger or frustration, if you did.
  2. Describe the behavior you’ve seen that leads you to see they are ready to try again.
  3. Get an agreement for future behavior.


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This process models how to handle mistakes, apologize, and make amends. If we cancel discipline without saying anything, children might think they are “getting away with” something or that we don’t mean what we say. They won’t know why we are letting them off the hook. Also, notice the emphasis on children showing, through their behavior, that they have learned their lesson. Another option is to ask children to explain what they learned. These methods prevent children from pleading or making false promises, just to manipulate the parent into giving in.



Discipline is both firm and kind. To be firm and kind at the same time, our tone of voice is matter-of-fact and friendly, while our words and follow-through show our firmness. Do not interpret kindness as permissiveness, or confuse firmness with strictness or harshness. Strictness deals with co-trolling the child. “Get to bed now, or else!” Firmness refers to our attitude, behavior, and feelings. “Thirty minutes until lights-out! If you get ready quickly, we’ll have more time to read books.” When we present discipline disrespectfully or in anger, children stew about the way we treated them, instead of learning from the choices they made or making amends for their mistakes.

Discipline does not label or condemn. Punishment implies that children are bad when they misbehave. Discipline implies that children are lovable and loved, even when their behavior choices are poor. Our nonjudgmental attitude says, “While I don’t agree with the behavior choice you made, I still love you. I have faith that you are capable of choosing better behavior (or finding a way to solve this problem).”

Discipline is the child’s choice. This does not mean we ask children if they want discipline. Nor do we imply “It’s your fault” in a disrespectful tone. If we’ve taught that behavior choices have results, we can remain calm and matter-of-fact when children make poor behavior choices. We send the message, often nonverbally, that “I see you are facing the results of your choices. I respect you enough not to interfere with those outcomes and will hold you accountable by following through.”

To teach self-responsibility, use helpful questions and word discipline as a choice:

“If you choose to (negative behavior), what will happen? (Wait.) So if you choose to (negative behavior), I’ll know you’ve decided to (discipline). (Which means the child will be responsible for resolving or experiencing the negative outcome.)

When following through, children might say, “No, I didn’t choose that!” Our response can be, “I’m not making you (discipline). When you chose to (negative behavior), you knew what would happen. I’m simply following through with your choice.” It’s important that our tone of voice is kind and matter-of-fact, not punishing, when we say this.

Respectful discipline is not humiliating or embarrassing. When we need to discipline children in a group or in public, speak to them in private, so they don’t lose face. If we embarrass or humiliate children, they feel hurt, which often leads to revenge. If we speak to children in private, we are more likely to get their full attention. Children realize we could have embarrassed them, so they reward our efforts by quickly cooperating!



Discipline eliminates problem behavior. When parents consistently follow the PASRR formula to discipline, children learn from it and break the misbehavior cycle faster. Soon, all it takes is a quick reminder. Eventually, the problem behavior is eliminated. This keeps discipline where it belongs—in the attic, where we can find it when it is really needed and after using other tools.


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Appropriate  discipline  teaches  children  self-control,  self-discipline,  and  self-responsibility.  Children develop respect for themselves, others, authority, and rules. They are not obedient only when a superior is present, but see the value in rules and learn to respect all people. Discipline shows children the results of their behavior and how to make amends, accepting responsibility for the decisions they make.

Discipline maintains self-esteem. Although they may regret their behavior choice, children still feel worthwhile if they learn a valuable lesson or have a chance to make amends.

The benefits last a lifetime. The self-discipline and other lessons children learn through discipline are valuable to them as adults in nearly every setting: work, personal relationships, and parenting. Effective discipline builds trust and children respect and admire their parents.



Over-controlling and harsh.
Balanced—kind and firm.
Belief: “The more you suffer, the more you learn.” The focus is on suffering, which distracts the child from learning.
Belief: “The more you learn, the less you suffer.” The focus is on learning from mistakes.
Misbehavior is a crime and children are bad.
Misbehavior is a poor behavior choice, which even good children can make.
Parent is responsible for controlling children.
Parent is responsible for teaching children self-control and holding children accountable for their actions.
Uses condescending lectures and blame.
Is respectful and focuses on solutions.
Uses warnings and threats, “If you do _____, I’ll ____.”
Uses choices, “If you choose (behavior), I’ll know you have chosen (discipline).”
Respects only the parents’ rights.
Respects parents’ and child’s rights.
Is arbitrary, based on parents’ whims and anger.
Is logically related to misbehavior.
Is usually unreasonable. Parent adds on extra suffering or time.
Is reasonable, suffering is self-imposed and time ends when the child is ready to try again.
Is reactive and  revengeful.
Is proactive (revealed).
Reminds child of past mistakes, “I   told you so.”
Allows a quick return to the normal routine.
Decreases self-esteem.
Maintains self-esteem.
Children develop defensive “I don’t care” attitude. The severity of punishments must increase.
Children care about behaving well and correcting their mistakes. The need to discipline decreases.
Builds resentment and rebellion.
Builds respect, responsibility, self-control, and self-discipline.


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Discipline in blended families. Give new step-relationships time to develop and emphasize communication and teamwork. Children are usually skeptical of a new stepparent. They feel a new surge of loyalty to the natural parent who is left out of this family. It is foolish for new stepparents to try to take over the role of the left-out parent. It only causes more resentment.

When blending two families with children, family councils are vital. (Chapter 14, “Family Council Toolset,” addresses special circumstances of single and blended families). Many experts encourage the new stepparent to take a back seat in discipline issues. This is only necessary if the natural parent or stepparent uses over-controlling power punishments. If the natural parent and stepparent use balanced discipline, including open communication and problem solving, they can participate in discussions more equally.