How’d you like to have children that are self-disciplined? It sure would make life easier, right? Chapter 27 covers just that topic. First, let’s review where we are in the Universal Blueprint® Problem-Solving System / PASRR Formula.

You’ve already learned how to:

Prevent Problems from starting or worsening, with the Prevention Toolbox.

Acknowledge the child’s feelings, with the Child Problem Toolbox: F-A-X Listening Toolset

Set limits and express concerns, with the Parent Problem Toolbox

Redirect misbehavior, with the PU or PO Toolset

Now you are ready to learn how to respond to misbehavior by taking the next and final step:

       Reveal discipline, with the Discipline Toolset

With either PU or PO misbehavior, you may move to the final step, Reveal Discipline. Before you learn the tools you can choose, you want to be clear about when you might be crossing the line between punishment and discipline and how to make sure you use any discipline tool in the most effective way.

Discipline Is Different From Punishment:

  1. Discipline helps children learn from mistakes; punishment makes children sufferfor them. Imposing suffering can actually prevent learning, because it shifts the focus from the lesson that needs to be learned to who is in control. For example, imagine if you were handcuffed to your chair every time you read these lessons. How would you feel about me? What would you be focusing on? Would you want to keep learning? (Listen to a teleseminar that discusses the controversial subject of Corporal Punishment.)

Punishment brings on 4 R’s: (Adapted with permission from Dr. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline.) If you were handcuffed to your chair while reading these lessons, it would bring on:

    • Resentment: You’d resent me, wouldn’t you?
    • Rebellion: You’d be trying to get out of your handcuffs.
    • Retreat: If I gave you a break you’d leave!
    • Revenge: After you left, you’d plan a way to get back at me for putting you through this suffering.
  1. Discipline focuses on solutions; punishment focuses on blame or shame.
  2. Discipline focuses on teaching children self-control and self-discipline; punishment focuses on the parent controlling children’s behavior. With discipline, parents are responsible for teaching appropriate behavior and setting limits, then holding children accountable for their poor behavior choices.

Before You Discipline

If discipline is supposed to teach from mistakes, what do you want it to teach? In general, you want children to know their positive and negative behavior choices — and the most likely positive and negative outcomes for each. The negative outcome is not the discipline; it’s your reason for wanting them to not do it, which will relate to one of the SHARP RV issues (Lesson 4). For example, “If you (ride your bike on the sidewalk), you will (be safe). If you were to (ride it in the street), you (could get hit by a car).” You’ll see in just a minute how laying this groundwork will dramatically improve how well your child learns from discipline.

The 4 R’s of Discipline
(Adapted with permission from Dr. Jane Nelsen, author of Positive Discipline.)

Whatever discipline technique you choose, make sure it meets the following four R’s:

  • The discipline you choose must be logically RELATED to the misbehavior so the lesson makes sense. If it’s not obvious to the child, state the logical connection. Otherwise, children think you just made it up to be mean. This is why always having the same discipline for every offense (“No TV!” or “No video games!”) rarely works in the long-run.
  • Discipline is REASONABLE.There are two aspects to being reasonable:
    • The time should be the least restrictive, giving children a chance to change or try again soon. Each time the child violates the rule, increase the time limit gradually.
    • The extent should only relate to fixing the mistake, not adding on extra suffering. For example, if a child is responsible for cleaning the dishes and misses a dish, a reasonable discipline is for the child to re-clean only the dirty dishes. If a child is cleaning a clean dish, they are going to be resenting the ridiculousness of the punishment rather than focusing on being thorough.
  • Discipline is RESPECTFUL. There are two aspects to being respectful.
    • First, the discipline itself needs to be respectful to both the parent and the child. Punishment that imposes suffering is not respectful to the child. If a discipline violates your rights, it’s not respectful to you. For example, you take away the car and now you have to drive your child to work. Or your child is restricted, so now you can’t go anywhere without getting a babysitter.
    • The way you present the discipline needs to be respectful. No yelling, threats, punishing attitude, or implications this is revenge on your part for not getting your way or being angry about their misbehavior.
  • REVEAL the discipline whenever possible. If a child misbehaves and you say, “Well now this (naming the discipline) will happen,” they are likely to escalate into protests, saying, “I didn’t know that!” What they aren’t saying is, “If I’d known that I might not have done this!” So be up-front and let children know what to expect. Having said that and knowing children, they can also surprise you with a behavior for which you haven’t revealed a discipline. If it’s not severe, you can say, “Next time…”

If any one of the Four R’s is missing from the discipline, it turns the technique into punishment, which brings on Four (new) R’s: Resentment, Rebellion, Revenge, and Retreat. (Again, from Dr. Jane Nelsen and Positive Discipline.) If your child reacts in any of these ways, chances are one of the Four R’s of Discipline was missing. But don’t worry, children always give you another chance to learn from your mistakes!

The Language of Effective Discipline

The way you reveal discipline needs to be presented as a choice. Here is exactly what to say:

“If you choose to (misbehavior), I’ll know you’ve decided to (discipline).” This teaches children they have a choice about how they behave — and what will happen as a result. If a child would lose a privilege or item, instead of saying, “I’ll take it away,” say, “I’ll know you’ve decided to give up (the item/privilege) This wording reinforces who will be responsible for the loss and keeps you out of the “bad-guy” role.

Discipline Tools

Many parents use the same type of discipline for every problem situation. One tool, however, is rarely effective for all situations. Plus, overusing a tool reduces its usefulness. Get the Lunch & Learn Misbehavior Home Study Audio Package to learn the 5 best discipline tools, the 3 most misused tools, and tips for using each one effectively.

Here are the five most effective discipline tools that meet the 4 R’s:

  1. Show children how to make amends. For example, if they break it, they fix it.
  2. Alter the focus of the choices as issues shift. For example, a child’s first choice might be to sit quietly at the restaurant table or leave. If the child continues misbehaving, they’ve decided to leave. Now the choice is how they will leave, on their own or you carry them.
  3. Take action. Decide what you will do, not what you will make children do. Respectfully follow through, with or without words, with reasonable, related actions.
  4. Allow natural consequences. These happen if parents do nothing to stop them. Only use natural consequences if they are quick and safe. Ask, “What did you learn?” instead of saying “I told you so!”
  5. Use problem solving to prevent, reveal, or decide discipline. “I am concerned about (misbehavior). What can we do about that?” Use the B.E.D. problem-solving process you learned in Lesson 18, with the worksheet, except you are the other person who shares feelings, ideas and agrees to the solution.

There is one other discipline tool most parents use, but usually overuse or misuse:

6. Restrictions must be logically related to an abuse of a privilege. Don’t restrict rights (i.e., food, shelter, the right to be treated with respect), responsibilities (i.e., team sports) or privileges children already earned (i.e., a school field trip). What is restricted must be logically related to the abuse of that privilege.

    1. Use progressive restrictions to increase freedom as children master their skills.
    2. Use regressive restrictions sparingly, to severely restrict freedom after major infractions and gradually reinstate privileges as children restore trust.

Here is a true story showing how you can use the language of choice from prevention through discipline:

When I was walking a 6 year old student (same age and size of my son) with severe behavior issues to our physical therapy session in a hallway at school, he was throwing a tantrum and would not let go of the handrail next to a ramp.  I gave him the choice of coming with me quietly and we could play games/have fun or going to the principal’s office to talk about his behavior in a calm, authoritative tone.  I explained to him that if he chose to continue to pull on the rail and yell loudly in the halls then we were heading to the principal’s office.  He immediately chose to go to therapy and cooperate with me!  The power struggle was averted!  A teacher approached me later and told me she heard our conversation (we were hard to miss!).  She said she was very impressed.  What struck me was how the words just came out of my mouth so easily and I didn’t even realize until she pointed it out to me that I was using your ‘Language of Discipline’ technique (now fixed on my refrigerator). I am forever grateful to have met you and taken some tools with me!      — Mary Mancuso


  1. Identify a recurring misbehavior. Plan a PASRR response to it, including the last step, “discipline.”
    1. Prevent Problems from starting or worsening, with the Prevention Toolbox.
    2. Acknowledge the child’s feelings, with the Child Problem Toolbox.
    3. Set limits and express concerns, with the Parent Problem Toolbox.
    4. Redirect misbehavior, with the PU or PO Toolset. (Refer to the cheat sheet on your fridge.)
    5. Reveal discipline, with the Discipline Toolset, including:

1) What the discipline will be?

2) How long it will be?

3) How will you say it?

4) How will you follow through? 

  1. Post your comments below if you need ideas or support and to share your results with using the discipline tools! 

Here is a list of the recommended resources in this lesson: