7 Better Ways to Discipline Your Kids, According to Psychologists

Mother and Daughter


AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger
Discipline. So many people define it differently. Some parents choose to ground their children or take away toys, while others choose to sit down and have stern conversations with their children or load them up with more chores as punishment. Ultimately, how do you discipline your kids in a way in which they receive your message? 
Of course, there's no one right way to parent. And we're not here to tell you how to do it. But we are here to share some science-backed methods of discipline that generally seem to work.

1. Ground your child.

You don't necessarily have to ground your child in the traditional way — keeping them from leaving the house for days on end. That feels like jail and, sometimes, can lead to making them frustrated and angry, ultimately more likely to act out again. It also suggests that, when they do something wrong, life stops; and that's just, simply, not true.
What you can do, however, is keep them from doing something they love after school — going to sports practice, seeing friends, practicing their music, etc. This suggests that, when they do something wrong, it can take a toll on the positive parts of their life — the extracurriculars that teach them good lessons and keep them out of trouble. And, when they learn to appreciate those positive parts more, perhaps they'll behave better. 

2. Take away your child's toys.

Taking away your child's toys can teach them a lesson. If they're not being responsible — leaving their toys all over the living room floor or refusing to share with their siblings, for examples — you can teach them responsibility, maturity and empathy by taking their toys away until they understand the importance of respecting their things and sharing those things. 

3. Have a stern (but calm!) conversation with your child.

If you want anyone to listen to you, you have to listen to them — conversations are always two-way streets, no matter who it is. The same goes for talking with your children, psychology suggests. Hearing them out, talking to them with respect and showing empathy can go a long way. Once you establish that rapport, you can have an honest conversation with your child about their actions or behavior, and what you'd like to see out of them going forward. Of course, having such a mature conversation with a child can be difficult, but it takes time to get there with them.

4. Give your child chores as consequences.

A study of several articles, advice and letters published in more than 300 parenting magazines between 1920 and 2006 finds that most children today are only asked to do trivial chores (read: tidying up after dinner or feeding the dog). So consider giving your child chores (or more chores) to do as a consequence for their behavior. 

5. Don't ignore your child.

If your child is acting out or misbehaving, it may be a cry for attention. If you avoid paying attention to your child during a fit, you many parents feel that they do themselves a service in that they're not enabling their child's behavior. They're trying to show them that their poor behavior isn't what's going to win their attention. But research suggests that temper tantrums may actually stem from sadness, not anger. And it may not be wise to ignore your kid's cry for help. Showing empathy, just the opposite, may prove to calm the situation down.

6. Talk to your child about what they did right. 

Positive reinforcement works, according to psychology. Instead of always honing in on what your child did wrong, talk to them about what you feel that they did right. Tap into their strengths, and they'll likely be more inclined to keep showing you those strengths.

7. Put your child in timeout.

Consider putting your child in timeout. Timeouts were originated by psychologist B.F. Skinner as a form of light punishment. Now, putting your child in timeout is largely debated, but it's been practiced for years and many argue that it's effective.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.