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Blog: Discipline (Not Punishment) Helps Keep Your Child on Track

By Dr. Laura on June 24, 2024
Blog: Discipline (Not Punishment) Helps Keep Your Child on Track

Kids do stupid things. Even when you put a lot of time and effort into guiding them in the “right” direction, they're going to disappoint you. But, while you may be roiling in anger or feel like collapsing into a puddle of tears, it's important to understand that your child needs you to turn their mistake into a teaching moment and respond with discipline instead of punishment.


Discipline has its root in the word “disciple,” and it's about guiding and teaching through cause and effect. It helps shape behavior and teaches kids how to manage theirs. Let me give you an example based on a recent call.


Jessica and her husband had to leave their 8-year-old daughter home alone for a few hours one morning. In that brief amount of time, she took her parents' work phone and created a YouTube channel, posting videos of herself doing nothing in particular. When Jessica and I spoke, she was terribly upset about this big breach of trust and worried about it being the first of many disappointments. All reasonable. But, as I explained to Jessica, now was not the time to be full of tears and drama. It was the time to calmly explain to her child, “We left home. We trusted you. You knew what you were supposed to do and what you weren't allowed to. And then you breached our trust.”


A conversation about what it means to lose trust in a relationship was in order. No taking something away for two weeks. No sending her to her room to think about what she had done wrong. Jessica needed a mother-daughter conversation about how trust is the foundation of every good relationship. Yes, there has to be a consequence for breaking the family rules, but more focus was needed on why what she did was wrong instead of solely on the punishment. I encouraged Jessica to make it a long conversation with a relaxed tone so her daughter would pay attention.


Kids are always going to test the waters and do things you don't like. When those times come, remember that teaching your child is a better act of parenting than punishing. 


Now, go do the right thing!



How did you implement discipline instead of punishment with your children? Share your story with me here!



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