10 Mistakes to Avoid When Disciplining Your Child
Does it seem like you’re constantly disciplining your child to the point of having nothing left to take away from him and no other consequences to try? And yet your child still won’t listen?
When I worked as a child therapist before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I found that this was a common problem that many moms had.
But it turns out that there are certain things that parents should and shouldn’t do in order for discipline to be effective.
Let’s take a look at some of the mistakes that many parents make when it comes to disciplining children.
10 Mistakes You Could Be Making When Disciplining Your Child
1. Not placing enough emphasis on positive parenting techniques
This might be the most crucial mistake that parents make. But a lot of times parents don’t use alternative parenting techniques to their full benefit. And this often leads to them overusing discipline.
If you use positive parenting techniques like regularly spending quality time with your child, encouraging and praising your child, and rewarding your child for good behavior, you reduce the need to use discipline in the first place. This will, in turn, make discipline more effective.
An extra parenting tip… When your child does a “bad” behavior consistently, instead of going straight to the use of discipline, think about how you could use rewards or a reward chart for the opposite of that bad behavior. If you want to give reward charts a try, feel free to grab my free Reward Chart Bundle below.
2. Choosing unrelated consequences
When the consequence doesn’t relate to the problematic behavior, your child is less likely to make the connection between the two. And therefore, he’s less likely to respond to the discipline.
So if you use a consequence like removing a privilege, it should be related to the “bad” behavior.
For instance, let’s say your child throws your iPad across the room. Which one of these consequences is better related to the behavior: restricting his access to the iPad for the rest of the day or prohibiting him from attending a birthday party later that day?
Related Post: Child Therapist Secrets to Curbing Your Kid’s Screen Time Obsession
3. Being unreasonable or unfair
Discipline should be fair and reasonable. The punishment should fit the crime.
So if you’re disciplining behaviors that don’t really warrant discipline or enforcing consequences that last too long, the discipline isn’t going to be as effective.
This is especially true when you give unreasonable consequences and then don’t follow through with them. For example, many parents tell their kids that they’re grounded for several days or weeks and then forget about enforcing it after a couple days.
4. Using discipline that’s not age appropriate
Similar to the last point, the type of discipline used should be age-appropriate. For instance, grounding a young child (who’s not going many places anyway) for several days is not age-appropriate and, therefore, won’t work as well as you’d think.
5. Not being consistent
If you’re not consistent with setting and enforcing limits and expectations, it will be harder for you to get your kid to listen.
And if you’re not consistent in enforcing consequences when you should be, the consequences will be less effective.
When you decide on a form of discipline to target a specific behavior, remember to use it consistently for at least two weeks before moving on to another idea. And be sure that other caregivers are using it consistently, too.
6. Using fear or shame to drive the discipline
When you use things like fear or shame as part of your plan for discipline, your child might actually listen. But it’s for the wrong reasons.
Fear and shame will cause your child to listen only out of fear or wanting to avoid punishment. Not because he’s learning right from wrong or how to act appropriately.
7. Using corporal punishment as discipline
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say something like, “My parents spanked me, and I turned out OK.” And sure, they may have turned out OK.
But corporal punishment techniques, which can include spanking, are generally not recommended. Children often feel fear and shame when these techniques are used on them. Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, they’re less likely to behave for the right reasons.
There are so many other parenting techniques to use besides spanking or physical punishment. So even if you’re really frustrated and feel like nothing else has worked, try not to resort to this type of punishment.
8. Not teaching correct behavior throughout the day
If you’re using discipline as the only time to teach your child how to behave, then you’re missing out on lots of teaching opportunities. This means you may be overemphasizing the role discipline plays in your child’s behavior. And as a result, you might not be seeing the type of behavior you’d like to see.
You can teach your child good ways to behave throughout the day through techniques like modeling, role-playing, reading stories that model good behavior, and praising good behaviors.
9. Not helping your child understand why the behavior is unacceptable
In relation to the last point, kids also need to understand why their misbehavior is unacceptable.
Therefore, you want to avoid saying “Because I said so” when your child questions your reasoning for expectations or discipline. (It’s best to ignore defiant questioning, such as “Why should I?”, while your kid is misbehaving or not listening.) But it’s good to remind your child of why the behavior is unacceptable whenever he’s calm or not misbehaving in order to get the best results.
Keep in mind that young children might not respond to your rationale as easily. But as children get older, and certainly when they’re teenagers, they’re better able to understand why behaviors are unsafe or unacceptable.
10. Not using proper techniques when it comes to discipline
When you avoid the mistakes above, you won’t have to rely on discipline as much.
But… If you really want discipline to be effective, then you want to make sure you’re using the proper techniques. For instance, there are lots of little techniques involved with using time-out effectively.
Reading parenting books or taking parenting classes can help you to learn proper discipline techniques. I also go over discipline and other parenting tips and strategies in my online course, Building a Happy Nest: Learn How to Stop “Bad” Behavior and Get Your Child to Listen.
How to Discipline a Child
Overall, discipline should be fair and reasonable. And you want to use discipline sparingly so that you don’t get to the point of feeling stuck… like you’ve tried everything and you’ve got nothing left to do to get your child to listen.
Using more positive parenting strategies when your child is behaving well, in addition to using proper discipline techniques, can help you to accomplish this.
Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.
References: My information comes from years of training on Applied Behavior Analysis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and other evidence-based techniques. I also like to refer to Russell Barkley (Defiant Children) and Alan Kazdin (Parent Management Training).