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Pros & Cons: Parenting Discipline Methods

B Mayfield is studying to become an OTA focusing on Early Childhood Development, is a mother, and has extensive childcare work experience.

Parenting Styles and Discipline Methods


Parenting can be tough; many decisions that you make on a daily basis can have a long-term impact on a child's life. An almost daily issue arrives in the form of discipline. How strict do you want to be as a parent? What punishments should you utilize?

There are many different parenting styles such as authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian parents are often extremely strict and have high expectations for their children; this parenting style is also marked by a lack of dialog between the parents and children which can lead to an environment in which children feel unloved and develop a low self-esteem. Authoritative parents also have high expectations for their children, but foster an environment of understanding and support to help the children achieve these expectations. Authoritative parenting is considered the most effective and beneficial parenting style. Permissive parents are often very loving and nurturing, but have low expectations for their children, lack the structure that children crave, and are too lenient when it comes to confrontation. These children tend to grow up with little self-control.

The most important thing to keep in mind with discipline and punishment is that you are not trying to create a perfectly behaved child; you are trying to provide your child with life skills that allow them to realize when they have wronged another person and how to handle the situation with humility, grace, and good judgement. Because every child and situation is different, there is not one specific method that works for every misbehavior.

Common practices include physical punishment, psychological control, time-out, and induction. Each method presents its own benefits and drawbacks.

Physical Punishment


For good reasons, physical punishment is the most controversial of the discipline methods. In many regions of the world, physical punishments, such as spanking, are prohibited. Many proponents of this style were raised in a household where physical punishment was practiced successfully. But, in many cases, children who receive spankings are likely to use physical punishments on their friends, siblings, and may even become abusive adults. For this reason, a child should never be spanked while the parent is angry or upset. This can cause the child to think that they are being punished because their mom or dad is angry and not because they misbehaved.

Physical punishments are often viewed as successful because, in the moment, the child is subdued. However, some long-term studies have shown that children who are not spanked typically develop better self-control as adults.

Spanking advocates have suggested that a third factor may be influencing the results. More often than not, parents who spank their children tend to have less education and less money than other parents. If this is the factor that controls a child's behavior as they grow, the answer is not to forbid spanking, but to reduce poverty and create more opportunities for lower class children.

Even so, almost every study finds that children who are spanked are more depressed, more antisocial, and are less likely to develop close, personal relationships with their peers. But, when parents stop physical punishment practices before middle childhood, the children often become happy and successful adults. In summation, spanking and popping may be beneficial for young children, but produce negative results in middle and later childhood.

Personally, I think that physical punishment should be used as a last resort. There are two exceptions:

A) When the child is in imminent danger. If my daughter runs out into a busy parking lot, I am more concerned with stopping her and saving her life than I am with accidentally hurting her.

B) When the child has purposefully caused someone else bodily harm. By this, I mean serious pain and not something little like pinching. If my daughter intentionally pushed her cousin down the stairs, I would immediately pop her; I like to think of it as swift justice.

A prop, such as a belt, should never be used with physical discipline; an open hand is more than enough. The point of physical discipline should be to curve inappropriate behavior and not to cause the most pain possible.

Psychological Control


In this method, the parent tries to control the child's actions by using guilt, shame, rewards, and gratitude. When done successfully, psychological control can create an innate sense of right and wrong and can develop a strong conscious in the child, which is great for adult life. But, studies suggest that psychological control may be toxic to a child. In fact, many children who grow up under this practice have the same levels of depression, anger, and inability to form close bonds that is found with physical punishment.

In addition, psychological control has been linked to lower academic performance. Studies performed in Finland, where physical punishment is banned, show that a parent's investment in psychological control directly corresponds to their child's academic achievement.

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If this is your method of choice, a clear distinction must be made between discipline and condescension. The point is not to break the child down, but to build them up.



Another common form of discipline is time-out in which the misbehaving child is required to sit quietly away from their friends or playmates without any toys. Although it is a common practice, it is not necessary for the child to face the wall. There are very few long-term psychological drawbacks to time-out as long as it is performed correctly.

For this method to be effective, the kid has to enjoy the current "time-in" activity. Some children act out as a way to get out of the situation. For instance, if the child is refusing to eat, they may begin throwing their food as a way to get taken away from the table.

As with other punishments, parents should never act in anger. The entire point of time-out is to give the child time to calm down and readjust their attitude; using calm and reassuring tones can help accomplish this goal. Additionally, time-out should only last one to five minutes. Many childcare professionals suggest one minute per the child's age.

Believe it or not, time-out can be used from a surprisingly young age! For a while, I worked with infant and toddler groups in a child development center and even the older infants knew how to sit out for a moment! Parents where often dumbfounding. "How do you make them stay?" Persistence and consistency. I began using time-out with my daughter after she learned to walk. When she is acting completely ridiculous, I find a nice, quiet corner with no distractions and set her down. In the beginning, she would try to get up and I would simply say, "No, ma'am" and would sit her back down. The first several times may run over a minute, but it is important to teach the child that they are getting up because you are allowing them to and not because their disobedience has won. Now, my daughter is almost a year and a half old and rarely attempts getting up until I come get her.



Induction, often paired with time-out, is a method in which parents talk extensively with the child about their wrong doings. Clearly, the child must be spoken to in a way that is age appropriate. A young child may not be able to answer a broad question such as, "Why did you do that?" Try using specific questions to walk them through the entire situation. "Who had the toy first?" "Did you think it was fair to take the toy away?" "Would you like it if someone took a toy from you?" This method helps a child understand why their actions were wrong.

An important part of induction involves listening to the child rather than just lecturing them. Parents should allow the child to explain why they did what they did. This can give the parent an opportunity to help the child discover what they should have done instead.

Induction is not a quick fix. It takes a lot of time and patience, but pays off quite well! Studies show that young children whose parents use the induction method have fewer disciplinary issues in elementary school.

Combining Discipline Methods

Every discipline method has its time and place. I personally use each method when necessary. While we don't spank, my husband and I do engage in physical punishment. A pop is not a first resort. Rather it is a response to continued disobedience after one or two verbal warnings. The most common reasons that my daughter gets popped are when she is attempting to play with an outlet or when she is being physically abusive to others (which is quite rare for her). Every now and then, she may get a pop on the mouth when she is being ugly. This is not done hard enough to hurt her, but is more so associated with psychological control because it causes her guilt or shame in order to correct her behavior.

Psychological control is probably the least used method for us. I do tell her things such as, "I do not like that" or "You are not making me happy right now." But, those comments are often used in induction practices because she is so young.

Time-out is a great option for children. I commonly use time-out when my daughter is being over-dramatic. I like to treat it as a break rather than a punishment. This can teach the child self-control and stress relieving skills for the future.

Induction, in my opinion, is very important and should be paired with every other method. After every punishment, a conversation should be held to evaluate the situation. Why did the child behave the way that they did? What could have been done differently? Was the punishment deserved? How did it make them feel? And so on. Most importantly, the child should be reassured that they are loved. They should be told that they them self are not bad, but did behave poorly.

Finally, a parent should never hesitate to apologize to the child if they were wrong, mean, or rude. Children look up to their parents; lead by example. If you are trying to teach your child manners, you should speak to them with the same manners.

As stated before, the entire point of discipline is to give a child the skills that they need to be a well-adjusted, kind, and successful adult. Each punishment should be catered to the situation at hand. Just remember to never act in anger, treat the child with respect, and reassure the child of the love that you have for them.


dashingscorpio from Chicago on April 07, 2018:

Excellent article.

I too believe the best approach is probably a combination of them.

Ultimately whatever it takes to get through to the child that certain behavior is not going to be tolerated. As for spanking I believe it's best done at an early age when a child many not be able to fully comprehend words and explanations beyond "no" and a quick pop on their backside to drive home the point.

Intrinsically punishment of any type viewed by the child or even on the outside by others watching on video tape can come off as torture/hazing or just plain means spirited.

Some people can't stand to see a parent who allows their child to cry rather than give them whatever it is they want. I knew a woman who refuse to set up scheduled nap times because she didn't want to have to combat the child's desire to stay awake so she allowed them to play until (they) got tired. It was the first step of many where she essentially threw in the towel on parenting.

By the time the children were teenagers they completely disrespectful of her, calling her names, in and out of trouble in school and with the law. Much of it was due to her choosing to be their "friend" as oppose their parent.

If a parent sets the tone in early childhood more often than not boundaries and respect are internalized in them. Allowing children/teens to "act out" throwing things, cursing their parents, bringing drugs into the house, stealing money, and having sex in the household is creating a problem that (society) will have to deal with. Society's punishment is going to be far more harsher.

When I was growing up no 5 year old ever called an adult by their (first name). It was always Mr./Ms./Mrs. something so small as that created a "buffer" between childhood and adulthood.

My generation the "baby boomers" rebelled against such decorum and took delight in (rebelling against authority) of any kind.

"Never trust anyone over the age of 30" was the mantra of the day. In addition we ushered in the drug culture and the "free love" movement into the mainstream.

Ever since it's been a challenge for parents, teachers, and those in authority to put things back into Pandora's box.

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