How to Discipline a Child


The style of discipline used in any family is defined by the parenting style. Extensive research shows that discipline follows three main styles:

  • Authoritarian. In an authoritarian family, obedience is a virtue. The child has no verbal give and take. The child has little or no autonomy and often feels rejected. This is when “Father knows best,” regardless. The parent uses control, fear, and manipulation to direct behavior. Punishing the wrong behavior is the primary method of encouraging the right behavior. The parent has the final word, the parent is always right, and it is up to the parent to enforce the rules. Preservation of all structures is essential. While the child of authoritarian parents toes the line at home, his actions often fall apart in school or out in the world. Children who grow up in authoritarian families often feel left out of the family or often serve as a scapegoat for whatever is going on. They often turn into bullies or victims. Teachers often describe them as “spacey,” “going blank,” or “absent­minded.” Such children may also lack the ability to com­pete with others or be assertive. This type of discipline often involves hitting and spanking.

  • Authoritative. In an authoritative family, the parents set rea­sonable rules and standards and enforce them firmly. They are gentle, flexible role models. This is a “do as I do” approach. Parents negotiate with the child and solicit the child’s viewpoint, but the parent remains consistent, ratio­nal, and flexible. While the parent listens to the child, the family doesn’t revolve around the child’s desires. The par­ent uses reason, power, praise, and rewards to encourage positive behavior, and lets the child experience some of the consequences of unacceptable behavior. Authoritative par­ents realize that a child who is able to set some of the guide­lines is less likely to break the rules.
  • Permissive. In a permissive family, parents accept whatever behavior the children dish out. There are no rules, no con­sequences, and no consideration of the effects the child’s behavior has on other people. This is a “children know best” or “I can’t be bothered” approach. Parents are nonde-manding and affirm whatever impulses the child has. There is no restraint at all. Children growing up in this type of family have no self-control or self-reliance.

The conclusions reached by these studies show that author­itative parents most encourage the qualities of social responsi­bility, independence, an orientation to achieve full potential, and a vigorous approach to life.

Defined standards of behavior help everyone in a family. Discipline is a framework from which to start and to which to return for help and guidance. Good discipline

  • provides structure, consistency, and predictability;
  • sets clear standards and expectations of how a child will behave toward himself and others;
  • makes a child feel safe and secure (clear limits and expecta­tions protect him);
  • eventually leads to self-discipline.

Detailed investigations reveal that behavior problems and emotional disorders are less frequent in children raised in a warm, loving atmosphere, and delinquency rates are lower. Children raised in a very restrictive household tend to be sub­missive, overpolite, and dependent on others. Children raised in a home where “anything goes” find that things don’t work that way in the real world. Extremes of discipline, or parenting style, rarely have a positive effect on a young child. A balanced approach—one with clear guidelines, standards, and expecta­tions exercised within a framework of support and encourage­ment—is usually the best approach to discipline.

Discipline is the one aspect of child rearing where both par­ents must be consistent, or the child will receive a mixed mes­sage. Ensure that you and your partner have the same styles and expectations. Young children recognize inconsistency and are quick to play one parent against the other.

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About the Author: Alan Kennon lives a very happy life with two kids and a lovely wife. He likes to share his life time experiences with others about how they can improve their lifestyle and personality.

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