Effective Discipline Strategies for Children

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

For most parents, discipline can be tricky. We love our children more than anything and want to satisfy all their dreams and wishes. However, we also need to establish rules and teach our children about responsibility, respect, and good behavior.

Discipline, however, doesn’t necessarily mean punishment. It’s an educational tool to share proper skills and knowledge. It will evolve as your child gets older, and can also be adapted according to your little one’s personality. 

In all cases, discipline should start with listening and proper communication between a parent and a child.

General Discipline Rules

While you may need to steer your discipline methods as your child matures, some rules apply with children, young and old. 

  • Listen-up
  • Praise good behaviors
  • No response is a form of discipline
  • Follow-through
  • “Time-out” technique


Regardless of age, listening is critical when it comes to education. Make sure your child has finished his or her explanation before answering, giving a lecture, or punishment. Without hearing what your child has to say, discipline will likely fail in the long run.

Praise Good Behavior

Discipline also involves recognizing when your child acts well. Failing to acknowledge good actions could make your kid think that they aren’t good enough. They may feel that everything they do is wrong, which can be extremely discouraging. 

Even with failure, recognize the positive thought process or the intention. If they break a glass while setting the table, thank them for helping you. Explain that breaking an object can happen to anyone and give advice for next time. 


No Response Is a Form of Discipline

As long as it isn’t dangerous and doesn’t compromise your child’s safety, ignoring bad behavior can also serve as self-discipline. If your child throws all the biscuits on the floor, he or she will quickly learn that there are no more left to eat.


If you’ve warned of punishment, make sure to follow-through and apply it. It’s easy for parents to give in as none of us enjoy seeing our kids whine or crying

Yet, over time, your credibility could be compromised, which can become a real issue as your child grows older.

“Time Out” Technique

When a rule is broken, a short time-out may be useful and necessary for both the child’s and the parents’ sanity. This usually happens after a clear warning or two and consists of removing your child from the common living space for a set amount of time. Parents typically ask their children to go to their room, forbidding them to go out until permitted. 

While it may seem severe, it can be educational in many ways. First, both the parent and the child have the opportunity to calm down. It also teaches your kid self-control and self-management skills.

This technique works for all children, from toddlers to teenagers. Research has shown that “time-out” can help increase compliance by 25 to 80 percent with preschool children. About the same results were observed with older kids.

Don’t Spank

Whichever discipline style you adopt, stay away from any type of physical punishment, even spanking. It only encourages violence; kids are then more likely to hit playmates and show aggressive behavior later in life.

Keep in mind that harsh words can hurt children more than we can think. Verbal abuse can leave long-lasting marks and even brain damage.

Disciplining Babies

Although it can be difficult for first-time parents, disciplining our children should start at a young age. Babies tend to copy adults, and giving the right example might be key to encouraging good behavior.

At this age, keep the word “no” for emergencies and safety matters. Try to turn the sentences positively. For instance, it’s best to use “calm down” rather than “don’t cry”.

Consistency is key. It’s essential to have the entire family onboard, sharing the same message. 

Disciplining Toddlers

As your child starts growing, they will begin to have an understanding of what is allowed and what isn’t. This is also the age where kids tend to test your limits. It is, therefore, important to maintain boundaries and establish constant discipline.

Remember to recognize good behavior; this method is critical for toddlers. If you have other kids, use them as an example. 

If your toddler starts biting or hitting, have a sit-down talk, and explain to your child why this behavior isn’t appropriate. Counting up to three or finding a motivator can also be efficient techniques with little ones. Don’t forget that, sometimes, a short nap and a healthy snack can be the answer to a kid being momentarily difficult.  

Fights may start appearing between siblings, and it’s important for parents to remain impartial. Don’t take a side, take away a toy rather than deciding who should have it.

Disciplining Preschool Children

Around the age of three or four, kids still attempt to push your boundaries. Giving them alternatives might be a good compromise and should prevent you from getting head to head. Besides, it empowers a child and encourages him or her to make decisions.

Here is a concrete example. You know that your child needs to have a bath, which is usually a daunting moment. Ask your kiddo if they would prefer to take a bath before or after eating. This gives them the chance to make their own decision while still doing what you need them to do.

It’s sometimes challenging for young kids to understand and process emotions. This can result in uncontrolled anger, with flying toys and objects. It’s important for parents to discuss difficult moments that have arisen during the day. 

Let her or him know that feeling angry is normal and explain simple steps on how to deal with this emotion. It could be as simple as encouraging self-expression.

Disciplining Grade School Kids

This is an interesting age when it comes to discipline. Your child now knows what is wrong or right. She or he can also make decisions.

For parents, it’s a great time to teach a sense of responsibility. Explain to them that every action has a consequence, which can be either good or bad. Go through the thought process by asking simple questions. 

What do you think would happen if you kicked someone? What would the teacher say, and how would your friend feel? Always encourage the notion of respect for others and deter physical punishment. 

Disciplining Teenagers

This is a time most parents dread. From an adult’s perspective, it may seem that their brain and common sense have left our precious one. Keep in mind that it’s also a difficult time for our teenagers, as many changes happen.

The key is to ensure that you stay connected with your child. Establish routines to maintain communication. This could be daily walks or regular family activities.

Get to know your teenager’s friends. Remind your child that respect should be two ways and is primordial in every choice they make.

Educate your child on the effects of tobacco, drugs, or alcohol on mental and physical health. Although we want them to stay in that perfect blue—or pink—bubble indefinitely, they’ll no doubt eventually face these substances. Providing the right information before they have to make this decision could play a significant role in the balance.

These years can be as difficult for parents as they are for teenagers. It’s a time for adults to encourage independence and decision making while maintaining your house rules.


Your discipline techniques will evolve as your child grows from a baby to a toddler, making his or her way to becoming a teenager. Being a parent is a difficult task, and we don’t always get it right from the first time. If you think you could have handled the situation better, take a deep breath and keep it in mind for the next time. 

Don’t forget that being a parent doesn’t prevent you from apologizing to your child if needed, and can be highly educational. It shows your kid that no one is perfect. Making mistakes is alright and is part of the learning process, regardless of age.

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.