Search Directory

10 Things to Avoid When Disciplining Your Child

by on 04/03/2014     98 5992

Let’s face it.

Almost every one of us has done some faux pas when it comes to disciplining our kids. When it comes to laying down the rules, it isn’t always easy when you have a headstrong 3 year-old toddler that seem to throw impossible tantrums over every little thing.

It’s easy enough for us parents to lose it because as parents, we want to teach them what’s right or wrong. We wouldn’t want this education to come too late so that’s why we try to instill discipline in our child as early as possible.

Along the course of this noble intention, we might sometimes do something unintentionally. Many parents will feel bad about themselves after they have scolded the child more than they wanted to, yell louder than they intended to or even accidentally spanked the child because of the heat of the moment.

As good as our intention is, it is very important to realize how some of our ways when disciplining our child can be more harmful than they are helpful. The 10 things listed below are the common mistakes parents usually make when trying to discipline their child.


1. Losing Your Temper

Losing our temper when our child misbehaved is the easiest yet one of the most dangerous things.

This is especially so when a child repeats the same bad behavior. We get exasperated for having to tell them the same thing over and over again. We’d like to believe that after 10 times of telling them not to smear the chocolate on the floor, some of the advice would get through to them.

Disciplining your child when you’re angry is harmful because it can lead to us saying things we don’t mean. The things said can either be hurtful to or caused shame to the children or worse, both. This could bring the child’s self-esteem down and taught them to think less of themselves as a person.

It also teaches the children that yelling or shouting is acceptable in a relationship. This in turn, will probably make the child a temperamental person in the long run too.

Try: If you feel that your head is clouded in anger, it’s best to step away from the situation to center yourself. Calm yourself down as much as you can before addressing the situation or the child’s bad behavior. This way, you’re able to reason with them better and also not ended up yelling.


2. Physical Punishment

It’s popular among the parents that spare the rod, spoil the child.

This is one of the main reasons parents resort to caning their children. While this may seem like an effective idea in disciplining, it provides temporary solution where the child will stop his or her bad behavior for that moment only. Many times parents find that the child will repeat the same behavior only several hours after being caned.

Even though we are “careful” when caning our child so that we don’t hit them too much, physical punishment is never a good idea. It teaches the child that violence is the right way to solve a problem.

Children, who are used to being caned or spanked, tend to exhibit the same behavior when they are with other children. If another child takes away a toy or a crayon from them for example, the children who regularly receive physical punishment will also hit or smack the other child.

Parents tend to cane or spank their children to make a point and this type of punishment usually happens when they are angry. As mentioned before, it’s a mistake to discipline when you’re angry.

Try: Keep your hands busy. Spanks fly easily when your hands are raised and pointing towards your child. If you feel like you’re about to lose it, keep your hands busy by adjusting the hem of your shirt or putting your hands in your pockets. This will suppress the instinct to lash out.


3. Bribery

How many of us have bribed our way into a promise of good behavior from our kids, especially when out in public?

Every time they look like they’re about to start a tantrum, we quickly promise a candy or a chocolate bar, which would otherwise only be weekly treats. We would constantly remind them of this “reward” every time they whine and use this as a weapon to keep them in a mildly civil behavior.

Bribery works as a quick fix.

It calms the child at that moment with the promise of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But children are smarter than we give them credit for. Sooner than we expected, they would demand treats every time we’re out in public and if we don’t give it to them this time around, they would probably throw a worse tantrum than before and we ended up promising an even fancier treat.

Try: Rewards are fine when rewarding your child for behaving. This can help them to feel good about themselves for behaving well and encourage further good behavior. But avoid using bought goods like toys or candy as rewards.

Instead, try something like watching their favorite cartoon DVD or a trip to the park. This gives you more options to come up with fun activities with your child instead of limiting it to just chocolates or toy trucks. After that, you can tell your kids how proud you are of them and for kids, this is already a reward in itself!


4. Lecturing

We feel that when we spend time explaining to our kids why a behavior is bad, it will teach them not to do it again.

But children have short attention span. Most likely, they won’t be able to grasp what you’re trying to tell them and even if they did for that moment, the chances of them understanding and remembering the lesson would be rather small.

Long lectures on why a bad behavior is not acceptable is not going to give the explanation he or she needs on why what he did was wrong. Wanting to speak to your children like they are adults so that it shows that you respect your child’s feelings is a good intention. But parents need to be careful not to turn it into a sermon.

Try: Choose to explain why the behavior happens instead of explaining the implications of the misbehavior.

Focus on explaining what he is feeling over a certain situation and why he feels as such, acknowledge that his feelings are valid but also make it clear that his actions dealing with that feeling, however, is not. Above all, remember that you’re talking to a 4 or 5 year old. So always use words that your child can understand.


5. Threats

Threatening our children with unfounded fears like monsters from the garden will get them if they don’t sleep on time or leaving them behind if they don’t get ready quickly seems like a good idea to get our children to do what we want fast.

But causing fears in them through threats this way can cause them to feel uneasy and unsafe. This is a bad idea because our home should be the sanctuary where our children can feel safe and secure. It may also lead to other repercussions like paranoia, depression and anxiety in the long run if we keep using these threats.

Plus, if these are empty threats, because let’s face it, most of the times they are anyway, our children will learn not to trust us since the things we threat them with do not usually happen.

Try: Tell what you expect of them ahead of time. If you know you’re going out soon, let them know that you want them to get ready when you ask them to so that you all can leave on time. This sets expectation and children love to fulfill their parents’ expectations. And this will make things a lot easier than arguing with them.


6. Embarrassing Them

This could be one of the most harmful ways of “disciplining” your child.

Belittling, sneering or sarcasm will only hurt the child’s self-esteem and confidence. Parents often do this when their children misbehaved in front of other adults. It is usually done because parents want to compensate their feelings of inadequacy of disciplining their own child.

When a child is hurt by your words, it can turn them into a spiteful person, not to just you but also to themselves. They will feel that they are less valued and therefore they need to hate themselves. This is very dangerous as it can lead to many psychological disorders.

Try: Talk to your child when no one else is around. You can bring your child to one quiet corner and explain to him or her why the misbehavior was wrong. This way, your child will feel respected in front of others and will encourage them to behave better the next time.


7. Commanding and Demanding

As parents, we naturally feel as the authoritative figures in our kids’ lives. We play the role of educator and disciplinarian interchangeably.

But we often say what we want incorrectly. “Don’t do that!” or “I’m telling you for the last time now!” are common when we want our kids to stop doing something. This will usually stop them all but too briefly before we have to start telling them again, maybe now in a much sterner or higher voice.

When command and demand are being delivered too often, it will fall on deaf ears. Kids tend to block out the command and do what they want anyway. Our demands will just seem like any other instructions we tell them. You would want to differentiate “Don’t do that” from “Please keep your toys”.

Try: Requesting a child to do something will usually produce the desired effect more easily than direct command and demand. When a child hears that you are asking for their help instead of telling them what to do, they will usually acquiesce. Speak in an easy and offhand manner that sounds natural to you and to them. This will save you the time as well as energy from having to tell them repeatedly.


8. Excessive Guilt

This is the type of punishment that we don’t usually realize we’re doing it. Many parents, perhaps more commonly among mothers, tend to nag and complain how much work they have when scolding their children.

We lament about how much we sacrifice for them and look after them and can’t they do one little thing like picking up their toys? Parents tend to do this because we are venting out our frustrations for not being able to be more in control of the situation, and not directly to our children.

However, this type of punishment when done excessively can make the child feel guilty for simply being a child. They will feel that they are the cause of all our troubles and feel bad about themselves for not being able to please their parents.

Imposing excessive guilt on a child can turn them into a recluse because they feel when they shut out the outside world, they will not be able to hurt anyone. As parents, you want your child to come to you for and about anything so if you find yourself doing this, then it’s a good time to stop.

Try: For this, you need to examine your own codependent relationships.

You need to understand and see why do you constantly put the guilt on someone else i.e. in this situation, your child. Do you feel incompetent as a parent? Do you feel you’re the source of your parents’ struggles? If yes, then it’s a good idea to step back and evaluate yourself or speak to a professional, if you feel the need to.


9. Irrelevant Consequences

The punishment that you impose on your child needs to be relevant to his or her misbehavior. This is important, as it will teach your children the concept of cause and effect.

Giving out punishments just because it seems severe enough to “teach your child a lesson” may not be a good idea because it will not help the children to understand why the bad behavior is unacceptable. Punishments such as breaking their crayons because they left it scattering on the floor can be too extreme for a child to understand. In this case, they need to know why it’s not right to leave things all over the place.

Try: A direct consequence of their actions that is relevant to what was done. If your child refuse to keep his crayons away, for example, revoke the right to use them for a day and do not give in no matter how many times they ask for it. Each time they ask, remind them that it was because of their refusal to keep them the last time and why they need to keep their things where they belong.


10. Inconsistency

Of all the types of punishments mentioned, this is perhaps the one that can either make you or break you.

A child can regress to their previous misbehavior if parents do not have enough consistency in following through with their punishments.

If a child was reprimanded the first few times for doing something wrong but then the mistake was ignored the next time, he or she will not feel or understand the gravity of their actions.

They will see it as something you do out of whim. On your bad days, they might get scolding but on good days, you will let them go. This will teach them to repeat the mistake anyway because they know that you will not always punish them for it.

Try: Stick to your rules and routine. If they refuse to brush their teeth before bedtime and your action is to not tell them bedtime stories, then follow this rule strictly. Instilling discipline is about setting expectations and delivering consequences with authority if not followed. If you’re lenient about this, then your child will not be able to stick to a routine either.


Ineffective disciplining can be taxing for you, as it will seem to take forever to get your child to behave and do what is right. Not only that, if your techniques are incorrect, it will create resistance in your child, rendering your efforts fruitless.

It does take a lot of patience and practice to be able to find your groove in tackling your children’s misbehaviors effectively but with the right approach and idea on what to expect, disciplining your child may not seem impossible after all.