Ask the Moms: How Do You Discipline?

Sonya ask- “What is your discipline style or technique?”

This is obviously going to depend on the age of your child. Do you do time outs? At what age did you start disciplining? Do you take toys away? Take certain privileges away?
Or maybe you focus strictly on positive reinforcement and don’t do anything for punishment?
Do you spank your children?
When did you start saying “no?”
I think disciplining can be a tricky thing for a lot of parents. We can all learn from each other!

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

26 thoughts on “Ask the Moms: How Do You Discipline?

  1. I do time outs, but my daughter has started to think they are funny and only is affected by being put in a time out by our babysitter's husband…

    We started saying no when she could crawl and reach for things. It's better to start early than wish you had when they don't know what it means when they start to walk.

    We do spank, and slap hands and things if she is being bad. We won't do it until she has done it 3 times in a row with us warning her. And we do count to 5 before spanking and then putting her in time out.

    I started discipline when she was a year, and now that she is two we put a lot more effort into it.

  2. we do not physically discipline our kids. I know it's a contreversial subject, but I just don't think it's right to say “don't hit other kids” and turn around and spank your own kid. Anyway, we do time outs, and it still works for my almost 3 year old. He did try to get up out of time out for a while but we just kept putting him back, and let him know we were NOT messing around (very Nanny 911 I guess) and he got the message. And positive reinforcment is an amazing tool when used consisntantly…

  3. Growing up in my house it was mostly physical discipline. I never want my children to feel degraded or like it's okay to put your hands on someone else regardless of who they are so I do not spank them.

    I do let them know when enough is enough by the look on my face (killer mom look) and my tone of voice. And I take away privileges (tv, computer, games, favorite toys, going outside to play, etc.)

    I always try to praise them when they do well. My oldest will be 13 soon, middle 5 and youngest 2. It works for my kids.

  4. we started with time outs at around age 2.5, after giving a chance to stop the bad behavior by counting to three. Every time out ends with us asking why they are sitting there, and a hug. I got a lot of great advice from reading Jo Frost's Supernanny book.

  5. My son is only 10 months, so discipline is still mild right now. If he throws/drops something, he gets it taken away (unless its accidental, then I pick it up once before it goes bye bye). If he is doing something he shouldn't be doing, I firmly tell him not to do that. I haven't done any hand smacks yet, but I do grab and moved his hand and tell him to stop when he is doing something really dangerous. I try to somehow get my point across that something is bad, then redirect his attention to something safer.

  6. Violet is only 10 1/2 months, so our discipline consists of firm “NO!”'s when she does something inappropriate like pulling hair or hitting people. If we are eating and she throws things all over, or spits things out, we're done.

  7. We tell Lauren “no” and we use time outs. Sometimes if a spanking is warranted she will get a spanking. However I do not like spanking her. I feel that if I am telling her not to hit then I should not hit her as a form of discipline. HOWEVER time outs are not effective. She laughs and thinks it is funny sometimes and most of the time will get up out of time out and do the same behavior that she was sent to time out for. Right now we are dealing with biting, scratching and clawing, mostly other kids at daycare but she does it to me alot. I don't really see a reason most of the time. I do not believe she is doing it to get attention.

  8. we use gentle discipline. the book “kids are worth it” by barbara coloroso was wonderful for me, as well as the mothering magazine forums. its about raising a child who is their own person, but a good person — instead of controlling a childs behavior and molding them to fit your own ideas and ideals. very important to me…

    i want to guide my children, not control them. i want them to become their own people, not who i think they should be. taking time to calm down is very important, but sending a child away from you when they are obviously having a need not met is counter-productive in my household, and.. from what ive seen… in most.

    diverting a situation, helping your child learn at every opportunity… i think that is what is best for kids. are they throwing a tantrum in the store? a) assess why. are they tired? hungry? bored? frustrated? there are so many reasons why a child acts out, and just to be a bugger isnt one of them. b) meet the need. maybe go to the store at a different time of day, feed them, bring books, address their frustrations. its often as easy as asking your child (if old enough) to help out by pushing a cart or picking out the fruit or carrying something.

    as far as no-no's, if its not causing harm, its generally okay. i might not love that my son loves to squeal when he is outside, but he is a kid and sometimes they get so excited that they squeal! its not hurting anyone, so why should i tell him no? that just diminishes the effectiveness of “no” which has its place, such as when a child wants to do something harmful to themselves or someone else. you want to play with a knife? NO. plus an explanation. NO, if you play with a knife you could harm yourself or someone else very badly.

    when you use a word all the time it loses its meaning. i think “no” is a significant enough word, or can be, that it should be reserved for incidents where it is truly needed and can make an impact. finding ways around saying “no” (specifically) is another tool. one ive taken to using is “yes, later” because if its something that isnt harmful then there is no reason why i shouldnt say yes. if it isnt practical for me to say “yes, do it now” that is where “yes, later” comes into play, so i dont have to say “no”

    my son wants to go outside in the middle of a lightning storm. not a great idea. so i say “yes, you may go outside later” and he is happy with that answer, i dont have to lecture a three year old for an hour about the dangers of going outside during a lightning storm and we both are able to resolve the situation without fits or no's.

    there is so much more to it, but i really believe in gentle discipline and its worked brilliantly for my family.

  9. We begin discipling at an early age. As soon as a child is old enough to disobey, we begin the discipline.

    We do not use time-out because I've seen too many kids have time-out and then go back to the old behaviors. (That's just my personal opinion.)

    We also do not give warnings. If I've given a command once, then it must be obeyed. I think if I say, “Don't pull the books off the shelf” and then he does, and I say, “Did you remember I said don't pull the books off the shelf?” it is enforcing the idea that I didn't mean what I said the first time.

    We do spank. We use the scripture that says, “Spare not the rod.” We do not spank out of anger or do it violently. Then it is hitting. Spanking is done when clear disobedience has occured. A child disobeys and I calmly point out their misdeed and bring them alone into another room for a swat. Usually just the thought of a spank is sobering so it never has to be done hard.

    Mostly my kids must know I mean what I say so I have to be consistent. As a result, we don't have to punish often.

    Another note: with babies, I try to correct BEFORE they've disobeyed. If I say, “Don't touch that” and they reach, I stop them BEFORE they touch the item. Otherwise, they get the satisfaction of touching, even if only briefly!

    Sorry for such a long response!!!

  10. We use a couple of methods. We DO NOT use time out. Tried it, and it didn't work and with our son it lead to problems that took us a couple of years to straighten out. That was our experience with that.

    We DO, however, believe firmly in first explaining and talking to children and leading by example, a concept that we want them to learn. We make sure our kids understand the concept we are explaining to them, but after first time of disobeying, we confiscate items they like (i.e. toys, games), on the second time they get spanked. If it is a behavior that we think will hurt them or someone else and we KNOW they know better, they get spanked right away. We don't play that game with them. Usually, when an item is taken, they fully understand that the behavior will not be tolerated and they discontinue. It rarely ever gets to the final stage. This method has proven effective in our family. In fact, our son is 9, almost 10, and we have only ever had to spank him 4 times in his life, and we didn't start spanking until he was 5. I remember each time, because it was NOT a pleasant experience, but better to spank than to see them hurt much worse in the future. We don't spank our children until they are able to talk and it is apparent that they understand what we are saying to them.

    Personally, I think too many parents are push overs with their kids. I have seen the progression of disobedience among children in this country, and I think it is sad. Too many parents are trying to be their child(ren) friend and not their mentor and authority figure and they suffer as adults as a result. I DO feel that parents should have fun with their children, but that is different from what I have seen among parents I know and it's a shame. We play games, we joke around, etc. with our children, but they know where we draw the line.

    Kristin quoted the Bible on “Spare not the rod”, and I couldn't agree more. I think a lot of families would function better and be happy if they lived that advice. And, you will find out that you will not have to spend much time at all disciplining your children. I think parents who spend too much time disciplining their children are just torturing them. You can only say “no” so many times, and sit them in “time out” so much before it becomes a strain on your relationship with you and your child(ren). I know once we did this, we became a much happier, functional family, and we rarely have to discipline our children.

  11. I do not have the right to hit another human, no matter how small they are. So that's not even a consideration.

    Discipline for me is a philosophy of guidance, understanding, gentleness, forgiveness. I don't do “time outs” but prefer time-ins. It starts from the beginning. Holding my baby is part of my discipline because the attachment and relationship I have with my children determines whether they will listen to anything I have to say down the road. Nursing my baby, being responsive to their needs as infants all set a foundation for future discipline needs.

    Mutual respect is important and as they get older I talk all the time with them, about discipline issues that m ight arise, about difficulties they might encounter and i do a lot of this outside the scope of the immediate situation.

    They mess up sometimes, I do too. Acceptance of human failures is part of the life of a family.

    I also work really hard to understand what a child knows, thinks and is capable of understanding at specific stages and ages so that my expectations don't exceed their abilities.

    I don't worry about behaviour so much as feelings and because they are allowed to feel what they feel without shame they seem to be confident and happy. Most of all they are happy and I am too!


  12. I am the anonymous peron at 2:03

    BTW, when our children are unable to talk, we DO NOT SPANK. We simply take the item, divert attention, keep anything that could hurt them out of their path (I hate baby “safety” gadgets they're a joke in our house, our kids tore right through them, AND IT OUR JOB TO KEEP THEM SAFE NOT A GADGET). Before they are able to talk, we don't know if they can fully understand. We THINK they could, but we never really knew for sure.

  13. “They mess up sometimes, I do too.”

    But, in some cases you can't afford to mess up too much or you are not forgiven. Example? At a job. You mess up and hit someone, call names, cheat, steal, etc. and you get fired. Not all children respond to that “feeling” type of discipline. Most of the time children don't ever have to be spanked, but sometimes they do if they challenge the rules and MOST kids do at some point. I tried the “feeling” approach and my child was a holy terror. I got over it and did what needed to be done and he is well behaved, respectful and functional.

  14. “Most of the time children don't ever have to be spanked”

    I meant most of the time, once warned, children don't have to be spanked if parents are consistent with discipline.

  15. I use timeout and restriction. I for one, will spank my boys on the behind. It's my belief that, they should know, that I WILL go there. Of course, it's tempered with a lot of love and attention. Amazingly, hardly ever have had to spank my kids. I have learned that being immediate and consistent is important. That way, you're not repeating yourself. Kids get it pretty fast when its consistent. The energy you have when disciplining is important. Like the dog whisperer says- calm assertiveness! Same with kids:)

  16. anonymous…I'm raising children. How they behave in the workplace has no bearing on me. I don't focus on raising good employees but rather good, decent citizens. I have 4 children and all of them have messed up. But no more than other children have under different family lives. This isn't a “feeling approach” but rather just the way my family is. My kids have had holy terror phases too…we just have always found other ways to help them through them. And they are through them. They're still growing but they fall into the range of behaving well most of the time and at other times they are exemplary.

    As to consistancy, I'm very consistant in that I won't hit them, I will help them, I will always love them but that doesn't mean I will aid or condone them or bail them out if they royally mess up, the consequences will occur as they occur in life and they will feel them. There are a lot of boundaries in our home but they apply to the whole family, not jus the kids. Respect for people, property etc. safety requirements.

    But there will be no hitting in our house. And if it happens that a child(or a parent for that matter) loses control and does hit it will be reinforced that human beings have the inalienable right to be free from violence. If my child hits your child I will make sure your child is safe from mine the next time in some way. They aren't big hitters but they are children and impulse control comes slowly some times so there is always a possibility. That's true of all children no matter how they're raised of course.

    It's a philosophy I apply across the board to all humans. No exceptions, not even, and maybe especially, in the name of discipline.

  17. We have been very consistent with time outs since my oldest was 18 months old or so. It was frustrating at first to get her to stay put, but now (at almost 4) she'll go put herself in time out if I tell her to. And even that, we only have to do rarely. More often, we use the loss of a priveledge – a natural consequence of her misbehavior. You won't share your toy with your sister? You are no longer allowed to play with that toy at all.

    Spanking has never really been much of an option for us. Not because I believe so firmly against it but because I just couldn't bear the thought of physically harming my child. I was spanked and I just remember being afraid…not respectful or remorseful…just afraid. And I never want my kids to be afraid of me in that way. Also, I'm more on the side of not spanking because I look at it this way: If I walked up to an adult – acquaintance, family, or otherwise – and hit them when they did something wrong, I could be arrested. Punished legally. And children, just because they 'belong' to us, are still humans with the right to trust in their own safety. Those issues are almost beside the point for me though. It really comes down to me not being able to justify hitting my kids when I so vehemently discourage them from hitting others. As in, 'I told my sister not to take my doll, and she didn't listen, so I hit her. Just like you do, mom.' And I know there's a line that children should understand the difference between parental authority and merely a child being frustrated. But how can we expect a child to know that when they are so ruled by impulses and selfish desires at these young ages? How can we expect them to understand? Since I'm so doubtful about these issues, I can't spank.

    Furthermore (wow, I guess I feel more strongly about this than I realized…sorry for the novel ๐Ÿ™‚ I don't see spanking being a long term solution. What will we do with our 15 year olds when they disobey? Bend them over and swat their teenage bottoms? There has to be a point where they learn to respect parental authority without needing to feel the physical pain of punishment. I say all that, having no idea how it will be to be the parent of a teenager ๐Ÿ™‚

    My kids know when I mean business. They listen when I say no, due to having priveledges or toys taken away, or having time outs. They obey as much or more than other kids their age. Overall, I've been happy with our approach. I'm sure that over the years we'll have to tweak it, but I don't forsee us becoming a spanking family. I just don't have the heart for it.

  18. We started saying no as soon as they start doing something we don't want them to. I don't remember what age, but I know they were pre-verbal.

    We have spanked in the past. For us, it was a very ineffective method. It actually has the opposite result with me daughter. She will set her jaw, more determined than ever to “show you”

    So we've had to re-evaluate. DD is at an age now where she can grasp a loss of priveleges. (ie, if you dump your plate on the floor, you leave the table, and miss desert. If you refuse to put your shoes on, you stay home from the park with daddy. and so on)
    With DS we're still using mostly redirection

  19. Wow, Samantha! Aren't you glad you asked?!

    This is quite the “touchy” subject, and comes with differing opinions indeed.

    Each of us have been given this great and wonderful (and scary!) responsibility of rearing another human being(s) and evidently we each feel very strongly about our method of discipline. There isn't a single post on here that does not show love for their child and a passion to do the right thing for them.
    So here are some of my thoughts…

    We must constantly remind ourselves of just how important our role is as a parent. These beginning years of a child's life are going to affect the rest of their life, and we as parents need to step up to this daily challenge of directing them in the right way.

    Each child is different. Some forms of discipline may work on one child but have negative effect on the next child. It is our duty to determine the most effective and loving method to discipline our own, in order for them to grow to respect authority and choose the right path.

    I personally grew up in a very loving home and the 3 of us kids were disciplined in a way that I will choose to follow with my own. It was successful in our home and I believe in it firmly, when done correctly.
    Discipline takes time, patience, wisdom and from what I'm reading, trial and error at times.

    I've observed many forms of discipline (probably because I'm nosy and interested in other peoples' lives ๐Ÿ™‚ I've seen parents who have never spanked their child have to deal with him hitting other kids and wonder where he learned it.
    I've seen parents whip around in anger and smack any body part of their child they can reach just to get him to “behave!!”
    I've seen parents “controlled” by their child in a game of “If you do that ONE MORE TIME…” and then do nothing when he keeps at it.
    Or “On the count of 3…” and watch him delay his obedience as much as he can.
    They don't know it, but children are begging to be disciplined. They desperately need boundaries and they need to be taught that there is right and wrong and no in between. This is OUR job.

    I believe a child's behavior is a reflection of their parent's commitment to that child's life and future. Consistency is key. They learn early on how to manipulate, sass, control and defy authority. But we have this great opportunity to shape their behavior from the get-go! I'm not saying mold them into something they aren't or create robots. Sometimes we just have to do what's hard for US in order to build THEIR character. Again and again and again.

    So these are some of the principles on which I'm basing my discipline.
    When we were young my parents took the time to correct us immediately, addressing our conscience, shaping our character, and usually spanking (NEVER hitting, they are very different), and explaining why they needed to do this. It was always quick, a bit painful (effective!), and cleansing. As we grew older, more appropriate methods were used according to the individual and situation.
    I was one of the fortunate few who had prayerful and persistent parents, and as I look back I understand why but I don't know how they did such an amazing job parenting us.
    (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for doing it right.)

    And for the record, I agree completely with “Kristin” (#11)

  20. Consistency is the key for my kids. Time outs are our main form of discipline with our son and he gets put in time out immediately- no warnings because that tells him that he can do it once and it's ok. He knows where time out is and goes when told. He cries usually, but when the time is up (a minute for every year he is old, so 2 minutes at this point) he says “sorry” and goes about playing.

    I've swatted him on the hand when he tries to touch hot things (he has a fascination with my flat iron) but that doesn't hurt him- just tells him “no” when words won't!

    Distraction is also a nice way to get him to stop throwing tantrums- tickling, singing, playing all calm him down. Ignoring the fit works too, because he has learned that he isn't going to get a reaction out of me!

    Nice topic!

  21. I really wish I had an effective way to discipline my son. I don't think hitting them or any physical punishment is appropriate when they are under 3 years old. I don't believe they are old enough to fully understand why they are being hit. I don't like the idea of physical punishment ever, but I may or may not change my mind.

    That said, I have tried (and am still trying) to be consistent with time-outs, but my son doesn't respond well to that. He is 18 months and LOVES to be naughty. He purposely does things to get in trouble, like hitting the dog or ripping up papers he pulls off the desk. He knows he will get put in time out but he doesn't care.

    I think I just need to keep at it and hope it gets better.

  22. At 18 months, he doesn't even remotely have the impulse contril to stop himself from doing things. Even my 4 year old still has major problems stopping, even when he knows he'll get in trouble. An 18 month old doesn't understand cause & effect yet, either. It's pretty pointless to do anything other than redirection under the age of 2 or so.

    We really need to work on consistancy around here. We have a big problem following through. My husband also likes to make ridiculous threats that can't possibly be followed up on, which really doesn't help. Our kids are incredibly helpful, but getting them to stop doing things like jumping on the furniture or staying in bed…so frustrating.

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