HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline


What's your discipline style?

Learn about the basic discipline philosophies, and find out which is best for your child.

By Evonne Lack

Discipline is one of the toughest challenges of parenthood. It can frustrate, discourage, and humble you. When faced with the challenges of getting your toddler, preschooler, or big kid to behave, you may look back on the gritty baby months with utter nostalgia and wonder why you ever thought feeding and sleeping dilemmas were so tough.

The right expert advice can be instructive and reassuring. It's just a matter of finding a philosophy that fits your personal style. But how do you choose when the discipline field appears to be one big, messy mishmash of information?

You'll be relieved to know that you don't have to pick just one discipline style. You may like certain aspects of several different discipline styles. It's okay to select the things you like and leave the rest.

Also, it's important to pay attention to how you feel when you read about a particular style. For example, Brooklyn mom Popi Pustilnik says, "One book made me feel like such a failure that I threw it across the room." She then turned to a book with a completely different approach and felt much more hopeful. "It was a much better fit for me," she says.

Start by learning about a few of the major "categories" of discipline philosophies. Once you get a handle on these, it will be easier to choose books that are a good fit for you.

Where the discipline theories differ

One expert suggests that time-outs last a minute for each year of your child's age, while another says your child should decide how long the time-out lasts. One book instructs you to firmly tell your child, "No hitting," and another book cautions against using negative words like "no" and "don't." One author promotes the use of rewards, whereas another says rewards are nothing more than bribes.

The wide variety of advice can be frustrating and confusing, but it also proves that there's no one right way to discipline. You are the true expert on what works for you and for your children. While professional advice is helpful, it needs to match your own intuition and ideals.

Comments from readers

"--negative words like "no" and "don't." I thought it would be OK to say NO sometimes to my children. The children need to learn how to say NO as well. (example...NO to DRUGS). "
"These stratagies work wonderfully. One other that i would like to see added is when children act up in public. They need to be taught that thier behavior affects others. I explain to my children that if they are too loud at a restaurant than they could ruin the meal for the people next to us and they dont deserve that. I also point out how proud i am of them when we see other kids misbehave. I let them know how helpful it is to me that they do not do that, and it shows other people how they are good kids and i am a good mommy. They appreciate the praise and dont want other people to feel bad so they like to behave and share thier smile with others instead of their tantrums. I have a 7 and 9 year old and have never had an issue with them in a public place due to this philosophy. "
"This has been very helpful, its very frustating trying to discipline but this has giving me better idea of what to do. The reward with stars for a 3 and 5 year old are really paying off. Thanks"