Being a parent is one of the most rewarding jobs you will have in your life. It is also one of the most difficult. It is generally expected that parents automatically know how to rear their children, but that is just not true. Successful parents are made, not born.

Effective discipline techniques for successfully raising good kids can be learned, and are uncomplicated enough to be adapted to the parenting styles of different people, and to different children. The most important aspects of a parent's approach is that the parent: A) knows the difference between discipline, punishment, and abuse, and chooses discipline over punishment and/or abuse; and B) is consistent.

Discipline

Discipline is a positive learning experience that sets behavioral limits and guidelines to lead children to and through adulthood. The idea is to allow the child to progress from parental discipline to self-discipline. As a parent your goal is to:

  • teach your child how to achieve goals for themselves;
  • lead your child to self-discipline so that they will behave properly without your guidance; and
  • help your child develop a sense of pride and pleasure when they do what is right.

It's your job to help your child grow so that they are just as well behaved, just as thoughtful, just as sensible when you are not there as when you are not.

Discipline means "to teach," and it is quite possible to discipline children without yelling or hitting, and without punishment or abuse. Discipline helps children learn how to control their own behavior. Punishing, hitting, spanking, yelling, or shaming a child will likely serve to stop the misbehavior only when a parent is nearby and has significantly detrimental effects to a developing sense of self-worth. 

As a parent it is to your advantage to learn how to discipline your child without resorting to punishment or force. Take spanking for example. Given that the intent of spanking is to cause your child pain, injuries can easily happen. Not only is it too easy to misjudge the amount of physically pain you are inflicting, it is also easy to lose control when you are angry. Furthermore, children learn from being spanked that sometimes it is OK to hurt others, and that it is OK to hit when you are angry. And as your child grows older and loses their fear of you, and becomes stronger physically and intellectually, physical punishment will have little effect on their actions. Your parental influence will be weak if their only motivation is to avoid punishment; if, however, their motivation from the beginning is to please you and to learn and grow, they will look to you for guidance and will want to be good kids.

Read more on parenting by age group:

Infants

Toddlers

School-age Children

Adolescents

The above information was compiled from materials produced by Prevent Child Abuse America (Child Discipline: Guidelines for Parents by Gary May) and Center for Effective Discipline (How to Raise a Well-Behaved Child).