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Discipline and Parenting Techniques for Young Children

Updated on December 18, 2019

"The discipline of children is first self-discipline." St. John Bosco

What Is Discipline?

Child discipline is a hot topic. Parents want to know, what is the best form of discipline for my young children. What is the difference between discipline and punishment? Is there a difference between discipline and punishment? Yes, a resounding yes is the answer. I will share from both an adult and a child’s perspective on why proper discipline is the preferred method to incorporate into your child-rearing practices.

There are three basic forms of discipline and it has been researched and documented that one form does seem to produce a more well-balanced youth who matures into a well-adjusted adult. They are authoritative, authoritarian and permissive. Which one sounds most effective? There are distinct differences. Many parents find that they use a combination of these styles although ideally parents should remain as consistent as possible to achieve the best results.

The word discipline comes from Anglo-French and Latin, disciplina, teaching; learning from, discipulus, pupil. Discipline means, teaching, giving instruction to a pupil; training that corrects, molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

The word punishment is derived from Old French, puniss, which is from punir, to punish. From Latin, punier; to inflict a penalty on, cause pain for some offence. Punishment is a form of suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution. It can be severe, rough or disastrous treatment. There is no instruction involved.

By looking at these definitions, one can conclude that discipline involves instruction which requires time and explanation. Punishment, in contrast, is used for inflicting suffering for an offense, which would imply that the offender knew the offense beforehand, which isn’t always the case if parents have not clearly defined the boundaries. Let’s look at the three basic forms of discipline.

Which Parenting Style Is Best?

From the mouth of babes...

"Mommy doesn't like me. She yelled at me and hit me and said I was stupid. I didn't mean to knock the flower pot over. I was dancing to music and bumped into it. I said I was sorry, but she didn't care. I guess she likes her dumb plant more than me."

"Daddy is yelling at me because I grabbed a toy away from my sister. I tried to be nice and ask her, but she wouldn't give it to me, and I really wanted it, so I grabbed it from her. She started crying and ran to tell Mommy and she told Daddy. Now I'm crying because Daddy hit me and told me I'm a little brat and sent me to my room. I wish he would stop hitting me. I don't know why I hit my sister. I love her. I guess I'm just stupid."

"Mommy said I'm in big trouble and that Daddy is going to spank me hard when he gets home."

Three Styles Of Discipline

Authoritarian is cold, rigid, ‘do as I say or else’, form of discipline with high demands and tends to be very controlling. Often there is physical and emotional abuse involved. Children raised with this form of parenting often end up in trouble and rebel. Many end up growing into an emotional, abusive, judgmental adult inflicting the same demands on the people involved in their lives; partners, friends, co-workers, family members including their own children. We have all met these kind of adults.

  • Sets high demands with guilt and punishment being the prime motivator if not carried out properly
  • Very controlling with no questions allowed or explanations given for purpose of a rule/boundary
  • Is less responsive to child’s true needs
  • Issues commands and criticisms frequently
  • Interferes often to ‘monitor’ behavior
  • Issues threats without carrying through
  • Uses loud and harsh tone of voice as form of authority

Benefits of Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative Parenting

Authoritative is an involved but not overly controlling form of discipline. There is a combination of firm fairness and less restrictions on the environment, giving the child a chance to self-regulate their own behavior. There is room for support and guidance with clearly defined boundaries which are explained to the child. It has been documented that often these children grow into well-adjusted adults who understand a sense of fairness and possess positive leadership skills, enabling others to grow and perform well whether in a family or work environment. This is the ideal from of discipline and it requires patience and consistency and love.

  • Sets rules and explains why they exist ( a reason other than ’because I said so’)
  • Couples discipline with support and affection
  • Shows consistency, rationale and consideration
  • Does not flip-flop when rules are broken, simply reinforces
  • Loving but not overly indulgent
  • Has logical consequences to misbehavior
  • Knows how to say no firmly with an even tone of voice

The Traps of Permissive Parenting

Permissive Parenting

Permissive, or indulgent, is hardly a form of discipline and is often misinterpreted as being a ‘friend’ to your child, wanting to reinforce good behavior by being nice, buying your children expensive gifts or too many gifts and going wherever they want to go. Often working parents fall into this category because they may feel guilt for being away from their child. Unfortunately what happens is the child ends up running the family with demands, temper tantrums or rebellion if he doesn’t get his way and wanting more and more from parents and society as they grow older. There are no boundaries given, no consistency in enforcing proper behavior thus the child learns manipulation at an early age.

  • Being a friend to the child doing things to make child happy to avoid misbehavior
  • Warm and loving rarely setting clear rules and boundaries
  • Inconsistent and lax when rules are clearly broken, often with no consequences
  • Buys the child something whenever they go out and child expects this and will throw temper tantrum if parent does not give in
  • Does not use a firm but fair tone of voice and child perceives parent does not really mean what they say (which they don’t)
  • Tries to be kind and avoids conflict or difficult situations
  • Responsive, but more lax and undemanding

From the mouth of babes...

"I'm so excited. Mommy said we could go to the park after lunch if I clean up my bedroom. Yay, I love going to the park! "

"I really wanted to buy a new doll and asked Dad if I could get one, but he said that I have quite a few dolls now and that maybe I could get one for Christmas. He said some kids don't get toys for Christmas, and I felt sorry for them, so we're going to give some of my dolls to those kids!"

"Wow, look at my chore chart! I got smiley faces on all those days! Mom said if I have smiley faces in all these 7 boxes that I can pick out a new toy and go to the ice cream shop! I'm so happy that I got all those smiley faces!"

"I had to go to time out today, Dad, but it's o.k. now because I knew I did the wrong thing. I won't ever do that again. Mom said I'm learning, and she smiled, so I knew she wasn't mad."

Practical Discipline Techniques

Here are six excellent techniques that respect both the adult and the child. If used consistently with instruction and communication, discipline can be much easier and seen more as part of the parenting process rather than a dreaded chore. Children want boundaries and they will test you to see if you mean what you say. So, mean what you say and say it well. Let’s take a look.

  1. Role modeling- children learn more about behavior by observation than any other way. They are always watching and listening even if it doesn’t appear that way.
  2. Attention-Ignore- catch your child being good and make a simple comment such as, I like the way you put your toys back on the shelf. Comment on the behavior, not praising the child. Children repeat behaviors that get attention.
  3. Charts and rewards- If not overused, charts on the refrigerator or on a door can help establish good behavior patterns and routines. Children enjoy colorful charts.
  4. Setting limits- children need to know their boundaries in clear, concise language and it helps them feel secure. These may change as the child grows and matures.
  5. Consequences- There are natural and logical consequences. If a child touches a hot stove, a natural consequence is the pain. A logical consequence could be taking a toy away if the child hits his sister with the toy.
  6. Time out- This is reserved for clearly defined rules. When that rule is broken, the child has a time out in a non-stimulating area. Bedrooms are not a good time-out area. Make sure the child can tell you why time out is necessary, or refresh his memory, clearly stating the rule that was broken. Set a timer (generally one minute for age of child), remain calm and when the timer goes off, the infraction is no longer mentioned. The purpose of time out is for the child to reflect on the proper behavior.

Parenting can be so rewarding when coupled with proper discipline techniques. Parenting does not come with instructions and it is helpful to learn as much as possible about something that not only affects you and your children, but parenting affects our entire society at large. It’s not always easy, but certainly rewarding. Our children are only young once, let's give them the best we can.

Thank You for Reading and Please Feel Free to Leave a Comment.

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    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      7 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      My husband has always told me how lucky I was with our daughter. (My two grown sons are actually my step-sons.) When our daughter was young she was always sweet, calm and really never threw fits. Now she has a daughter and lately, she is giving us quite a time. She is 19 months old and is starting to throw temper tantrums. Our daughter is recently divorced and she and Jazzy, are currently living with us. I am going to have my daughter read your hub here, I think it is excellent! It may help us both learn how to best handle her discipline. Voted up, useful, interesting and sharing! :)

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Esther. It is a thorny subject and unfortunately those who suffer the most are the children. Young children are very perceptive and learn more from what they see and hear in contrast to being told not to do something that they observe that the parent/caregiver does. I've had numerous 3 year olds tell me that their mommy or daddy hit, and can't quite understand how it's ok for parents, but wrong for kids. I believe children need respect by the adults in their lives defining boundaries and being consistent with what we say and do in regard to behavior/misbehavior. I have found much more cooperation with positive reinforcement and redirection.

    • Esther  Strong profile image

      Esther Strong 

      8 years ago from UK

      Thank you for sharing your wisdom on this thorny subject. I note the reinforcements in the blue section "From the mouth .... ". A positive approach is a win all round.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      What happens when you are disciplined and they still don't follow your example?

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You have to be very disciplined yourself before you expect others to learn to be disciplined. It is not by precept, it is by example that you influence the young minds.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks for reading jengeruain. It sounds like you and your partner might need to establish a blueprint for your discipline methods and parenting style. Nothing is more confusing for children than mixed messages. They desperately want routine and need to have boundaries and expectations. Once they see you are all on the same page, discipline problems will lessen. I'm glad you found the hub helpful. Perhaps you could let your partner read it and watch the video and see what he thinks. I wish you and your family the very best!

    • jengeurian profile image


      9 years ago from Elkhart, IN

      I love the hub! I am struggling to get the 3 adults in my house to get on the same page with discipline strategies. I am authoritative (for the most part), but my other half and his mother (whom we live with) are both authoritarian. I tend to get very angry with the way that they discipline my children on a very regular basis. I will try to very overtly implement some of the techniques that I was unaware of, and just hope that they see it working and choose to model themselves after what I am doing because it is something that works. Thank you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      9 years ago

      Great article on parenting and discipline! Parents who really care about building their children's character will use loving guidance in helping them to make good choices. I find that parents, without realizing it, will often use methods passed on by their parents. We have to question whether those methods were helpful in discipline or just averted bad choices. Regardless, your advice is all wonderful and will help parents to understand what discipine is and how to address the issue in raising children.

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 

      9 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Very interesting hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • slaffery profile image


      9 years ago from Kansas, USA

      I am kind of a mix of authoritarian and authoratative. This article reminds we that I need to balance and how I do things. I wish I had seen this sooner ;)

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Thanks Jennifer. I'm glad you found the hub helpful. Parenting is different for each child, but consistency, love and clearly defined boundaries must be part of an effective parenting philosophy.

    • Jennifer Day profile image

      Jennifer Day 

      9 years ago from London (UK)

      A great Hub. Thanks for this - great to reference for parents who don't have time to read a whole book. This Hub is so succinct and helpful. As you say parenting doesn't come with an instruction book and it's difficult, to say the least - everyone expecting a child should get training(!) - but in lieu of that, this Hub is a great start!

    • howcurecancer profile image


      10 years ago

      I am more permissive. Thanks for letting me know the other two types. Awesome hub.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 

      10 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Well, clearly the authoritative approach is the ideal, as you say, and you're quite correct. Though I am not a parent, yet, myself, I do believe I need to smooth out some of my "rough" PERMISSIVE edges. I know how I am.

      Thank you for this on-target advice. Voted up for useful.

      Take care.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks Dorothee and mathan for reading and commenting. Parenting doesn't come with instructions, so it is helpful to have sound advice along the way. It benefits everyone when parenting is done with love and direction.

    • mathan42 profile image


      10 years ago

      great work rebekahELLE....Types of parenting....quite interesting one...check out my hub on troubled kids at

    • Dorothee-Gy profile image


      10 years ago from near Frankfurt/M., Germany

      Hi, rebekahELLE, thanks for this Hub. For me as a new mother of a 5 year-old, it is most valuable to get some orientation if what I do is going into a useful direction or not. I guess my instincts are not too bad, luckily...

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks cindyvine for reading and commenting. I think more than anything else, some parents simply don't know what to do, a smack for smacks sake isn't really going to accomplish much. parents need direction.

      @angela, we've all been there! I'm sure you're doing the best you can and your kids know that. none of us are perfect, so try not to be frustrated with yourself.

      @Geolina, thank you for sharing. wow, that's so special that you have twins. I'm sure they do teach you a lot and your older daughter probably likes to help you. wonderful!

    • Geolina profile image


      10 years ago

      We are all just human, at least that is what my four year old twins and ten year old daughter show me every day... Great hub, thanks!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 

      10 years ago from United States

      I try so hard to do a good job with discipline, but too often I find myself raising my voice, or just saying, "Because I said so," after being asked why one too many times in a day. I try to tell myself no one is perfect, but I feel so frustrated with myself.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 

      10 years ago from Cape Town

      Kids are far more ill-disciplined these days and I think it's because parents can't be bothered to discipline them properly, or are too politically correct to give them a smack when they need it.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thank you cosette and susan for commenting. it's interesting isn't it, to look at our parenting styles and even ask ourselves, why? I think sometimes we parent how we were parented or the opposite. Bottom line, all children need structure, love and healthy communication lines open with their parents/caregivers. I'm sure we all have given in when we shouldn't have or been too strict at times. Like everything else in life, it's finding the balance and what works best! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. It's always nice to see you. :]

    • susanlang profile image


      11 years ago

      Rebekah I think my role was authoritative much of the time but do remember slacking off and giving in to that mommy please, "can I have this." a time or two. You helped so many by writing this well researched and informitive hub. Nothing is more important then our children and how we treat them! Many of my hubs point out what happens to children when mistakes are made. I give this hub 5 stars and rated it up! Thank you.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      we were a little bit authoritarian and a little bit permissive and were strict on some things like drugs and alcohol...there would be harsh consequences for that, and fortunately we never had problems with that. love, discipline, encouraging creativity and independence, as well as administering punishment (not hititng but some penalty) when merited are key, as well as being supportive and listening to their thoughts ideas and feelings. we never stop being parents, do we?

      great hub. rating it appropriately.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Debra, thanks for reading and I appreciate your question. It is not uncommon for parents to have different opinions on parenting as you may have differing opinions on many issues.

      while it is ideal for both parents to agree on a style, what is more important is that you never undermine each other in front of the children. If you and your husband can decide together on blending your styles, it may be helpful. If there are areas of his parenting that you like, emphasize that. " I love how you spend time with _____, I can see how much _____ likes it that Dad plays with him."

      It's just an example, but the point being you don't want to make your husband feel inferior. Most authoritarians were raised that way also and feel it's the most effective way (that's why it's called authoritarian.)

      It would be helpful to sit down and discuss how you both were parented. agree to blend your parenting styles and accept that this is a part of who you are. the goal is the nurturing and care of your children. I personally believe the greatest parenting technique is a great marriage, allowing your kids to see team work, compromise and at times, negotiation. In dealing with the kids, use the word, "we", instead of "I", or "your dad and I have decided that it's best _______." I hope this helps. Parenting is not easy, and it helps for parents to be on the same page, perhaps not always agreeing, but agreeing to blend techniques that will bring about the best results for your kids in a safe and loving environment.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      What do you do when you and your spouse don't agree on type of parenting. My husband is 100% authoritarian, while I would be more authoritative. I hate the way he treats the kids, but I don't know how to get him to back off. I've told him how I feel, but it doesn't help. So, what's a mom to do??

    • G Miah profile image

      Gous Ahmed 

      11 years ago from Muslim Nation

      I think i fall into the authoritarian category, and i can see how it's working with my two year old daughter. Very useful hub.

    • Himitsu Shugisha profile image

      Himitsu Shugisha 

      11 years ago

      This is truly a wonderfully informative and well constructed hub. And I appreciate the add, but after reading your work I am just as excited to be your fan!!

    • prettydarkhorse profile image


      11 years ago from US

      hi Ms. RebekahElle,,,love this hub, it is very useful and I like the six discipline techniques, i think they really worked that way, role modelling for me is the best and consequences too...

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      ladies, thanks for reading and commenting. I hope it helps you with your children as parenting is the most important job we'll ever have!

      it requires so much, and yet if our heart and head is in the proper place, we can teach our kids well and give them a great foundation for their lives. those times that are hard, just take a deep breath and count to 10 and proceed, it helps.


    • jaybojas profile image


      11 years ago

      wow, im a mother and just learned some tips which is new to me. i will try those out. thanks for sharing

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 

      11 years ago from Philippines

      I think I am being authoritative. However, I still make many mistakes especially in reinforcing rules. It is difficult parenting 5 and emotional stress (impatience and frustration) sometimes beats me at doing a better job. I can see there's more I can do to become a better parent. Your hub clearly explains an important angle about parenting. Thanks and good job.

    • rebekahELLE profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Veronica, congrats on your 100 score! I think most of us want to fall into that authoritative category as it is the most effective. Parenting is a learned skill and takes huge amounts of patience and courage. we all make mistakes, that's for sure. Children are resilient especially when there's a huge amount of love in the home. thank you for your very nice comments. :)

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      I hope I fall under the authoritative type - I do there is always room for progress. I appreciate how you broke each category down and helped your readers to determine what category they fall under, and what they can do to fit into the area they so desire. Whether it's due to how one was raised, personal issues/demons, or immaturity, it's so easy to hit first, then think later. So it's great that you provided us with other effective and more positive ways to discipline and parent our young immpressionable children.


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