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Children and Discipline

Children and Discipline -
What's Your Parenting Style?

children and discipline When parents ask me about children and discipline, I always begin by enquiring about their own parenting style.

For instance I ask them, "When we talk about discipline and children, what do you think your style of discipline is?"

"What do you think of your partner's parenting style when we talk about your children and discipline?"

I then ask questions about their own childhood experience of being disciplined and whether they see this as a positive or negative pattern to follow.

These answers usually create discussions about the methods to use with children and discipline, especially as so often I find that today's parents were smacked as kids.

I often find that these discussions are just as revealing to the parents as they are to me. There is no more controversial topic than children and discipline to alert parents to their own, often deeply hidden, childhood parenting issues.

children and discipline
Nowadays, both children and discipline are seen in quite a different way than that of my own childhood, and thank goodness for that! Seen and not heard was very painful for many children back then.

Next I ask the parents to talk to me about their own personalities and whether they think they are reactive or responsive to their children when behavioural difficulties arise. This particularly applies when we discipline young children.

Most times each parent is surprised to hear the observations of the other parent on their parenting style!

Of course the earlier we begin with a firm, clear and consistent approach to discipline and children the better off we will all be.

Children learn best by being given
clear firm and consistent direction
from parents who are clear, firm and consistent in their approach.

Reaction and Response?
What is the Difference?


consistent parenting advice
  • Reactive parents often become emotionally involved with their children's negative behaviour, seeing it as a reflection on themselves.
  • They can become distressed and take it personally, often feeling their child is "doing this to get at me".
  • Often parents who have a problem with their own anger get caught up into the turmoil of a child's anger, unable to separate their child's behaviour from their own.
  • This leads to escalating situations which become more about the parent than the child, with the parent unable to understand why it is all so out of hand.


  • Responsive parents look for ways to use the situation as a training ground for children and discipline.
  • They look for reasons why their child is acting out, checking on their physical needs for food, water and sleep then trying to look at the situation from the child's perspective.
  • They understand that their child would rather be calm and unstressed and maintain a clear, consistent, focussed approach while remaining calm and in control themselves.
  • They respond to the child rather than react to the situation.

Case History

Read more in this case study about children and discipline taken from real life.

(Names have been changed)
    Peter and Jane have a stormy relationship, mostly because of Peter's inability to remain calm under stress. Jane says this has become more acute now they are parents to a beautiful little girl, Molly.

    Each time they visit with Peter's parents, Molly becomes grizzly and cries constantly. Peter reacts to this by repeatedly demanding that Molly stop, while Peter's father joins in noisily as well. The louder the demands, the louder Molly cries, until in despair, Jane usually curtails the visit, thereby generating more of Peter's anger.

    When Peter and Jane came to seek help, they were no longer visiting Peter's parent's home together, as Jane felt Molly became too distressed. Peter was very upset by this, but eventually came to see that Molly was reacting to his own stressful relationship with his parents, and her behaviour exacerbated what was already a stressful time for Peter.

    Peter and Jane spent valuable time discussing Peter's relationship with his father, learning manyPeter and Jane spent valuable time discussing Peter's relationship with his father, learning many important details that helped their relationship to grow.

    Both felt that until Peter and his father could relate calmly with each other, it was better for Molly to see her grandparents only with Jane. They also looked at different ways Peter could discipline Molly, rather than constantly yelling at her, a reaction from his own childhood.

    Over time, Peter was able to use his desire to be a better parent to help him in his relationship with his own parents. He became responsive to Molly rather than reacting from his own emotional stress and Molly quickly responded to his care. important details that helped their relationship to grow.

    Today, both Peter and his parents are slowly mending their stressful relationship and Molly is thriving under her parents and grandparents care.

  • To enable you to stay responsive rather than reactive, use the phrase, "That's interesting", as a means of breaking the tension.

  • Seeing situations as 'interesting' rather than 'bad, wrong, or devastating' helps you to stay responsive rather than reacting.

  • When you are responsive, you think as well as feel, therefore maintaining your own sense of self.

  • Remember:

    With parenting discipline we are teaching our children how to have self control, self discipline and to become self reliant, so they are able to make good choices for themselves.

    This means not over protecting them, or doing everything for them, but maximizing their opportunities to learn through personal experience and observation, even when this means making mistakes.

    • The only way children can learn to do this is by being given the opportunities for this learning.
    • Clear, firm, consistent parenting is quality parenting.
    • As parents we model behaviour for our children to follow.
    Read more about
    Parenting Styles

    How to Discipline Children

    Discipline is NOT about punishment

    Effective discipline has nothing to do with any form of physical abuse towards children.

    Discipline is NOT about smacking, spanking or hitting.

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