Disciplining Your Children: Love in Action

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012, Syllabus 2012-2013


Did you know the experts (American Mental Health Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians) have established guidelines regarding child discipline? Their recommendations are a good place to start our discussion of “Is there a ‘best’ way to correct children’s behavior?” Please join us as we travel from “Old School” to New Age” to explore options to make us more effective and aware parents.


Discipline is the process of teaching your child acceptable versus non-acceptable behavior (follow the rules). Discipline may involve punishment (time-out) or more importantly, rewards. Effective techniques aren’t about physical punishments. Most of the time they are more about treating children like adults, making them understand the gravity of the situation, and leading by example. The AAFP recommends several ways of shaping behavior: 1. positive reinforcement (focus on good behavior) 2. redirecting 3. verbal instruction/explanation 4. time-outs 5. re-explain expectations until compliance 6. grounding and 7. withholding privileges. Their charts indicate at what age these strategies work and when they are non productive (see Dr. Phil.com).

The American Mental Health Association says that being authoritative is the best parenting style. This parent sets clear expectations and consequences and is affectionate toward his or her child. The authoritative parent allows for flexibility and collaborative problem solving with the child when dealing with behavioral challenges. Corporal punishment is not recommended because there is no proof it works and has several negative consequences. Tips they recommend are:

1. Guide your discipline techniques to fit well with your child’s temperament.

2. Communicate your discipline plan

3. Be respectful of your child

4. Be consistent

5. When it’s done its done ( for both parent and child)

6. Understand what is appropriate for your child’s development

7. Look for the why behind behaviors. This doesn’t excuse behavior, but it can help prevent reoccurrence

8. Admit your mistakes

9. Realize some days will be challenges. If the situation becomes dangerous or intolerable, seek professional help (see webmd.com)

No discussion would be complete without considering the concept of positive discipline. This approach does not use any form of punishment. It is about loving guidance as opposed to threats and punishment. It is based on minimizing the child’s frustrations and misbehavior rather than giving punishments. The foundation of this style of discipline is encouraging children to feel good about themselves and building the parent’s relationship with the child so the child wants to please the parent. To achieve this, children need some time with parents every day that they can enjoy and feel good about. Children recognize a parent’s love through the time spent with them. Discipline and teaching work best within such positive relationships. Other important aspects are reasonable and age-appropriate expectations, feeding healthy foods and providing enough rest, giving clear instructions which may need to be repeated, looking for the causes of any misbehavior and making adjustments, and building routines. Children are helped by knowing what is happening in their lives. Having some predictability about their day without necessarily being regimental will help reduce frustration and misbehavior.

Some parents feel that positive parenting and non-punitive discipline is too permissive and will lead to unruly and disrespectful children. They also argue that there is no recourse for parents of misbehaving children to effectively control their misbehavior. Deliberate misbehavior, they say, must be firmly punished to prevent its recurrence.

Proponents of non-punitive discipline argue that children who misbehave often do it not out of malice, but out of ignorance, boredom or frustration, and simply need to be taught, listened to, or redirected. They argue that a close and loving relationship is vital and if there is such a relationship, the child will want to please the parent and will better accept rules and listen to reason. They also feel that punishments and smacks weaken the relationship which will lead to more problem behavior.

Bible Readings

1. Hebrews 12 7-11

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

2. Ephesians 6 4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Catechism Readings

1. Section 2223

Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.” Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children. By knowing how to acknowledge their own failings to their children, parents will be better able to guide and correct them:

Small Group Questions

1. Is there anything you can take home and use for child discipline in your family?

2. Is child discipline a life long obligation? How does it mix with unconditional love of a child?

3. Corporal punishment is outlawed in 24 countries (Europe and Latin America) but is legal in all 50 States of the Union. Are there situations when it is necessary?

4. Is positive discipline a possibility with a large family? Is it unrealistic?

Recommended Resources

All resources were found by internet searching

1. Dr.Phil.com/advice/parenting

a. Many related links listed on site (AAFP Guidelines Charts)

2. http://www.angelfire.com/hi3/catholichomeschool/parent.html

a. Catholic Parenting Website

3. www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/discipline-tactics

a. AMHA Guidelines

4. www.come-over.to/fasstar/kersey.htm

a. The do’s and don’ts of child discipline

5. www.wikipedia.org/childdiscipline

a. History and Positive Discipline Description

6. http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/liturgicalyear/activities/view.cfm?id=136

a. Five Principles of Discipline


1. Are you willing to briefly tell your small group partners one thing you did differently regarding child discipline next week? What were the results?

2. Did you discuss with your wife how you will handle discipline for the children?


Kevin McDonough / Reid Rooney

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