A Better Way to Discipline Kids

by | May 5, 2024 | Child Counseling

Discipline is Not About Control


As parents, we typically have a lot of ideas about discipline. For some, discipline is about teaching a lesson. For others, discipline is about compliance. You may discover that some of your ideas about discipline are related to the way you were parented. What if we reframed discipline and we thought of discipline as an opportunity for children to practice self-control, self-regulation and personal responsibility? One day your child will grow up and you won’t be there to help them control themselves. So how can we empower children to practice self-control now?


Helping Kids Learn to Self-Regulate


We tend to believe that discipline is about controlling our children and gaining compliance. But one day your child is going to need to make choices on their own. So, shouldn’t the goal of discipline be an opportunity for practice?


When a child is out of control and we step in, what is the child learning? I can be as out of control as I want, and my parents will step in and control my behavior. In stepping in and demanding control, we have robbed the child of the opportunity to practice self-control. We have essentially told them we will regulate them. If we use threats and directives we step in and make the choice for the child. And the child walks away from that interaction with no learned skills or opportunities.


Kids Need Practice


Children are not cognitive. They live in the here and now. So, when we allow children the opportunity to self-regulate, they need practice. Generally, children have very little control over their world. So, when we give children an opportunity to practice self-control, we need to understand that this is not a “quick fix”. In other words, when we give children an opportunity to self-regulate, we need to expect that they will need time and practice to do so. This is a learned process that takes time. If we are consistent in our efforts, kids learn that when they choose a behavior there is an outcome associated with that choice.



Offering Choices


One way of allowing this practice is through limit setting.  When you set a limit and offer alternative choices you allow your child to practice self-control and self-regulation. When you offer them an alternative, the child is now forced to decide how to control their behavior.

We need to recognize that offering choices during limit setting is a cognitive process and thus children need processing time. Remember, children are not cognitive in nature and making a choice is a cognitive process. We as adults tend to expect immediate compliance. Again, your child needs time and practice for self-regulation.


Raising Healthy Kids


One day our children will grow up and will face bigger choices. We want children to learn that they are capable and competent. We want to raise healthy kids that turn into teens and adults who know how to self-regulate and accept responsibility.


If you’d like to learn more about these skills and take a deep dive into new ways to discipline, we’d love to invite you to consider our parenting course. To learn more, please visit our website or set up a free consultation. We’d love to help support you as you learn new ways of understanding and implementing discipline with your child.


About the author:

<a href="http://collectivehopecounseling.com/about" target="_blank">Stephanie Rodenberg-Lewis</a>

Stephanie Rodenberg-Lewis

Stephanie is a licensed professional counselor, a registered play therapist, a national certified counselor and a certified school counselor. She has over 17 years of experience working with children as a classroom teacher, school counselor and licensed therapist. She founded Collective Hope Counseling in August 2020 to help serve her community. With her extensive experience in child development, she knew she wanted to work with kids and their families. Stephanie completed additional training in child centered play therapy and became a certified+ play therapy professional in 2024.