Discipline Do’s and Don’ts

Research consistently shows that the best way to promote positive behavior and to reduce misbehavior is by practicing positive discipline.

What parents can do to increase good behavior

Use Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for teaching good behavior, by giving positive feedback about the specific behavior you like.  for example, when your son puts his toys in the toy bin, praise him by saying something like, “I really like the way you picked up your toys and put them away in the toy bin.”  This praise will make him more likely to do it again the following day.  The trick is to catch your child being good.

Be careful not to use reinforcements for bad behavior.  if you say no to something, but eventually give in to your child’s whining, you’ll teach her that whining is an effective way to get what she wants.  Be careful about disingenuous or excessive praise.  Help your child focus on the things that he can control.  Praise your child for his effort not his intelligence.

Use Time-Outs as a Negative Reinforcement

When you give a “time-out”, you are using a non-aggressive approach to discipline.  a time-out stops the misbehavior immediately and removes your child from the situation. Time-outs should only be used in instances of aggression (either physical or verbal).

Spanking can be a powerful way of getting a child to do what you want in the short term, but as a parent you are modeling aggression.   Spanking also has been linked to various negative child outcomes like anger, fear, resentment and lying.

Other parenting strategies that work

Positive Opposites

Instead of telling your child what you don’t want him to do, try to identify what you do want him to do, and let him know.


Attention escalates behavior.  If you give attention to a positive behavior it will increase and if you give attention to a negative behavior it will also increase, so pay attention to the behaviors that you want more of.


Ignoring minor misbehavior (that isn’t dangerous) can effectively extinguish that behavior.


Children learn by copying, so always ask yourself what you are teaching your child by your behavior.

Effective Commands

It is hard to keep track of a string of commands so ask your child to do one thing at a time, and don’t phrase your command as a question.