Discipline: 5 Dos and Don’ts When Your Kids Won’t Listen

Tips for mastering this key parenting skill

Do you get frustrated when your kids talk back or flat-out refuse to do what you ask? These dos and don’ts for discipline from pediatrician Edward Gaydos, DO, may help you:

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1. Don’t view discipline as punishment

Look at discipline as a means of actively engaging with kids to help mold their moral character.

“With discipline, “We are teaching our children self-control and restraint,” explains Dr. Gaydos. “Punishment is a direct, pointed penalty or a loss of privilege that serves as retribution.”

Discipline is far more effective than punishment but does require a little more work.

2. Do find opportunities for praise

Pay attention to what your child is doing, Dr. Gaydos advises. “Make an effort to notice when your child is actively engaged in being good, and compliment him or her on the good behavior,” he says.

“Take the time to listen fully to what they have to say, and agree when appropriate. If we disagree, we say so — again, taking the time to let them know why.”

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Parents who are available to, and show empathy toward, their children are serving as excellent role models, he notes.

3. Do set limits and keep them

Take the time to let youngsters and adolescents know the appropriate behaviors you expect from them.

“We set these limits, then we follow through with them,” says Dr. Gaydos. “If your child falters, he or she should know that there will be a consistent, expected consequence. There are no surprises, no new negotiations and no retractions.”

4. Don’t threaten or explode

“Warning children, ‘You better be good,’ is too broad and general a message,” says Dr. Gaydos.

Assuming a child should know what we want, not being clear about what we expect in advance, and setting unrealistic limits will lead to frustration.

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That leaves the door open for reacting in anger or in an overly emotional way.

5. Do be a parent, not a buddy

Kids need you as a parent, not as a friend, to teach them as they grow. Disciplining your child and setting limits will instill confidence as they learn to navigate through life.

“With discipline, we’re not passive observers, we’re actively involved as teachers,” says Dr. Gaydos. “It’s an ongoing process and requires work.”

But disciplining will pay dividends as you watch your youngster grow, become more confident and develop a good moral compass.

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