How to Discipline your Child without Spanking or Shouting
Studies show that practicing positive discipline is more effective than spanking and punishment. Read more about the benefits compiled by mom and writer Donna Cuna-Pita.
We’ve all been there as parents: that point of no return when our child misbehaves or throws a tantrum, and we reach our boiling point and decide we’ve had enough of this behavior. In a split-second, fueled by anger and frustration, we raise our voice and spank our child.
That precise moment when parents lose control, when we let our emotions overwhelm us – just like our misbehaving children - is always inadvertently followed by guilt from the side of the parent, and resentment from the side of the child. No issues are resolved, no lessons taught. In this game of “I’ll hit you back if you hit your sister” or “I’ll shout louder if you answer back”, nobody wins.
Are we disciplining, or are we reacting?
In a recent article in New York Times titled Why You Should Stop Yelling at Your Kids, Alan Kazdin, a professor of psychology and child psychiatry at Yale, shared: “If the goal of the parent is catharsis -- I want to get this out of my system and show you how mad I am – yelling is probably perfect. [But] if the goal is to develop a positive habit in the child, yelling is not the way.”
Yelling can be just as bad as hitting
Spanking increases aggressive behavior in children, instead of disciplining them and modifying the tendency to misbehave.
But if you think that shouting isn’t as bad as physical punishment, think again. A 2014 study in The Journal of Child Development found that yelling produces similar results in children as physical punishment, these being increased levels of anxiety, stress and depression, along with an increase in behavioral problems. So how are we supposed to teach our children how to behave properly without losing our cool ourselves? Here, real parents share how they discipline their children without shouting or spanking.
Set clear rules and brief your child
Set clear rules, and remind your child about them before potentially frustrating situations. “To avoid tantrums and breakdowns at the toy store or mall, before we head out, I clearly tell my children that no one will be buying any toys on this trip. If they see something they like, they can tell us they want it for their birthday or for Christmas. This way, they find joy in just looking around and spending time with family without feeling the need to buy anything. We manage expectations even before we head out and they learn self-control in the process. They haven’t had any breakdowns since we started doing this.” – Ria, mom of three
Keep consistent rules that apply to everyone
“We have a no-gadget-on-the-table rule in our family. This holds true whether we are having our meal inside or outside the house. Everyone follows this rule, even my husband and I. All gadgets are left on the kitchen island, away from the dining table, before anyone sits down at the table. Following this rule, even if we have matters that we need to attend to for work or school, has not only made it a habit for all of us, but has also led to closer family ties and meaningful dinner conversations.” – Barbi, mom of one
Model the behavior you want to see in your child
“I try my very best to keep calm in my everyday life, but more so when I’m in front of my children. I want to show them that there are better ways to deal with stressful situations than exploding and running amuck. If they see me staying calm and being reasonable even in a very upsetting situation, they know they can do it, too. Like whenever we get stuck in traffic, my husband and I don’t shout at the other drivers and mindlessly complain. We start a conversation, listen to everyone’s favorite songs, or play car games. We constantly tell our children that they can’t always control the situation, but they can control how they react. They need to be aware that even during miserable moments, it’s possible to keep your cool.” – Donna, mom of two
Reward good behavior
“Kids naturally want to make their parents proud, so if you constantly notice good behavior and reward them for it, they’ll start behaving better. Simple acts of appreciation like hugging or high-fives and affirmations like ‘That was really great of you to help your sister carry her bag,’ will support and encourage good behavior. It also creates a loving and positive home environment which makes everyone in the family calmer and more receptive to each other.” – Diana, mom of 4
The next time you find yourself in a stressful situation while trying to discipline your child, remember to take a deep breath, and try these helpful tips from fellow parents.
About The Writer
Donna Cuna-Pita is a former magazine editor who is currently a freelance writer, stylist, and speaker. She's happily married to her highschool sweetheart and a proud mom to two teenagers. She spends most of her time tending to her edible garden, trying out new recipes, and doing DIY projects at her home in the suburbs. Follow her DIY adventures on Instagram at @donnacunapita.