Getting Discipline Right: Choices and Consequences

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*Parenting differs for many adults, and the idea of this article is not to shame or judge.

For some, disciplining a child can be confusing and exhausting. Trying everything from spanking to time out to taking privileges leaves many parents feeling defeated as they see little or no results from the discipline given. New age discipline is a practice used to correct an unacceptable behavior in children minus spanking and any other forms of physical punishment.  This “new age” idea helps redirect the child by teaching them to internalize the decision(s) they’ve made.

The practical use of non-violent punishment are ideas that are adapted from studies of adults who grew up in environments of violent punishment and their behaviors later in life. Every generation grows up saying, “I’ll never treat my kid like…fill in the blank.”  The collective journey of mental awareness and parenting examination began when psychologists started learning the effects of punishment vs. discipline.  After years of examining the results of discipline over punishment with children, parents still question the best way to raise a confident, respectful, self-thinking individual.

Punishment vs Discipline

Punishment vs. discipline is a topic which is constantly debated.  Psychologists insinuate that children who are “conditionally spanked” eventually condone and settle conflicts with peers and siblings by lashing out through physical violence.  This learned behavior comes from the child seeing a problem resolved by hitting.  He/she learns, “this is the way in which I will settle my dispute.”

Parents can find ways to discipline without demolishing the child’s self-confidence, yet hold the child accountable for their actions.  Elisa Medhus, M.D., describes punishment as a way to “control children on a personal or subjective level” whereas, disciplining a child “guides them as mentors, not controlling them as dictators” (Raising Children Who Think for Themselves).  Everything we train our children to do is embedded in them for life (habits, reactions to situations, and daily practices).  Parenting is not only capable of being analyzed from a psychological level it can be guided through a spiritual aspect as well.  The Bible, the oldest book in human history, describes a parent’s responsibility to teach their child.  This responsibility lies in molding and discipling with love and respect in the way of the Lord.  “The LORD corrects those he loves, as parents correct a child of whom they are proud” (Proverbs 3:12).

Types of Parenting

To understand discipline, it is necessary to examine parenting styles.  Health & Lifestyle published an article in 2016 which documented one style of parenting known as the “controlling parent.”  Studies showed when parents were more likely to bark orders at a child, or were authoritative, children were more likely to have low self-esteem and meager rates of self-expression.  Children coming out of these controlling environments were reportedly prone to depression, and many stated they had previously thought about suicide or harming themselves.  The grief and sadness stay with these individuals as they grow into their 20’s, 30’s, & 40’s.  Even as adults, the feelings of pain still follow their daily lives when they do not make decisions that are in line with their parent’s views or guidelines.  These feelings of anguish are types of psychological control which manifest into emotional and mental damage.

Other types of parenting mentioned, by Psychology Today, discuss the “Free-Range” parent.  The idea of free-range parenting is to create an adult that is capable of being independent and can cope with difficulties later in life, due to his/her self-governing capabilities.  Some adults remember growing up in the 60’s, 70’s, or 80’s, riding a bike all day, making forts in the woods, or fishing with friends.  Having the ability to enjoy these pleasures of life is not similar to free-range parenting.  Instead, free-range parenting consists of little to no adult direction and children are permitted to do whatever they choose.  “Walking down a highway at 6 years old”, was one instance where police were called to remove the child from a harmful situation.  Psychology Today also stated that the parents were “infuriated at the police” for prohibiting them from parenting as they wished.  Is complete independence and aloofness the answer in creating a disciplined and self-directed child?

It is easy to say that a happy medium with guidance and autonomy mold and teach young ones, but it is also up to the parent to keep consistent values and habits on a daily basis.  Be there to help when the child asks, yet let them fall and pick themselves up on their own.  Parenting is a difficult job, but it is also extremely gratifying when children, as they grow into adulthood,  are thinking for themselves and making wise decisions.

How Can You Discipline with Love?

Below are three of twelve suggestions Dr. Medhus gives parents as ways to enable children to think for themselves.  Essentially, these rules promote children to learn self-directing behavior through a clearly defined set of agreements.  Remember that guidelines change depending on the age of the child.  Disciplining with love is essential to building confidence, respect, and understanding.

1) Rules children can agree with:

This ensures everyone, including parents, are aware of the repercussions of enforcing rules.  All are required to accept and abide by the core family values, and this includes an understanding of further actions which will take place if or when necessary.  For example,  if Max decides not to turn in his homework and has missing assignments, then consequences will be enforced.  No X-box for the weekend, no television in the room, or no cell phone privileges, are some examples.  It is up to that parent to find the consequences that fit the family’s principles.


It’s important that we teach our children that they will face consequences for their choices in life. They will be held to this standard as adults, so we should teach them now. This is  also a godly principle, as we are taught that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). Think about it this way, if you are late for work constantly you will receive a disciplinary warning, if you are caught speeding you will have to pay a fine…these are consequences to bad choices. Our children will face these same types of choices and they need to be taught to choose the wise path. To train them this way they need to be taught cause and effect; “If you do this, this will happen, if you do that, that will happen.” God explained this very principle in Deuteronomy 30:15-20 where he told the Israelites to choose life. Lets us teach our children to choose life by disciplining them in such a way that they make healthy, godly choices.

2) Respect for children:

One of the ideals that really should strike the minds and hearts of parents is respect for children.  The role as parent is not to manhandle children into becoming who we want them to be.  Identify the individual uniqueness of every child.  Respect their likes and dislikes and let them know they are important. Listening to kids ensures that they are shown how important they are.  Pay attention and respect their ideas. This, in turn, teaches the child they are valued even when there are disagreements.  Respect is a vital building block for creating a lasting open relationship with little ones.

3) Not rescuing children from the consequences of their misbehavior:

Parents want nothing but the best for their kiddos.  Before having children, everyone thinks, “my child will never act like that”.  Children will act like that.

Even the most attentive parents have had a child run behind cars in a parking lot, throw a tantrum in the middle of a store, or even stand on a booth at a restaurant to watch the couple behind them.

This doesn’t automatically mean the parent is a bad parent, and it doesn’t automatically mean the child misbehaved. Everyone makes mistakes and children will make lots of them.

The key is to know and understand that children can handle the consequences of their behaviors.  It is only through understanding consequences that a child learns what behavior is inappropriate.  Being overly-involved in a situation or creating a scapegoat for a child’s behavior shows the child they are not trusted to make their own appropriate decisions.  It sends a message that they are incapable of handling a situation on their own.  They are capable, and they can make significant decisions. Often times, they just make the wrong choice before learning to make the right one.

Kids are Pretty Amazing

Millennial parents started a journey of new age parenting that developed into a conscious movement which continues to seek out and create a value of responsibility in parenting.  “Train a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).  Take time to listen. Hold them accountable for their actions. Let them know how proud of them you are, even when they do not make wise decisions.

Let us know some wonderful parenting tips that you use in your daily routine to encourage and help your child through difficult times with a comment!  We would love to hear practices that have given your child strength and confidence in decision-making skills.

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About Tarrah LaPolla

A native from Arizona transplanted into the Floridian beach life. A mom, wife, student, employee, and entrepreneur looking for a balance to living life and teaching my children to enjoy theirs.

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