Raising Well-Behaved Kids: Discipline Measures That Work Without Doing Harm

Well-Behaved Kids

For older children, prevention also includes talking with them about what they need to do and why. Explaining ahead of time instead of criticizing them after they have made mistakes effectively programs children to be well-behaved.

2. Distraction

Distraction refers to turning attention to more constructive activities when children’s behaviors are getting off-track. Siblings beginning to fight? “Hey kids, look what I have here! Let’s …!”

3. Separate children from a situation they can’t handle. 

Here’s another essential discipline principle. If kids are fighting over a toy, remove the toy. If children or teenagers—and adults as well—start yelling, suggest to them please to go to their quiet space (usually their bedroom) so they can calm down.

That is, either remove the situation (e.g., the contested toy) or the participants from the scene as soon as you hear even the first sounds of angry voices or fighting.

4. Establish effective routines 

Yet another discipline technique. Effective routines  (which is a form of prevention) for likely-to-be-problematic situations. For instance, to prevent anger eruptions, establish that kids will go to their quiet space to calm themselves when they are getting upset. They then can return to “the situation they couldn’t handle” when they feel ready to deal with the problem from the calm zone. 

When transition times prove to be difficult, re-think these routines. If morning getting-ready-for school rushing around, for instance, provokes upsets, figure out new routines that will sustain calm. The same with coming to the table for meals, as well as bedtimes.

Mistakes are for learning, not for punishing.

Establishing more effective routines has an added benefit. The process of responding to difficulties with devising new action plans clarifies for your children that mistakes are for learning. Yes, mistakes are not for punishing; they are for learning.

5. Problem-solving

Building new routines in response to upsets that happen frequently at similar daily times also models awareness that irritation and anger signal that there is a problem somewhere, and problems are for solving. Problem-solving lies at the core of how to sustain well-being.

Shared problem-solving via calmly talking together, for instance, prevents and resolves relationship problems. Now there’s an essential skill to model for your children! Monkey see monkey do. The same is true for children: Children see, children do.

Related: Ask These 6 Questions Daily To Raise Mentally Strong Kids

The Bottom Line

Parents are responsible for teaching their kids how to become well-behaved teens and mature adults who talk over differences cooperatively with others instead of acting mad, bad, or sad to get their way.

Note that the keyword here is teaching. Discipline comes from the word disciple­. Discipline is about teaching, not about punishing.

In sum, physical and verbal violence signal that a parent’s discipline techniques are misguided, based on punishing instead of on teaching. Developing a new repertoire of techniques that are both less harmful and more effective increases the odds that your kids will turn out great, and that everyone in your family will thrive.


Written By Susan Heitler
Originally Appeared In Psychology Today
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Raising Well-Behaved Kids: Discipline Measures That Work Without Doing Harm
Well-Behaved Kids pin
Raising Well-Behaved Kids: Discipline Measures That Work Without Doing Harm
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Susan Heitler Ph.D.

Susan Heitler is a Denver clinical psychologist and widely-read author. Educated at Harvard and NYU, Susan Heitler offers self-help information for individuals and for couples. She also writes for therapists, offering new understandings and treatments for anxiety, anger, depression, narcissism, and relationship challenges. Dr. Heitler’s office also serves as a center for the evaluation and treatment of parental alienation. She and her husband of more than 45 years are proud parents of four happily married adult children and grateful grandparents of fifteen grandchildren.View Author posts