5 Smart and Effective Ways to Discipline your Child

Mighty Mommy shares five smart approaches to discipline that will help redirect naughty behaviors and get your child to think twice before making a bad choice.

Cheryl Butler
7-minute read
Episode #490

Standing in the check-out line at the grocery store can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Just last week, as I was patiently waiting to pay for my gallon of milk and stick of deodorant for my 16-year-old son who was leaving for camp the next morning, I heard the blood-curdling cries of a young girl in the next lane. She'd just been told she couldn’t have the pack of gum she so desperately wanted.

She screeched and protested. And then she escalated her drama to the next level; she hit her mother in the leg as hard as her little fists would allow. This always makes for a pleasant experience for the rest of the shoppers who now have two choices: Look away and ignore the battle or stare and make commentary quietly, but loud enough for surrounding shoppers to listen to every judgmental word. We've all been there.

It’s moments like these that parents need to stay strong, despite being under public scrutiny in an age of cell-phone vigilantes. But, unfortunately, many parents can’t hack the negative attention. They give in and cow-tow to the child’s tantrum, surrendering the gum or other must-have items at check-out.

Meghan, a listener from Jacksonville, Florida recently wrote asking for the best ways to discipline her two children in these types of stressful situations. “I have tried time-outs, removing privileges, and not letting them see their friends when they misbehave or break our rules, but they just don’t take me seriously. Can you recommend some other ways to discipline my kids that will get their attention?”

Finding the right balance when it comes to discipline can be one of the most frustrating parts of every parent’s journey. Meghan is not alone when it comes to finding effective ways to enforce appropriate punishments when kids act out or break the rules. Mighty Mommy shares five clever approaches to discipline that will help redirect those naughty behaviors and get your child to think twice before making a bad choice.

5 Smart and Effective Ways to Discipline Your Child    

  1. Add Rather than Take Away
  2. Toy Timeout
  3. Rephrase Requests in the Positive
  4. Electronic Lockdown
  5. Point System

Here is a closer look at each.

1. Add Rather than Take Away

Let's say your 10-year-old son decides it would be fun to throw rocks at ongoing cars coming and going from the neighborhood. Your first instinct might be to lock him in his bedroom for a month or perhaps you feel like throwing rocks at HIM, but instead try this tactic. This is one of the best pieces of parenting advice we ever received. It's from parenting guru, John Rosemond, family psychologist and popular columnist.

When your child breaks a rule, instead of taking something away such as a privilege or a favorite possession, add things into his schedule. It might be cleaning all the windows in your house or caring for the bathrooms for an entire week. The point is to have the consequences be something that takes time away from his own life and adds value to someone else’s.

We’ve tried this routinely with our kids resulting in two of our tweens having to clean and declutter our shed and garage one spring! It took them three full weekends and the poor behavior that got them there has never happened again.

2. Toy Timeout

Timeouts have long been one of the go-to discipline techniques parents use when they want to remove their child from an intense situation such as having a meltdown, using bad language, or being uncooperative with a sibling.

Timeouts definitely have an impact, depending on the age of the child or how often they’re used. Several of my kids loathed being put in a quiet space away from the rest of the family so they learned to stay on task because they didn’t want to be whisked away to the other end of the house for a short period of time. While timeouts are effective for removing the child from a situation that needs improving, another strategy for timeouts is using them to place toys or other favorite items in a temporary holding pattern.

A great use for a toy timeout is when siblings are fighting over the same toy or if your child consistently leaves a game, stuffed animal, or other favorite play items on the floor when it should’ve been cleaned up and put away. Create a bin for these items and set a time frame for how long the item or toy will be in timeout. Pro tip - Keep the timeframe fairly brief or your child may simply lose interest in that particular toy and move on to something else. 

When she realizes that she can’t have her favorite dolly for a whole day, she’ll learn to think twice about hitting her brother with it because she doesn’t like that he touched it by mistake when he was trying to get to his Legos! 


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.