If you are a mom, sooner or later you are going to want to learn how to discipline kids. There are so many different child discipline books, methods, and ideas swirling on the internet that it is hard to know who to believe or what will actually work for your child.
As a classroom teacher and mom of two adult kids, I can personally attest that what works for one kid doesn’t always work for the other due to temperament, interests, age, and gender.
If your first child was easygoing, don’t get too high and mighty. The next child or two may put you on your knees and fast!
In this post, I will talk about how to discipline kids from a Christian perspective. Not only will this post cover positive discipline strategies (for all ages) that won’t crush their hearts, but I will also give ideas on how to mold your kid’s character and point them to Jesus.
If there is one thing you get out of this post, it is to discipline your child with love.
What is Discipline?
Before we talk about how to discipline kids, let’s talk about the definition of discipline. Meriam-Webster says discipline is the following: 1.) instruction 2.) orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; and 3.) training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties, or moral character.
This definition covers multiple dimensions of behavior management: teaching, training, conduct, patterns, correction, and moral character. I bet you thought discipline was just punishment, huh?
To be honest, there is an art to disciplining kids; it is a balance between redirecting bad behavior and enforcing punishment. Whatever you choose, it is important that you and your spouse agree on how to discipline kids and be consistent. Otherwise, your parenting strategies will not work.
What Are Some Positive Discipline Strategies?
If you want to learn how to discipline a 4-year-old who is defiant all the way to a teenager, you need to first learn about positive discipline. Positive discipline stops problems before they ever start. It is about wisely managing your kids during the day and night.
As a classroom teacher and mom who has raised two kids, I suggest you consider these things:
- Schedule-put your kids on a schedule. Have set times for meals, snacks, play, nap, reading, bath, and bedtime. (Older kids can be on a modified schedule.) If your kids don’t have a routine, it will lead to bad behavior because they are idle. Fights with siblings, overstimulation with screens, poor diet, and lack of sleep make them irritable and unruly.
- Diet-What are your kids eating, and are they eating enough? Consider focusing on whole foods. Processed foods that have colors, sugars, white flour, nitrates, etc. are not good for your kids. I taught Jr. High, and I can tell you first hand the class after lunch was always my worst class. Diet directly affects behavior, I promise!
- Screen time-How much time are your kids on a screen each day? The more time they spend on it, the harder it will be to get them off. Kids who are addicted will have an all-out meltdown if you pull the plug. Stop the addiction before it starts. Ipads and phones are especially addictive. Limit all screens to about 2-3 hours a day. In fact, make them earn it with chores and reading.
- Sleep-Your kids need sleep. I recommend a sleep schedule. Start your baby on a schedule at birth. In fact, Babywise is a great way to sleep train your child. Additionally, older kids need 7-9 hours of sleep too. Don’t let them stay up all night. I suggest the phone be put up by 10 pm. Never allow phones in rooms overnight. If your child isn’t sleeping, I suggest you pull the screens and get them outside to play.
- Play/Exercise-Kids need to get outside every day and play. The more time they spend outside creating, running, and pretending the better chance they will be worn out when they come in. That restless energy will be burnt off in a positive way instead of negatively with discipline issues.
- Re-direct-Sometimes your child just needs to be distracted or redirected. If he is annoying a sibling, ask him to move to the other couch. If you have a toddler who is noisy, just remove the object. If he is compliant, then all is good. In fact, this is how to discipline kids in a positive way.
- Set Boundaries-Your kids are not mind-readers. They are going to do whatever they can get away with unless you set boundaries and expectations. If a schedule is posted on the fridge and chores are given weekly, then the ball is in their court to manage the outcome. Make following the rules easy to understand and expectations clearly outlined so they have a big chance for success.
- Positive Reinforcement-Catch your kids doing things right. Constantly tell them how proud you are for choosing to do their chores, helping their brother, cleaning up their room, etc. Praise them in front of other family members, friends, and publicly whenever possible.
- Build a Relationship-Listen to your child when he is upset. Genuinely take an interest when he wants your attention. Put down the phone, turn off the TV, etc. If he is in trouble, let him explain his side. Furthermore, it is important to spend time together doing things that are fun with each child and together as a family. Trust me, you are going to need that relationship when you get to the teen years!
- Devotions-Pick books that are age-appropriate to read to your kids. I usually did it at mealtime or bedtime. We would read a short Bible story/character book and then talk about it. If your child is struggling with lying, cheating, hitting, etc. then pick Christian books that deal with this behavior. Take advantage of this teachable moment to instill morals and values at a time of non-conflict. Word pictures and stories are great ways to work on character traits. Jesus did this often with parables.
Get your FREE CHORE CHECKLIST PRINTABLE and help your kids be responsible! There are two lists, one for young kids and one for teens.
- Rewards-Reward your child for getting good grades, learning a new skill, or working on a character quality that was previously lacking. This is different than bribery. Bribery is given in exchange for good behavior. Rewards are given for good choices that you did not coerce. It is genuinely earned and from the heart. This is how to discipline kids positively.
- Give Choices-Kids need to feel some control over their lives, especially strong-willed kids. Give them a choice between two acceptable things to eliminate power struggles. Say something like, “Do you want the green or purple shoes? Do you want the apple or orange? Do you like chocolate or vanilla?” You can’t do it with everything or it will be a negotiation, but it works with preferences.
- Prayer and fasting-I am amazed at how many Christian parenting sites forget to add this to their list. Ask God how to best direct your child’s heart toward Him. If you are seeing a stronghold in your child’s life, I suggest you fast. This is a powerful way to break rebellion. I have seen more positive changes happen through prayer and fasting than anything else.
- Child prayer-pray together at night before bed. If you have a character quality you are working on with your child, ask Jesus to help your child. Additionally, let him pray and ask Jesus for help so he takes ownership. After prayer, talk about how he made some great choices that day and you are proud of him.
- Role-play-If your child is struggling with lying, cheating, hitting, etc., role-play what to do the next time he is in this situation. Talk through what good choices look like and how to react properly under pressure. It will help him feel confident and not default to emotions and bad behavior. In fact, role play will empower him to do the right thing.
- Say “Yes”-Try to find ways you can say “yes.” In fact, think of ways to reframe your “no” to “yes.” Here are some examples: “Yes, you can go to the party, if the parents are home.” “Yes, you can have that toy if you use your allowance to buy it.” “Yes, you can have a friend over after you clean your room.”
- Natural Consequences-This is the generation of helicopter parenting. We cringe when we see our kids suffer, and so we try to save them. Guilty. The best teacher is life. Let natural consequences fall on your child so he learns now instead of later. I gave my kids one save a semester. After that, they had to go without lunch or suffer for the late paper. Even fail the class. That one was hard.
- Try again-If you do not like the way your child is behaving or responding, simply say, “Try again.” That means he has a second chance to approach you correctly. This gives him time to stop and think about what he is doing ie. whining, having a bad attitude, yelling, etc.
- Role model-What kind of role model are you for your kids? Your children learn more from your behavior than what you say. More is caught than taught. Are you reading good material, watching appropriate shows, or behaving in a way that reflects Jesus? If you want to mitigate some discipline issues, be the person you want your kids to be.
If inappropriate behavior continues, check out these tips on how to discipline kids. These child discipline methods will help train and mold your kids so they have good moral character.
Remember, your goal is for your kids to follow Jesus one day and pass your faith on to the next generation. You don’t want your discipline to drive them away from God but toward Him.
In fact, a spirit of fear-based, angry parenting will do just that so be careful with how you enforce your discipline.
RELATED: I highly recommend checking out the Crazy Cool Family podcast for more positive parenting strategies.
How Do You Discipline a Child?
The two most important things to remember about how to discipline kids are that the crime needs to fit the punishment, and the consequence you pick needs to be logical and meaningful. This entails finding your child’s currency.
What do I mean by the “crime” fits the punishment?
Have a relevant consequence that fits the “crime.” Something that will remind your child not to do the unwanted behavior again.
Here are some examples:
Crime: The child is not cleaning his room. Punishment: Have him clean his room plus his sibling’s room.
Crime: The child came home 10 minutes late. Punishment: Next time he goes out, the child comes in 10 minutes earlier. Double, or triple the time if it gets worse.
Crime: Child slams door. Punishment: She opens and closes the door 20 times. If it persists, take the door off the hinges for a period of time.
Crime: The child will not be nice to siblings. Punishment: The child is removed. Has to sit in his room for 10 minutes. He may come out when he can be nice. Send him back if does it again.
Do you get the idea? You want discipline to make sense in your child’s mind. If it doesn’t, your child will be even angrier and rebel due to unforgiveness.
What is your child’s currency?
If you want to know how to discipline kids, then learn their currency. What is currency?
What do your kids hate getting taken away? Or what chore do they hate doing? Do they love video games, Ipad, phone, or certain toys? Whatever is meaningful to them is their currency. It can either be earned or taken away.
When my kids were older, they hated when their phone was taken away for not doing school work. The phone was a distraction and was removed until they did their assignments. Logical consequence using their currency. Now that’s how to discipline kids!
One of my kids hated getting charged for work not done. I charged this child when I had to clean their bedroom unless there were extenuating circumstances. Otherwise, I would have had to pay my housekeeper extra to stay longer and do it. Logical consequence using their currency.
You have to keep working to find what will get their attention, otherwise, the consequences will not work.
Another suggestion is a punishment jar. There are various punishments/chores written on popsicle sticks and placed in a jar. The child pulls a stick if he has disobeyed. This is how to discipline kids with a little fun.
Ten Types of Discipline That Work (For All Ages)
If you want to know how to discipline a 2-year-old all the way to punishing your teenager, then check out these examples of discipline that work. They can be adjusted in time and severity depending on the age of the child. (Personally, I think these discipline tips are especially good for school-age children.)
- Time out/room time/grounding depending on age
- Removal of the priveledges-early bedtime, cancel playdate or night out with friends
- Extra chores/volunteering in the community
- Personally help repair or pay for what broke
- Verbal apology and/or written apology
- Services removed-child does own laundry, makes own lunch, cleans the room
- Financial consequences-pay for the broken toy, ticket, or failed class
- Writing assignment about the topic of concern
- Removal of property such as a toy, phone, iPad, bedroom door, scooter, or car
- Talk with a parent, pastor, principal, law officer to help discuss and redirect bad choices
This is how to discipline kids of all ages in a meaningful way so they are redirected to good behavior. Don’t forget to keep your tone of voice level when you mete out discipline.
You do not have to yell to get your kids to obey!
How Do You Discipline a Child That Won’t Listen?
Is it okay for parents to physically discipline their child, especially if he is defiant?
If you cannot get your child’s attention, I suggest spanking, especially if your child is between two years old to nine years of age. I realize this is an unpopular discipline strategy, but it is biblical, and it works.
Here are three scriptures to support my claim on how to discipline kids biblically:
Prov 22:15: “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (KJV).
Prov 23:13: “Don’t hesitate to discipline children. A good spanking won’t kill them (NLT).
Prov 29:15: “The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.”
My husband and I spanked, and I am glad we did.
It wasn’t very often, so it got my kid’s attention when we did it. If you or your spouse have anger issues, I suggest you do not physically discipline your children. Spanking can definitely turn abusive if it is not controlled and done in the right manner (love).
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What Are the Benefits of Child Discipline?
There are many benefits of child discipline, but the most important benefit is that when you confront your kids of their sins, there is an opportunity to introduce the need for a Savior.
If they are not confronted with their bad behavior (sin), they will never feel the need to give their life to Jesus someday…not to mention that they will be horrible to be around. No one enjoys entitled, rebellious, and unruly kids. Blah.
Don’t forget that God entrusted you with these precious little people. It is your responsibility to learn how to discipline kids. It is a command from the Bible.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (NIV).
Additionally, it is your responsibility to show both truth and grace just like God does with us. You want a good relationship with your kids when they are grown. No matter what, discipline with love, and you will know you are doing the right thing.
For more information, check out this article on the 4 Parenting Styles and Effective Child Discipline
What tips do you have on how to discipline kids? Comment below.
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