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Does Discipline Really Change the Behavior of Children

  • Published: 2009-11-25 (Revised/Updated 2013-06-15) : Mark Lakewood CEO.
  • Synopsis: Discipline was never intended to have an effect on children.

Main Document

Quote: "Believing that discipline changes the behavior of children negatively effects discipline efficacy and parental authority."

Discipline was never intended to have an effect on children. The thoughts that children experience (free will) resulting from the discipline is the only thing that can effect behavior change.

Do you sometimes get frustrated disciplining your child because the discipline appears to be ineffective? Do you sometimes change your discipline in search of the most effective one to use on your child? Have you come to the conclusion that no discipline is effective on your child? If you are experiencing any of these thoughts or feelings today, I would like for you to consider the following:

Have you ever wondered why so many people commit murder when they know the consequence is the death penalty or a lifetime in prison

Never rely or count on discipline to affect the behavior of your child. Discipline was never intended to have an effect on your child. The only thing that discipline provides is a consequence to misbehavior, something that should occur automatically after your child misbehaves. Whether or not the discipline has any positive impact on your child relies specifically on your child and what he/she thinks as a result of the discipline.

If your child wants to change his/her behavior, he/she can only do so by his/her own free will. The discipline your child receives can only act as a deterrent to misbehavior but may not have any overall effect on your child's thoughts.

Your child, like everyone else, needs to take ownership and responsibility of his/her own thoughts, feelings, and behavior. These thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with external events but rather on our interpretation of those events. Therefore for some children, it takes only one time disciplined to change behavior while other children require more frequent discipline.

Believing that discipline changes the behavior of children negatively effects discipline efficacy and parental authority. Oftentimes parents change the discipline to meet the needs of a specific child. A parent with more than one child might render a variety of disciplines to their children (a unique discipline per child) for the same misbehavior making discipline rather difficult, overbearing, and frustrating. Oftentimes children manipulate by making their parents believe that no discipline is effective by simply misbehaving either during or directly after the discipline ends. This usually occurs with children whose parents have a history of giving up on discipline after coming to the conclusion that no discipline is effective.

In conclusion, it is my recommendation that you enforce whatever discipline you feel appropriate for your child given a specific misbehavior provided that the discipline is an appropriate consequence to the specific misbehavior. Continue to enforce that discipline to your child regardless of how many times he/she engages in the same misbehavior. Just keep in mind that the decision to change behavior is strictly up to your child and not based on the discipline that you choose to impose. When your child begins to realize that you are consistent with discipline by refusing to be manipulated by continued misbehavior, he/she will eventually end his/her misbehavior.

About the Author

Mark Lakewood, CEO of Building Strong Families National Seminars,, is a distinguished parenting expert, author, and speaker with over 20 years of clinical experience as a family therapist. Mr. Lakewood facilitates seminars on family and school-related issues. He facilitates the "Standing Up To Bullying" Conference, and the Sudden Compliance Program Webinar Series,

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