When Parents Disagree on Discipline: 8 Steps to Harmonious Parenting

Little Girl with Parents Fighting
Little Girl with Parents Fighting

Little Girl with Parents Fighting

You vowed to be together for better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, but now you’re in a parenting standoff and can’t seem to agree on A.N.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

You’re tired of yelling at your kids. Your partner is tired of their disrespect. You try to implement consequences. Your partner insists on sending them to time out. You dread mealtime. Your partner dreads bathtime.

The tension is palpable and your kids notice. They know you’re the strict one and your partner is more lenient. They know who will cave under pressure and whose fuse will blow first.

If there is one thing you can ALL agree on, it’s this: Something has to change.

The standoff can’t continue.

Your kids are too important. Your marriage is too important. Your family is way too important to let discipline differences wear everyone down.

So what should you do about it?

First, take a deep breath. Like a REALLY deep breath.

There is hope for you and your family, my friend. Lots of hope.

I’m here to suggest there are 8 tangible steps you and your partner can take TODAY to set a new foundation in your home – a foundation that you can both feel comfortable standing on as you continue your parenting journey.
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Time-Out: Do Time-Outs Really Work? Problems with Time-Out (And What to do Instead)

Boy in Time Out
Boy in Time Out

Your pediatrician recommended it, your friends swear by it, and your child’s preschool uses it incessantly. But, every time YOU try to send your child to time-out, the 5-minute time-out turns into a 30-minute throwdown of epic proportions.

For most parents, using time-out to “teach kids a lesson” often increases the power struggle and ends in frustration, anger, and fails to achieve the desired outcome.

Or, in other cases, getting the child to go to time-out isn’t necessarily a battle, but the child continues to misbehave once their time in the corner is finished.

While well-meaning parents have used time-out as an alternative to more punitive methods like spanking, it doesn’t seem to reap the long-term benefits we hope for. After all, we are running a marathon, aren’t we?

When we take a short-sighted approach to discipline, we leave the door open for long-term problems. Sure, a time-out might curb behavior in the moment, but it doesn’t promote our long-term goal of raising emotionally stable, resilient, and empathetic children.

If you are a proponent of time-out, this is not a finger-waving post of judgment, I promise. I, too, was once a time-out queen myself. But, as I found the tool to be increasingly ineffective in my home, I knew I needed other tactics.

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The Problem with Counting 1-2-3

A woman counts to three using hand gestures.

Counting 1-2-3 to get kids to listen is a popular strategy especially among parents of young children.  The problem is, it really doesn’t work long-term—instead, it teaches kids to do the opposite of what we want them to learn. Think about it: counting to three teaches kids that they really don’t have to listen the first time.  They learn that they’ll have several more opportunities before they have to respond. And wouldn’t we rather they listen the first time we make a request?

If you’ve been using the “Counting 1-2-3” strategy in your home, you’ve probably noticed that your kids don’t exactly snap to attention when you first speak to them. Here’s what’s going through their minds: Read More


Disciplining Other People’s Children

Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling
Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling

Five Young Children sitting on a bench and smiling

Have you ever seen children acting up in the grocery store…and not just acting up, but being downright obnoxious? What do you do?

It takes every fiber of your being to just walk by when you really want to go over and discipline them. You think if you say something it will help the child and the parent to learn a lesson in effective discipline strategies. But is that the case?

Is it okay to discipline another person’s child?

As tempting as it may be, it’s not appropriate to discipline another person’s child except in 2 situations.

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The Spanking Debate Continues…

A segment on The Today Show discussed the recent poll by babycenter.com that reports that 49% of Americans spank their kids.

The debate rages on. Is it okay to spank your kids? If so – under what circumstances?

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking under any circumstance. They state “although most Americans were spanked as children, we now know that it has several important side effects.” They site the following outcomes:

  • Even though spanking may seem to “work” at first, it loses its impact after a while
  • Because most parents do not want to spank, they are less likely to be consistent
  • Spanking increases aggression and anger instead of teaching responsibility
  • Parents may intend to stay calm but often do not, and then regret their actions later
  • Spanking can lead to physical struggles and even grow to the point of harming the child

A recent study from Duke University concluded that spanking does indeed affect a child’s development. In the study, children who were spanked more often at the age of 1 behaved more aggressively when they were 2 and had lower scores on tests that measured thinking when they were 3.

The Duke study went on to say “when parents use physical discipline through childhood, their children experience more behavior problems in adolescence.”

What if the child runs out into the street?

When the child does something dangerous – is that a good reason on spank? I often hear this question from parents. To which I ask a few questions:

  • If your young child runs into the street and you spank her, are you willing to allow her to play unsupervised in the front yard tomorrow? (They usually respond with “of course not.”)
  • Well, you gave her a spanking, why not? (“Well, I can’t feel certain she learned the lesson.”)
  • How many times would you have to spank her before you could be sure she would learn the lesson?

The point of this discussion is not to “judge” parents, but to help them understand that spanking isn’t effective for long-term behavior change.

When our kids are processing pain, anxiety, fear or shame, they aren’t learning for the future. They aren’t thinking about how to make a better decision next time.

More effective strategies for keeping a young child safe is close supervision and being very clear about the consequences. “If you go outside of the yard, we will go inside for the rest of the day.”

Then, ask the child to repeat back the rule and the consequence for going out of the yard. (If she is too young to repeat back to you – then close supervision is the only strategy that you should use.)

If she goes outside of the yard – don’t repeat or remind! Very calmly say, “I see you decided to play inside for the rest of the day.” She’ll learn much more from following through on the consequence than from our lecture or our hand on her butt.

Spanking sends the wrong messages.

It teaches our kids:

  • It’s okay to let out your anger and frustration by hitting someone else. (That’s what we’re trying to teach our kids NOT to do!)
  • A stronger, more powerful person is justified to exert his power over a smaller, weaker person.

Physical punishment also encourages lying. What reasonable child would want to tell the truth when he knows that pain, humiliation, anxiety and shame are going to follow?

“Where did we ever get the crazy idea that we could make kids do better by making them feel worse?” (Jane Nelsen, Ph.D.)

Whether you are among the 49% of parents who spank or not, my mission is giving parents the positive discipline tools so they don’t feel the need to spank. Remember, the word “discipline” comes from the Latin root “discipulus” which mean a pupil, student or learner.

Disciplining our children means training them to behave in appropriate ways and holding them accountable with dignity and respect so they learn to make better choices in the future.


Is Time Out a good discipline technique?

Parents are often quick to use “Time Out” as a discipline tool because it is a widely used practice.  Physicians, teachers, and other parents frequently recommend “Time Out” as a way to correct common misbehaviors.  The problem with this thinking is, “Time Out” most often increases the intensity of the power struggle.

“Time Out” is not the same as removing the child from the situation.  For children under the age of 3, using one or more of the Remove and Redirect strategies are most helpful:

· Remove the object

· Remove the child from the environment  (This is not “Time Out”)

· Redirect the child’s attention

· Redirect the child’s activity

After the age of three (and even younger for some children), they understand that they are “independent beings” and using “Time Out” will only intensify the power struggle.  We cannot impose our will on another human being – even a child.  When we try to exercise power over a child, they will naturally fight back.  How can we possibly force a child to stay in “Time Out”?  Some children who are less “spirited” may do as they are told and remain in “Time Out” for the prescribed time – but what are they learning about their misbehavior? Are they sitting in “Time Out” thinking about their poor choice and about how they will do things differently next time?  Probably not!  Most likely they are “stewing” over how unfair it is that Mom or Dad sent them to “Time Out”!

How is “Time Out” related to most misbehaviors?  In most cases, it isn’t.

For consequences to be effective and to provide learning for future behaviors, they must meet the criteria of the 4 R’s.

You will learn about the 4 R’s as well as many other tools to address misbehaviors by enrolling in Positive Parenting Solutions Online.