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Disciplining Your Kids without Damaging Them

Keren Kanyago Contributing Writer
Published: Mar 23, 2023
Disciplining Your Kids without Damaging Them

If they refuse to do their homework, allow them to be in trouble with their teacher the following day. Let them learn that choices have consequences.

As a parent, what comes to mind when you hear the word “discipline"? Does the word conjure up thoughts about punishment? To discipline a child is to teach them responsible behavior and self-control. Unfortunately, many of us associate discipline with punishment. So instead of teaching our children the right behavior, we mostly wait for them to exhibit the wrong behavior and then crack the whip. 

 It is clear from the scriptures that training our children should precede punishment: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Many people are living with the consequences of poor disciplining methods employed by their parents. Sadly, some of the damage that was done in their childhood is irrevocable.

Multiple studies show that aggressive disciplining methods such as slapping, spanking, yelling, shaming and verbal abuse have severe effects on children. Such aggressive disciplining methods may trigger mental health problems, cognitive challenges, and low self-esteem, besides ruining the relationship between the parent and the child. 

When parents are stressed, tired, or merely having a bad day, they may find themselves gravitating towards harmful discipline methods. These end up ruining their kids in unprecedented ways. 

Here are some things that parents can do to ensure that they discipline their children without causing them harm:

1. Aim to Be a Good Steward

Despite how deeply we love our children, it's important to remember that they ultimately belong to God. As parents, God expects us to be good stewards and nurture them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The realization that we are merely stewards should be firmly etched in our minds and should inform how we handle them. God expects us to be good and faithful stewards while raising our children.

“And the Lord said, ‘Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.’” (Luke 12:42-43).

In the scripture above, the wise and faithful steward rules over and nurtures the household while the master is away. In the same way, God has made you a “ruler” over your children so that you can nurture them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. As a steward, you will one day give an account of how you raised your children. 

When that day comes, you want to hear your master utter the precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As you discipline your child, aim to be a good steward and ward off damaging disciplining methods. 

2. Take a Time Out When Incensed

Let's face it. Kids are experts at driving their parents up the wall. However, disciplining them when you are foaming at the mouth will likely have you damaging them. It may cause you to yell, hit, or verbally abuse them. After all, your sobriety then may be clutching at straws. To avoid doing or saying something you will later regret, I suggest you take a time out. 

Allow yourself time to cool off. Take a walk, breathe in and out, or count from one to twenty. This will also give you time to assess the situation more objectively. The scriptures perpetually warn against acting out of anger. James warns that the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:20). 

Paul also advised that our anger should not lead us to sin (Ephesians 4:26). As a rule, avoid disciplining your children when you are seething with fury. 

3. Call Out and Reinforce Good Behavior

Remember the last time you aced a work project, and your supervisor gushed over you during your team meeting? How did that make you feel? We bet it motivated you to work even harder to keep up with your new “identity.” Naturally, human beings of all ages crave a pat on the back for a job well done. 

One way of stirring your kids towards good behavior (without too much struggle) is appreciating their good behavior. Because kids hanker for affirmation and praise, they will most likely bend over backward to impress you. You can reinforce good behavior among younger children by praising them, giving a high-five, a thumbs up, a clap, a pat on the back, or offering a gift. Older children can be enthused by praising them verbally and allowing them certain privileges e.g. an extra hour on the computer. 

4. Tone Down Your Expectations

Kids will be kids. Due to their explorative nature and their quest for independence, they will often flaunt your rules. The wise King Solomon rightly observed that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15). It's absurd to expect that your children will always have squeaky-clean manners. 

As long as they are kids, they will find a way of being sneaky and often veer off the rules. You may, therefore, need to tone down your expectations. Additionally, realize that not all mistakes warrant punishment. Turn a blind eye to flimsy mistakes. And do not take your kids' mistakes personally, imagining that your kids' misbehavior is aimed at taunting you or defying your authority. Let your kids be kids. 

5. Let Them Learn Through Consequences

Your children need to know that their actions have consequences. Using consequences is another way of easily redirecting children toward good behavior. You can, for example, let your kids know that you will send them to time out or withhold a privilege after misbehavior. Because they will most likely detest the said consequence, they will do all it takes to act right. 

Additionally, allow your kids to experience the natural consequences of their actions. For example, if they refuse to have their dinner, allow them to go to bed hungry without intervening. Their hunger pangs in the dead of night will most likely teach them a lesson. If they refuse to do their homework, allow them to be in trouble with their teacher the following day. Let them learn that choices have consequences.

6. Listen to Your Kids

Sadly, many adults believe kids should always be on the receiving end. That they should be the ones listening to adults and not the other way around. Your children deserve a listening ear, even when they have erred. Listening to your kids helps you put things into perspective and judge the situation more accurately. 

Besides, you, too, are not perfect. You could be judging them incorrectly, but you won't know until you listen to their side of the story. Disciplining your kids without giving them a chance to state their case makes them second guess their worth. They feel devalued and figure that their opinion doesn't matter. They feel unworthy of your time and attention. This is detrimental to their self-esteem. No matter how enraged you are about your child’s behavior, take time to listen to them. Extend empathy.

7. Don't Put Labels on Your Kids

Perhaps it irks you that your child is slack while doing their share of house chores. “Why are you so lazy?” You may ask them. Plastering negative labels on your kids is detrimental to them. It distorts how they view themselves—or worse, how God views them. Besides, they may subconsciously start integrating the negative trait into their character. Learn to dissociate their wrong behavior from who they are.   

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Inside Creative House

Crosswalk Writer Keren KanyagoKeren Kanyago is a freelance writer and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, and the Christian Faith. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and/or shoot her an email at