The right and wrong way to discipline a child

The right and wrong way to discipline a child

As Parenting and Wellness Consultant – one of the commonest questions I get asked way parents is – “How do I discipline my child?”

Almost every parent I know struggles with discipline.

Parents want children to do certain routine tasks on time and children often refuse to do them. And this usually results in a parent child conflict with the parent eventually yelling at the child and the child either yelling back or beginning to cry.   

A lot of parents try to circumvent these shouting matches by bribing children with rewards.

So parents make statements like “If you eat your vegetables – you can have dessert” or “If you finish your home-work – you can watch TV”   

While these bribes work the first few times – very soon when the child hears “If you do…..” he starts thinking “What if I don’t do…….”   

And as soon as this thought comes into the child’s mind – what was meant to be a bribe becomes a threat.   

The child decides to experiment with the threat to see if it will actually be carried out.

So he refuses to eat the vegetables and then cries and begs for ice cream. He refuses to do his homework and then throws a tantrum to watch TV.

And this results in a power struggle.

It is a mistake to get into a power struggle with a child because it is a battle you can never win.

The easiest way to get past this problem is to tag tasks with rewards instead of threats by using the word “when” instead of “if”

So instead of “If you finish your homework – you can watch TV” if you say “When you finish your homework – you can watch TV” it works in two ways

First it tags the task with a reward that can be got by doing a task – so it turns into a game and something to look forward to. Second it hands the child control. The child does not feel like he has to bend down and obey his parent to get something he wants – he is now in control. He can control how soon he gets what he wants. And this motivates him to move faster.   

Changing one word can make a world of difference to your relationship with your child in your day to day life.   

It is important to remember that children learn how to interact with the world by copying our behaviour. The way we interact with them is the way they go ahead and interact with the world.

One of the most important things childrenneed to learn from us is – how to negotiate with others and make contracts that serve their purpose and yet are not unfair to the opposite party.  

Every interaction we have with our children – every sentence we say to them – is an opportunity for us to teach them something.   

When we are in a hurry and focus on getting things done quickly – we use the wrong words. As a result – our children learn nothing.

Always pay attention to what you are saying because that is what your child is learning.

Watch the video – Mind Your Parenting Language


By Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD Parenting and Wellness Consultant

Dr Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practising clinician and a Parenting and Wellness Consultant. She conducts workshops on Parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also consults with parents and hand holds them through their parenting journey. Read Dr Debmita Dutta’s blogs on Contact Dr Dutta on 9611739400 and

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