10 Do’s and Don’ts of Discipline

dos and donts

I have had the privilege over the past 15 years of sitting at the feet of some great parents. Lest you think I have this discipline thing figured out, remember I am the guy who spanked the wrong kid! But the one thing I have done that has helped me most is to learn from other parents the right and wrong way to discipline my kids. (I admit it may make me a nerd, but I always write down their advice.) Surprisingly, the principles are much the same regardless of age.

Here are the top 10 “do’s and don’ts” I’ve learned:


Do: Work together as a couple to come to an agreement on your approach to discipline.

Don’t: Allow Mom (who typically spends the most time with the child) to be the “heavy” when both parents are home and never allow one parent to be the court of appeal.

Do: Approach discipline with the right heart and with self-control. Avoid dealing from anger.

Don’t: Forget the ultimate goal of discipline (teaching Christ-like behavior).

Do: Ensure understanding by your child both before and after disciplining him/her. Get down on your knee and take it to their level if they are young.

Don’t: Fail to help your child understand why what he/she did was wrong.

Do: Spend time “reconciling” after your child has been disciplined. They need the reassurance of unconditional love.

Don’t: Hold a grudge with your kid. Sounds ridiculous, but that is how kids translate extended anger.

Do: Be consistent with your plans for disciplining your child.

Don’t: Ignore opportunities to discipline because it’s not “convenient.”

Do: Ensure that your discipline is age-appropriate for each child in your house.

Don’t: Loosen up your approach with each additional child added to the family—if the strategy was good to begin with, don’t let yourself be worn down on the need for consistency.

Do: Establish the rules and expectations with your child in advance of disciplining them. A moving target of expectations by parents exasperates kids.

Don’t: Discipline your child if the offense does not clearly fall within the rules and expectations; warnings are appropriate here.

Do: Take time to decide the tough scenarios (and there will be some). You do not have to make decisions on the spot about discipline.

Don’t: Allow time to drag on too long before you determine a course of action. Kids innately make better connections between discipline and behavior when they are close in time.

Do: Seize every opportunity to train.

Don’t: Humiliate your child. This is not a part of discipline and may contribute to more poor choices on a child’s part.

Do: Maintain the standard, but remember grace, mercy, and redemption are options to be taught in every situation.

Don’t: Fail to recognize we can blow it as parents—there may be no better lesson for our kids than for them to know that we make mistakes too.


Until next time …


About Jeffrey D. Potts, Ed.D.

Raised on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country, Jeff Potts, Ed.D., grew up learning the importance of hard work and family values. A graduate of Baylor University, he has master’s degrees from two universities and earned his Ed.D. in teaching and learning from a fourth institution. Potts launched his pedagogical career in the 1990s, working full-time with students and parents. READ MORE→