Linda Lewis Griffith

11 ways to discipline your kids — without spanking

Dealing with a misbehaving kid? Parents have many options when it comes to discipline, according to retired family therapist Linda Lewis Griffith.
Dealing with a misbehaving kid? Parents have many options when it comes to discipline, according to retired family therapist Linda Lewis Griffith. Los Angeles Times/MCT

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned parents about the dangers of spanking their children.

The AAP stated emphatically that spanking “increases aggression in young children … and is ineffective in teaching a child responsibility and self-control.” “New evidence suggests that (spanking) may cause harm to the child by affecting normal brain development,” the group said.

So how should moms and dads discipline their youngsters? Consider these suggestions adapted from the APA’s website:

Start small. Don’t wait until kids are running wild before reining them in. Correct small infractions before they get out of control.

Stay calm. You can’t make good discipline decisions if you’re ballistic. If possible, take a few deep breaths before responding to your child.

Set limits. Have clear, consistent rules for children to follow. Keep them simple, explain them in age-appropriate words and repeat them often.

Give consequences. Calmly and fairly explain what will transpire if youngsters misbehave. For instance, tell your daughter she will need to ride in the shopping cart if she can’t walk quietly next to you in the store. Be prepared to follow through right away if she doesn’t do what you want.

Hear them out. Listening is important. Let children finish their stories before delivering an edict or stepping in to solve the problem.

Strategize solutions before problems occur. If your son has trouble sharing his toys with friends, try setting a timer so that each child can play with a favored toy for a set amount of time. When the allotted time is up, the other child gets to use the toy. You may also consider putting away certain toys that routinely create problems with friends.

Give them your attention. All kids want their parents’ attention. Be present and available to reinforce good behaviors and extinguish others.

Catch them being good. Boys and girls need to know when they’re on the right track. Point out great behavior, praising both success and appropriate attempts. Be specific: “I sure like those polite manners.”

Know when not to respond. As long as youngsters aren’t in any danger, ignoring bad behavior can be effective. Ignoring bad behavior also reinforces natural consequences: When your toddler insists on dropping food from her high chair, calmly explain, “You’re done with your meal,” then take her out of the high chair.

Redirect bad behavior. Sometimes children misbehave because they’re bored or don’t know any better. Find something else for them to do or encourage them to entertain themselves.

Call a time-out. A time-out is a short-term, time-specific removal of a child from a situation in which the offender is out of control or breaking a specific rule. The youngster is welcomed back once the pre-determined time commitment has been fulfilled. Use as few words as possible to explain to the child what behavior you deem unacceptable. Key the length of the time-out to the youngster’s age; 1 minute per year of age is a good guideline.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a retired marriage, family and child therapist who lives in San Luis Obispo. Reach her at
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