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How Parents Can Discipline Children and Promote Learning
Without Stress, Punishments or Rewards

By Marvin Marshall, Ed.D.

Traditional child disciplining approaches are no longer successful for far too many young people. For example, a parent related the following to me after a discussion of how society and youth have changed in recent generations:

The other day, my teenage daughter was eating in a rather slovenly manner, and I lightly tapped her on the wrist saying, "Don't eat that way." My daughter replied, "Don't abuse me."
The mother had grown up in the 1960s and volunteered the point that her generation tested authority but most were really afraid to step out of bounds. She related that her daughter was a good child and added, "But the kids today not only disrespect authority, they have no fear of it." And, because of rights for young children--which we should have--it's hard to instill that fear without others claiming abuse. So, how can we discipline our children, so we as parents can do our jobs and teach our children who refuse to learn?

In many cases we resort to punishment as a strategy for motivation. This negative, coercive discipline and punishment approach is based on the belief that it is necessary to cause suffering to teach. It's like you need to hurt in order to instruct. For example, when kids misbehave, most parents send them to their room. However, coercion, as in punishment, is not a lasting change agent. Once the punishment is over, the child feels free and clear to do exactly what they want again.

The fact of the matter, however, is that people learn better when they feel better, not when they feel worse. Remember, if punishment were effective in reducing inappropriate behavior, then there would be NO discipline problems.

The irony of punishment is that the more you use it to control your children's behavior, the less real influence you have over them. This is because coercion breeds resentment. In addition, if your children behave because they are forced to behave, then you as a parent did not really succeed. Your children should behave because they want to--not because they have to in order to avoid punishment.

Internal motivation--where people want to change--is more lasting and effective than motivation by punishment. The way to influence people is through positive, non-coercive interaction. Here's how...

  1. Great parents understand the importance of building a close relationship with their children. Many children put forth little effort if they have negative feelings about their parents. Superior parents establish good, close relationships and have high expectations for their children

  2. Great parents communicate and discipline in positive ways. They let their children know what they want them to do, rather than by telling students what not to do.

  3. Great parents inspire rather than coerce. They aim at promoting responsibility rather than obedience. They know that obedience does not create desire.

  4. Great parents identify the reason that a lesson is being taught and then share it with their children. These parents inspire their children through curiosity, challenge, and relevancy.

  5. Great parents have an open mindset. They reflect so that if something needs improvement they look to themselves to change before they expect their children to change.
Unfortunately, parents today still have a 20th century mindset that focuses on external approaches to increase motivation. We as parents are overlooking the simple universal truth that people develop positive self-talk and self-esteem through the successes of their own efforts.

So, have high expectations for your children, motivate them to succeed and follow my tips above and you'll be able to "Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards."

Dr. Marvin Marshall stops parents from stressing when disciplining children. Using his system, you can raise socially responsible children who actually want to learn. Now, you can get his book, "Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards" and discover the exact steps to take to promote responsible behavior, increase learning and improve relationships. Learn more at:

child development

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