5 Scientific Ways To Discipline Your Kids That *Actually* Work

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woman kissing her child

Being a parent is no easy job.

There's nothing more frustrating than constantly stressing out over what your kids are (or are NOT) doing and having to pick up after them on a daily basis.

It's almost as if everything you say goes in through one ear but out the other. But finding ways to discipline your kids and deal with the lack of respect without going overboard is the tricky part.

But when it comes to parenting, does physical discipline actually work?

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According to science, the answer is no! In a recent study published in The Journal of Family Psychology, it was shown that spanking children was much more common than previously thought. It was found that children who were spanked often repeated the same misbehavior within ten minutes. So, that pretty much proves that spanking does NOT work.

While it is not unusual for parents to use spanking as the main discipline action, it doesn't mean that it's effective. Here's the deal. There's no doubt that a physical reprimand can temporarily stop unwanted behavior, but the consequences far outweigh the benefits.

If you want your kid to actually listen to you AND understand what he or she did wrong, you must teach them. The only thing that a spanking accomplishes is making your child fear you — but it does not teach them the consequences of their behavior or how to control it. In fact, it can make your kids more aggressive. 

Here are 5 ways to discipline your kids that actually work, according to science:

1. Remember that your child's brain is immature

A child's prefrontal cortex which helps with decision-making and rational judgment is not fully formed yet. When you tell your two-year-old that he is too close to the fireplace for the fiftieth time in an evening, remember that his self-regulation abilities are simply not developed yet.

You must redirect and or distract him.

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2. Take a parent time-out

When you feel your anger escalating and feel the urge to spank your child, walk away and take your own time out. Taking a short break to be mindful of your emotions aids in finding out if it is your frustration, fatigue, or irritation that makes you want to lash out.

You might find that your immediate anger dissipates and your child's behavior was not worth getting upset over.

3. Notice what IS and IS NOT working

If you spank your child, but his same misbehavior returns, then YOUR response to his misbehavior needs to change. Often parents say, "The more I spank her, the more she misbehaves!"

The reason is that when a child is hit, it does more than sting his hand or backside. The child can feel bullied and their self-worth suffers and this can show in his behaviors. Doing this will only make your kid act out.

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4. Have a united front with your partner

It can be confusing to you and your children when one parent considers jumping on the bed fun, but the other parent considers it terrible behavior and punishes you for it. All this does is confuse your kids even more about what is and isn't acceptable.

5. Think about your child's developmental stage BEFORE you react

As we know, babies are born with their brains undeveloped, which means that it is up to loving adults in the child's life to help develop empathy and emotional strength, and intelligence. So, punishing a toddler for putting things into his mouth is suppressing his development.

However, if a 5-year-old puts things in his mouth after being told not to, then a loving lesson can be given. The problem is that the toddler cannot comprehend the cognitive concepts that a five-year-old can, so expecting the same behavior from both is just unrealistic. 

At the end of the day, spanking your kids does not promote good behavior, nor does it teach them how to behave correctly. All you'll end up doing is putting distance between you and your children. It's all about using positive reinforcement alternatives to get your kids to listen to you and respect you. When parenting is better, children are better behaved. This makes for happier kids AND parents.

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Kim Openo is a professional counselor and therapist who helps people deal with their grief and find their empowerment. She writes about parenting and marriage.