“Discipline Without Distress: Chapter Four”

t So, I am continuing to slowly work my way through the book “Discipline Without Distress” by Judy Arnall.  Today is Chapter Four:  “Punishments and Bribes Don’t Work:  Look for the need or feeling under the behavior.”

The author starts out with a statement about punishments:  “Punishments are used more for the person giving them than the person receiving them.  They are meant to fill a need in the person who was wronged, or in the case of parents, who perceive the wrongdoing and are in charge of teaching the child that what he did was wrong.”

She goes on to write, “Punishments often impede the learning process.  Children become immersed in their anger, fear, and hurt and don’t often get the lesson.  Or the lesson they take away is that they can’t communicate with their parents.”

The author has a long list of problems against punishments on page 99 of this book, which would make a handy list to copy and put up somewhere as a reminder to yourself!  She also talks about “time-out” (which you all know I despise completely if you have been reading my blog for any length of time) as the most confusing and overused discipline method to come out of the last two decades.  She looks at both the advantages and disadvantages of time-out and the disadvantage list is much, much longer than the advantages list.

She writes, “Generally, parents want children to have appropriate time-out behavior such as being quiet, reflective, and still. They are supposed to behave that way for a certain amount of time.  That is very hard because the time a time-out is most often prescribed is when a child is out of control emotionally.  Their inability to calm down sufficiently enough to take a time-out can ire parents.  Both parties are now in a power struggle and are very angry.”   The only time-out I recommend is if YOU, the PARENT, needs to gain control of yourself.  Time-out is a tool for the PARENT, but not the child. 

Like myself, the author recommends TIME-IN.  Time-in is a calm-down strategy and does not leave the child to figure out how to handle out his or her flood of emotions without any help or guidance. 

The author than goes through the problems with spanking.  I am happy to go through this list if someone needs this help – just leave a comment  in the comment box and I will happily write a post on spanking.  There are also some posts about “no spanking” available by clicking on the tag in the tags section. 

YELLING is a habit many mothers seem to have.  Yelling loses its effectiveness over time and can be very threatening to young children and also encourages children to yell back at you!  Grounding, withdrawal of privileges, the use of “logical consequences”, lecturing, threats, blaming and shaming, withholding love and affection, withholding money or allowances, extra chore assignment, sarcasm and name-calling and scolding and correcting are all also addressed.   Bribery is also addressed.

One tool to think about using is ENCOURAGEMENT.  Sometimes we point out so many critical things about our child with no encouragement at all.  “If someone corrected us 18 times in an hour, I think we might explode at that person.  Yet, the effects on children go unseen for many days, months, and sometimes years.” 

The author’s suggestion is to stop giving negative attention to the behavior in the form of a correction and to start noticing every tiny little thing the child does “right”.  She even suggests filling up a bag with 25 marbles and carrying it around and each time you notice something positive, take a marble out and put them in a container.  If you correct, put a marble back in your bag that you are carrying around. 

This is a list of why children “misbehave”, what need might underlie this behavior. 

  • Hunger, poor diet or food allergies.
  • Not enough sleep.
  • Boredom.
  • Over-active – children need to expand energy every two hours.
  • Illness or health problem
  • Developmental changes
  • Needs more social activities.
  • Needs less social activities.
  • Hormonal changes in puberty. 
  • Feeling contrary
  • Over-stimulated
  • Watches too much violence
  • Over-scheduled.
  • Unrealistic expectations!  Young children do not get “logic”!
  • Rule following is inconsistent in the family.
  • Not enough positive attention.
  • Feelings are negated by family members.
  • Not staying with “NO” consistently and therefore the child does not realize No means No.
  • Too rigid of rules ( I think this often goes back to unrealistic expectations).
  • Too many transitions (May go back to over-scheduled)
  • Not enough control or choices, especially for those age 9 and above. 
  • Conflicts are not solved with mutual respect
  • Stress due to job loss, divorce, move, holidays, etc.
  • Insecurities
  • Labeling children in such a way it becomes a big self-fulfilling prophecy (This is a MAJOR PET PEEVE OF MINE!)

A great chapter to read yourself!  I hope everyone is following along!

Happy thinking,


7 thoughts on ““Discipline Without Distress: Chapter Four”

  1. I enjoyed reading your post on the book Discipline Without Distress. I am new to your blog and this is the first post that i have read. I have already printed out the list of why children misbehave. I am a foster carer and deal with alot of young tantrums and misbehaving. Having this list (especially when im at a dead end at the end of a hard day) will bring some clarity to the situation. I look forward to reading alot more of your posts.
    Warmly, Melissa

  2. Thanks for the information on your blog, I keep coming back to it.

    I’m all out of suggestions…
    I wonder if you could offer a gentle parenting way to handle occasional hitting, biting and throwing things with my female toddler? It usually is the result (I think) of missing a nap earlier in the day (she refuses to sleep on occasion)

    The hitting happens close to bedtime when she is wound up. We have a relaxing bed routine, but the hitting happens when we start to get closer to bedtime and she wants to play.
    How would you suggest I respond, after she has hit me? I’m not sure what to say at this point that she will “get”?

    “Gentle hands” keeps me calm, but not sure she hears that hitting is off limits?

    Many thanks,

  3. i can relate to monica. my almost 3 year old hits and screams when she is mad. I’m not sure how a time- in works? I’ve tried it and she just screams and hits me and pushes me away.

  4. Pingback: More About Time-In for Tinies « The Parenting Passageway

  5. Pingback: Time-in, Time-out « The Parenting Passageway

  6. Makes perfect sense. When I’m really upset and stressed, filled with a flood of emotions and feel like bursting, I would not be able to sit down and be still and quiet for a certain period of time. – people even suggest jogging, taking a walk, or going for a drive as ways to make yourself feel better. So how can we expect to force a small child to sit still and quiet for a certain amount of time … and be ok with it?

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