The Number One Way to Discipline A Child

….is through connection and attachment, not through separation.  This is why threats, time-outs, and other traditional discipline methods fail.

Attachment and connection with your child is the number one way to guide a child.  You can sure  hold them when they cry because Grandma can’t come to dinner.  You can sure hold them as they learn it is hard sometimes to share.  You can help them adapt, but you cannot help them if you send them into a time-out.  You are not changing the realities of life, you are not  changing the boundary, but you are recognizing the very human struggle that goes into learning something.  You are  recognizing  the strong bond between the child and the parent. 

How do you connect?  A young child is in  their body – hug them, kiss them, rub their backs, massage their hands and feet, pat them on the back, tickle them, rough house with them, hold them, carry them, treasure them – and do it at the times when things are falling apart.  Get down to their eye level and love them and support them, even if you don’t feel they are being lovable.

The relationship with this child is what carries the discipline.  Help your child to learn and to grow; you are raising a child to become an adult of brilliance.

Peaceful guiding,


18 thoughts on “The Number One Way to Discipline A Child

  1. I have been lurking for quite a while but I really must write to say that this is extremely difficult to do with my son. My daughter-no problem. She always needed my touch since the day we met her but my son is a different story. We met 13 months ago in central Chinese orphanage when he was 2½ years old. After the first week together, he began throwing the largest fits I have ever seen. I understood that he cried and cried when he had to sleep. But he had (and still has) an enormous need to control everything and if things aren’t the way he wants/needs it to be then he can scream bloody murder from ½ hour to -on a few occasions- 2 hours. It seems like there is nothing that we can do to help him. We can’t touch or hold him during these fits as he screams even more and his eyes go wild. He screams Ouch a million times, no matter how gentle the touch. (It surely hurts his psyche.) We can’t even acknowledge his feelings without ‘starting an argument’. (For example, if we say to him that we can see/hear that he is mad, he will immediately say no. And then we could say ok, you’re not mad and he will immediately scream yes, he is!)
    We can normally (during good times) only hug him for about 2 seconds before he pushes us away. I wish I was physically closer with my son but I know that he has so many issues that stand in the way.
    Sorry for taking over the comments but I really want to thank you for all the wonderful posts you have written so far about parenting challenging children. They encourage me…

  2. I’ve just been pondering this very issue today! Aria is definitely entering a new phase of her development right now which I understand is quite exciting as she discovers more about the world around her… however, I find myself frequently at a loss for what to do or say when things aren’t quite going smoothly. Sometimes I feel quite hesitant to set any boundaries for fear of doing the ‘wrong’ thing – this feeling can be quite paralysing sometimes! I don’t want to simply be permissive either, so this is really an area of growth for me right now – both as a Mother and on a personal level also. Thanks for raising it here – your posts always seem to connect with me!

  3. Thank you for that this morning.

    I have received many looks of scorn when comforting my children after they have done something “wrong”. Often in our house, the “victim” recovers quickly and goes about her play, but the “perpetrator” needs extra time spent in my lap.

    I don’t *care* that others think this is poor parenting, but I do wish they could understand.


  4. Violet,
    I sent you a private email……For those of you reading with a similiar situation, I highly recommend some of the back posts on the 12 senses and the protection/development of the lower 4 senses…Think doing things that don’t involve you, but an object at first..can he tolerate being wrapped up in a blanket to be a seed baby, a butterfly in a cocoon? Be rubbed softly with a washcloth at bath time?

    Also, to think about how long have you had each other as family? Sounds like there may also be an adjustment period related to all of that to be expected….:)
    Many blessings,

  5. It’s funny, with both my kids if I threaten to take something away they always say ‘take away’ and hand it to me! Threats really do nothing! I have come to realize that when they ‘misbehave’ it is generally because I am focusing on something else and they want/need my attention for a few moments or they are hungry/tired. I am often trying to finish some house work or knit or something and they start ‘acting out’, if I get irritated and forget to be creative in engaging them in something, it just gets worse! I remember reading to ask yourself ‘is this essential now?” when your kids are trying to get your attention and you are focusing on something else, I’ve come to realize almost nothing is more important then being connected to my kids when they need it. Not to say I always drop what I’m doing for them, they often are playing nicely and I can carry on my taske. When they do need some love and connection, the day goes soooooo much smoother if I stop & share that moment with them!!

  6. Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces.
    -Henry David Thoreau

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  8. I’ve really appreciated your posts on this lately, but must admit I still struggle. This was relatively easy to do when there was just my son. It was a bit more challenging when my middle child came along. Now that we’ve added in another little person I feel out of sorts. I’d love to hear how others with more than one or two children handle things because I struggle with how to manage it all.

  9. Hi

    I was so glad I read this post the other night. We had an awful day with both kiddos crying, fighting and it feels as if I had one or both on my lap or hip most of the day. I realise how far I have come over the last few months reading your blog Carrie because I held it together. Everytime I started to feel irritated I just thought how can I deal with this with warmth (sound familiar?)
    Anyway it became clear by bathtime that we are all coming down with a cold, so now I am so glad I held it toghether. Thanks.

    This is not related but I wondered if you could write some time about fostering humour in your child/children. My 3-year old has always had a good sense of humour and he has the most wonderful contagious laugh. Lately he has started to make jokes, but it is not always appropriate. I read your post about ‘toilet humour’ and there are some pointers that will be useful. I am working on myself to not be the joysucker but to think of way to model good jokes and humour. Thanks

  10. So what do you do when a child must be removed from a situation… for us, this happens a lot when my almost 5 yr old is bothering my 25 month old (taking her toys, trying to do things for her, and just bothering her by getting in her personal space and jabbering at her). The toddler will tell the 5 yr old “No” or “stop,” and I will reinforce that – “Please leave her alone/keep your hands on your own things/give her some more space; you need to respect her when she says stop.” She usually does not stop, and guiding her away to do something else doesn’t work at all – she has a screaming tantrum (and this is a child who never had tantrums until she was 2.5 yrs old). I try to engage her in what I am doing instead, but it doesn’t often work, and so I do end up taking her to another room and giving her books or something else calming (which she rejects – she just screams and bangs doors and yells about how she is not going to read books, etc. I am really at a loss… engaging her cheerfully in my tasks doesn’t work, and trying to get her involved in her own task doesn’t work either, but I can’t just leave her where she is, annoying her sister. I have tried to engage her w/ a story as well, but I am terrible at multi-tasking and cannot come up with a story (except maybe the Three Little Pigs, but still w/ lots of pauses and distractions on my part) on the fly while I am cooking or doing some other task.
    She had a bit fit just as I was returning from the grocery store today, and my husband (after many tears) got her engaged in helping him reorganize the pantry, which she is doing cheerfully now, but rarely do I have this outcome myself. I know she wants some focused attention, so I cannot understand why she balks at being engaged in what I am doing and spending time with me that way.

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  15. Hello – so we have had a heck of a time adjusting to life with two.
    Perhaps the way I’ve been responding to my daughters jelousy has been wrong all along – and that is why we are still dealing with it. My eldest often grits her teeth while talking to our wee one… what do I do with this? What do I do with her constant desire to control the baby? Taking things, trying to force her to play where / what she wants to play?
    just pick her up and hug her for a minute so the baby can breath?
    I will try this! I do worry about giving her attention when she is doing things I don’t like… but sometimes it is hard to find the moments to reinforce good touching etc.

    Thank you!!!

  16. What if your child refuses physical connection, until after his tantrum? My son will actually put himself in his room and have a fit, refusing any comfort. We taught him long ago that he can use his room as a quiet place to calm down & feel better. And when he’s really loud and disruptive, we ask him to take it to his room. He’s ready for cuddles afterwards, but not until he’s had his fit.

    • Beth – Yes, did you see the “Time In For Tinies” post — I still advocate being near whilst they are getting all their emotion out, but if your child voluntarily wants to be alone, of course one must respect that. But many children simply cannot deal with the flood of emotion by themselves without an adult nearby to help them; otherwise they typically escalate even more…
      Hope that helps, use the search engine for that post..

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