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The Recipe for How to Discipline Kids

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While I was in the checkout line at the grocery store the other day, I started thumbing through a magazine that gives tips for getting the most out of recipes. In one article, a photo showed two stacks of pancakes. One stack was inches taller than the other, even though both stacks had the same number of pancakes. The caption said that the shorter stack had been overmixed, and that had made the pancakes less fluffy.

Don’t ask me why, but it made me think about how that applied to raising children and the best recipe for how to discipline kids. Specifically, it got me thinking about how we sometimes overmix or over discipline our children. We have good intentions and want our children to be their best, but we overmix—too much scolding, too many rules, too many consequences. Pretty soon, our kids, like the flat pancakes, aren’t able to reach their potential.

What goes into a recipe pretty much determines your result. But the amount of ingredients you use is right up there in importance. Same goes with parenting. You need good ingredients in the right amounts. Here’s how to find the right ingredients in the right amount for the recipe for how to discipline kids.


You can never add too much love to your discipline recipe. In fact, without love, the other ingredients don’t even matter. Love is what motivates us to make good choices for our children. It helps us to hold our tongue when we want to lose our temper with them. It helps us move forward with tough choices because we know it will help our children in the long run. Love isn’t indulgence, by the way. All discipline should mixed with love.


Children really do want boundaries. Rules and boundaries give your children something to shoot for so that they can earn your approval. Child discipline without rules isn’t really fair because your children don’t know where they stand. On the other hand, too many rules can rob a child of the opportunity to learn things for himself. So instead of constantly reminding your children of specific things not to do, give them general rules—We don’t say words that hurt others’ feelings. Once they have those general guidelines, let them figure out how to live within them.


Yes, there should be consequences for misbehavior. But not all misbehavior is the same. Our Consequence Calculator can help you figure out just the right consequence and the right amount. You’ll also want to show your children grace when you can. If your child keeps making the same mistake over and over, try to be patient. If you have given a consequence more than once that day, try talking to your child instead. If they’re old enough, go a little deeper and give her the reason for your rules and your consequence.

“Sarah, I love you so much that I can’t let you have a temper tantrum when you don’t get your way. I’ve put you in time out twice already today, and I will keep doing that until you can choose a different response when you’re angry. But for now, come here so I can hug you. I know you want to do what’s right, and I know you can.”


A friend of mine feels that yelling is an effective way to discipline her children. She thinks it shows them she means business. Well, while it might get their attention, it’s an ineffective way to get lasting results. Harshness puts a barrier between mom and child. There is no need for harshness in a positive discipline recipe. Firmness, on the other hand, shows the child that mom is serious about getting to the heart of the discipline problem. So be sure you know the difference between firmness and harshness.


I was talking to a 10-year-old girl the other day in a class setting. The topic was getting blamed for something that wasn’t your fault. “When I try to tell my mom and dad my side of the story, they get mad.” She shook her head for emphasis and said, “I’ll never try to do that again!”

There are times when our children need to do what we say without any talking back or argument. For example, if we’ve already discussed the issue and given a consequence, they need to obey without dragging us into a back and forth heated discussion. But when we can give our children a chance to share in the conversation while we are disciplining them, we should let them talk, if they can do it respectfully.

Dr. Scott Turansky says older children should be able to earn the right to a “wise appeal.” By letting our children have a voice, it shows them that we value their opinion and that we’re reasonable. So add conversation to your recipe for how to discipline your kids when you can.

You’ll also want to go to our Child Discipline page for more effective child discipline ideas for all ages.

Do you have a secret ingredient for how to discipline kids?


What ingredients do you need for a happy family?

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