What is discipline? 1, 2

The word discipline means to impart knowledge and skill - to teach. Parents are often confused about effective ways to set limits and instil self-control in their child. Effective and positive discipline is about teaching and guiding children, not just forcing them to obey. Do not equate it with punishment and control. Discipline allows children to develop self-discipline and helps them become emotionally and socially mature adults.

It is the most important yet difficult responsibilities of parenting and there are no shortcuts.

Goals of effective discipline 1,2

  • To foster acceptable and appropriate behaviour in the child

  • To help children organize themselves, internalize rules and instil values

  • To protect the child from danger, help the child learn self-discipline and develop a healthy conscience and an internal sense of responsibility and control.

  • To inculcate a sense of belongingness and significance

The foundation should be respect- mutual respect in a firm, fair, reasonable and consistent way.

Discipline in toddlers 1

At 3-5 years of age, most children are able to accept reality and limitations, but they have not internalized many rules, are gullible and their judgment is not always sound. They require good behavioural models. Tell children to "Do as I do" and not "Do as I say".

  • A child requires supervision and directions for safety.

  • Time-out can be used if the child loses control. Redirection or small consequences related to and immediately following the misbehaviour are other alternatives.

  • Approval and praise are the most powerful motivators for good behaviour.

  • Lectures do not work well, and some consider them to be counterproductive.

  • Home rules should be set for all family members. Example- having meals together, not wasting food, clearing the untidiness, and so on.

Example: Your child draws on the wall with crayons. Use time-out which will allow him to think about the misbehaviour. You can also use logical consequences by taking the crayons away and let the child clean up the mess to teach accountability.


When you point out unacceptable behaviour, the child should always know that the parent loves and supports him or her. Trust between parent and child should be maintained and constantly built upon. Effective discipline does not instil shame, negative guilt, a sense of abandonment or a loss of trust. Instead, it instils a sense of greater trust between the child and the parent.

The positive discipline focuses on the connection before correction.


  1. Effective discipline for children. Canadian Paediatric Society, Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(1):37–50. doi:10.1093/pch/9.1.37
  2. Dr. Alka Saxena, Deputy Director (Health & Wellness) Blue Bells Group of Schools, Gurugram. "Here's how to make children positively disciplined". https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/featurephilia/story/how-to-mak...