A Surprising and Very Effective Version of Disciplining.

When our kids make a mistake, whether it’s a small infraction or it’s something that sends us through the roof, punishment rarely works. I know, I know – that’s not what you wanted to hear. However, I’m not going to suggest that you have a long, ideological chat with your little one about it, either. There is a fine line between logical consequences and punishment – and it’s all about the tone of voice you use and your follow through. If done consistently and correctly, logical consequences get better results. Here’s just one example:


Four-year-old little sister Prudence is playing nicely with her six Disney princess dolls. Five-year-old, bored Justin comes up, grabs Ariel, throws it/her across the room and snatches Bell. Prudence screams, looks at you with big, sad tears that say, “Please rescue me, Mommy.” You remember how unfair your siblings were to you. You must correct the unbalanced situation. Justin doesn’t care. And to make matters worse, you have spanked him and sent him to his room several times for the same exact action.

“How many times do I have to tell you to leave your sister alone?” you bark. Well, apparently many times. You grab his upper arm and demand that he give Bell back and apologize. He gives you the most defiant look that you know is about to cause a big problem. But you are stuck. You have to make him apologize.

“Say you are sorry, Justin.” He looks in every direction but yours and his sister’s. “Justin, give back Bell and tell your sister you are sorry or I will put you in your room.”


He throws Bell at Prudence. She starts to cry again. Your blood pressure rises. Damn it.

“Okay, young man, that’s it.” You grab his upper arm and lead him to his room. You “accidentally” squeeze his arm.

He screams and cries. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

You don’t believe he really means it. You put him in his room and say something like, “Stay in here and think about what you’ve done.”

Actually, all Justin can think about is how to manipulate you into letting him come out.


Prudence is quietly playing again and you’ve gone back to the computer.


You can’t concentrate.


You are extremely annoyed.


Exasperated, you get up and go to his room.

“Are you ready to apologize to your sister like you mean it?”

He says nothing. You can’t stand the thought of wasting more time on this. “Okay, then let’s tell Prudence you’re sorry.”

You stand there with him. He squeaks out a little meaningless, almost inaudible “sorry”. You don’t care if he is insincere. You won. It’s over. You can go back to what you need to do.

Next day you find Bell’s head in his Leggo box.


At a time when the family is calm and there are not a whole lot of distractions, you tell Justin you need to talk with him.

“Justin, I notice that sometimes you take things from Prudence or you hit her. This is not okay. The next time you do that I’m going to take you by your hand and I’m going to put you in your room. You can come out when you are ready to play nicely,” you explain in a pleasant tone.

This will be his one and ONLY warning.

Next day Prudence is playing with her six Disney princess dolls. Justin comes up, grabs Ariel, throws it/her across the room and snatches Bell. Prudence screams.

You don’t say one word. You simply take his hand in a kind and firm manner and lead him to his room. If he starts to drop on the floor or resist in any way, you stand still and gently continue to hold his hand. Your face is calm because you have a plan, and you are simply following through with the plan. Nothing stops you from your destination: his room. He yells and begs and says I’m sorry. You are undaunted. You say nothing. You wait patiently while he struggles in your hand, and as soon as you can, you continue leading him to his room. You may have to stop and start several times down the hall. You still have not said a word. Not one word. As you begin to close his door with Justin in the room, you say in a mild fashion, “Come out when you are ready to play nicely.”

If he comes right out and plays nicely – all is complete. The second he goes on the attack, you take his hand and begin again. This time you say, “I can see you weren’t ready to play nicely.” And lead him back to his room. Do this silently. If he should come out and harass his sister a third time, you say, “Now I will decide when it’s time for you to come out.”

If you have to hold his doorknob, do.

Each and every single time he breaks the rule, you move into action, remaining calm, quite and firm. I know how annoying this is, but you and Justin are in training – and you will see a big pay off within a week – that is, only if you don’t miss one cue. Once you give in, it’s all over.

It’s up to you, mom. Following through with a strong, kind and firm attitude, rather than giving into anger and power struggles, will work like a charm. The trick is being consistent. Once you tell the child what YOU will do, you must follow through. No further chit chatting, reminding, nagging, explaining why you are mad or letting him know how bad it is to throw, etc. Those things don’t help. Just use consistent kind and firm actions. Put yourself in the driver’s seat. Believe me, this really works!


Among many other things, Marilyn Kentz is a parenting coach. Go to www.marilynkentz.com or contact her at [email protected] if you want to schedule an appointment. You can order Positive Discipline by Jane Nelson on Amazon.com


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