Parents are often bombarded with opinions about discipline which vary greatly according to generation, context, and culture. To avoid confusion it is helpful to look at facts and research. Unfortunately, there are documented cases where children got badly hurt due to hits. Research shows that spanking and physical punishment as well as yelling and shaming a child are not only not effective, but if they are excessive can affect a child’s physical and mental wellbeing

Hitting a child usually increases their frustration and their chances of misbehaving. It also teaches children that it is ok to hit when they are frustrated.  Research has also linked physical punishment with toxic stress hormones which in turn negatively affect their brain development, intelligence, and impulsivity. Harsh verbal discipline, on the other hand, has been linked to challenging behavior and mental health problems such as depression in teens, so it is strongly recommended to avoid this form of discipline. 

What to do

The American Academy of Paediatrics (2018) suggests that the best way to teach your children to control their behavior is through positive discipline. The positive discipline focuses on teaching children to behave using calm words and actions. It also focuses on parents establishing clear and consistent rules that are clearly explained to children in age-appropriate words. 

How it works

 This approach proposes that parents model the behavior they want to see in their children. Consequences, when the rules are broken, should be explained calmly and firmly and followed through right away when children misbehave. 

What to avoid

Do not abdicate the responsibility of giving a consequence, to another parent. “I’ll tell your dad about this,” or “Wait till your mum comes home” is very common in these situations yet this gives the message to the child that you do not have the power to enforce the house rules and might transform the other parent into the bad guy.

More than consequences

  • Look for patterns and listen to your children – this helps you understand why a child is misbehaving. A child might be tired or overwhelmed after a day at school or jealous of a baby sibling. In these situations, it might be helpful to hear the child’s point of view rather than punish.
  • Catch your child being good’ helps us remember that children need our attention and action even when they do good. Praising, reinforcing, and giving positive attention when a child is behaving appropriately feeds proper behavior and teaches the child that it is not only when she misbehaves that she gets attention.
  • Plan and prepare your child for upcoming activities by explaining how it is appropriate to behave in these situations. As parents, when we are in these circumstances, we tend to be anxious about our child’s behavior and correct even slight mishaps thereby stressing both the child and the parent and increasing the challenging behavior rather than decreasing it. Redirecting a bored child into an activity they would like to do might greatly help in these circumstances. 

When warnings are ignored and time-outs are given, clearly explain to your child what she did wrong and then ask her to go to a place to calm down and reflect. A rule of thumb is to give one minute per year of a child’s age. As children get used to this, you might also invite them to go to time out and come back when they have calmed down and feel more in control.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Sonya Galea is a family therapist with Willingness Team. She works with families and couples experiencing couple relationship issues and parenting struggles.


American Academy of Paediatrics (2018) What’s the best way to discipline my child? Retrieved from:

Lee, K. (2021) Mistakes Parents to make when reprimanding their children Retrieved from: