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How To Discipline A Child With Love (And Not Be A Pushover)

Yes, you can discipline your child without destroying their self-esteem in the process, here's how.

Yes, you CAN discipline your child without making them feel like you don’t love them.

Inside this article, I’ll be answering three key questions:

1. What is child discipline, and what’s its purpose?

2. How does discipline affect your child?

3. What is the best way to discipline a child?

By the end, you’ll not only know the answers to these questions, but you’ll know how to discipline your child with love rather than fear. But before I get into those three questions, let’s start here.

Why Disciplining Your Child With Love Is Important

I once had a client who stayed out after his curfew when he was around 8 years old. When he came home he and his brother were sent to their rooms by his mom.

As he sat there in the room, he felt scared as he anticipated his dad’s return home from work later that evening.

His dad had a temper and would frequently take his anger out on them. Unsurprisingly when his dad got home his nightmare came true.

Dad beat him until he was on the floor looking up at the ceiling in tears. This was a vivid memory that came up for my client during our hypnosis session.

I utilize timeline therapy to help clients get to the “root causes” of emotional issues, and in this case, my client came to see me because he was always anxious and sabotaging his relationship.

And as we traced it down to the root cause, he went back to this memory.

When my client told me what happened, I asked him, “What did this moment make you believe about yourself?”

He answered, “That I’m an asshole, and nobody loves me.”

What Discipline Does To A Child’s Mind

In the example above I shared something extremely significant.

This child, at that moment after being disciplined, acquired a belief about himself. That belief was, “Nobody loves me.”

He thought this was true because of how he was disciplined by his father. He thought to himself, “Why would you hit somebody that you love like that?"

Which led his young mind to come up with a conclusion about life:

“I am unloved.”

When a child believes they are unloved they will feel unloved and act unloved.

In this case, this child was now 28 years old, still acting out that childhood belief of “I am unloved.”

When you discipline a child with harsh words and actions it is common for them to develop beliefs like,

“I’m not loved.”

“I’m not important.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I’m a burden.”

“I’m unwanted.”

And how good do you think someone's life can be when you are consumed with thoughts like this?


Discipline is the act of attempting to correct your child’s behavior and follow expectations, and these acts cause children to come to conclusions about themselves.

These conclusions become core beliefs that begin to drive their life.

If you don’t show love, care, and affection in the process of disciplining a child then you will likely lead your children to believe things about themselves that are not true, and cause unnecessary conflict in their life.

If you lead with love, everything for them can change.

So, now do you see why it's important to discipline your child with love?

Better Than Punishment: Do This Instead

As I share this list of different ways you can discipline your child with love you will realize non of this involves punishment. That’s because punishment is not needed when it comes to discipline, what’s needed is guidance and natural consequences.

“Physical and corporeal punishment is the use of force to cause pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control,” wrote Anne B. Smith.

She also states that it has been a predictor of negative developmental outcomes like increased aggression, social anxiety, poorer cognitive performance, poorer quality of parent-child relationships, and other mental health problems like depression according to a study by the Ministry of Social Development.

Time and time again corporeal punishment proves to have negative effects on a child’s development and behavior throughout life.

Therefore not a single one of these disciplinary actions on this list contains punishment -- why?

Because there’s a better way…

10 Ways To Discipline Your Child With Love

(Without Being A Push-Over)


1.) Meet The Unmet Needs

Misbehavior is often a result of trying to meet an unmet need.

For example, children may go around bullying other kids because it makes them feel strong and significant.

Feeling significant is one of the 6 human needs, and if a child doesn’t feel significant they will do things to meet that need, like bully others, throw fits, and act out.

Our 6 human needs are:

1. Love and connection (A child needs to feel loved and accepted)

2. Variety (A child needs suspense and surprise!)

3. Significance (A child needs to feel important and like they matter)

4. Certainty (A child needs to feel safe)

6. Growth (A child needs to feel like they are progressing towards something)

I made this the first one because when you view their behaviors like this, you can respond at the moment to make sure you are meeting these needs.

For example, if you’re child screams in public you can say, “I know you are frustrated, but because I love you I am going to tell you to stop screaming and breathe with me.”

2.) Clearly State The Wrong Behavior And State The Expected Behavior

There is no need to beat around the bush.

When your child misbehaves be direct and state the behavior, but first add an excuse to their behavior.

When I say “Add an excuse” I simply mean state something that still reminds them that they're a good kid.

For example,

“I know you didn’t mean to do that”

“You probably didn’t realize”

“I get you were trying to”

This states that they’re good kids with good intentions, sometimes they just misbehave.

This keeps their “good” sense of self.

Don’t mistake this with beating around the bush, it’s just being honest because they are not bad kids. From this point be direct and clear with the undesired behavior.

“You pushed your brother and it hurt him, that behavior is not okay.”

*Notice you’re telling them the behavior is not okay, not them.

Then be clear and direct with the desired behavior, “Next time you talk about your feelings if you are upset and come to a solution together or you just walk away and take some time to get calm.” I also like to ask them, “How could you have handled this differently?”

This involves them which makes them feel empowered, and this is where you can make suggestions if they get stuck, but let them explore different ways on their own.

3.) Tell Them What You DO Want

Our minds have trouble processing “negatives” like “no”, “don’t”, “not”, “won’t”, etc.

For example, if you tell you’re children to “not make a mess” they get the picture of making a mess in their mind, so they then make a mess.

But if you instead say, “I expect you to keep things clean.”

Not only does focusing on communicating what you do want work so well with getting your children to do more of it, but it also boosts their self-esteem.

If you expect them to behave well, you do it because you see them as good kid, and these positive expectations can make a child feel good about themselves, of course given that they are realistic.

When you expect a child to be great, they tend to easily be great.

4.) Do Nothing And Allow Them To Learn On Their Own

The easiest way to learn how to swim is to get in the water and begin swimming, right?

That’s because our brain learns from experiences, so allowing your child to experience the natural consequences of their behavior is a great way for them to “discipline” themselves.

For example, if your child decides to throw their toy across the room while they are eating, don’t give it back to them. Instead, let them realize that when they mistreat their toys they don’t get to play with them.

This accelerates their learning.

5.) Be Kind With Your Communication

Shaming your kid, belittling them, and yelling at them in front of their friends are all ways to surely shut down their self-esteem. Don’t make them feel bad for their behavior. Always lead with kindness when disciplining. Be gentle and direct.

Don’t say things like, “You are annoying me right now, be quiet and stop being bad!”

Instead say, “Mommy is trying to focus right now, I’m going to ask you to please quiet down and play with your toys like the good boy you are. I’ll talk to you when I’m finished.”

6.) Be Rational With Your Consequences

Just because your child got moved from green to red for one day doesn’t mean they need to lose their play time for a whole summer, does it?

I am stating an extreme example to get the point across that irrational consequences can make a child feel like they are not “liked.”

Give consequences, but understanding short-term and logical consequences will always be best in the long run.

7.) Model Positive Behavior

I wrote about this in my other blog post, “How Can I Build My Child’s Confidence & Self Esteem?”

We have these things called mirror neurons, and these mirror neurons cause us to model the behavior we see in our environment.

This is our earliest form of learning and we can’t help but model our environment. So if you want to discipline your child in a way that doesn’t feel like discipline, be disciplined yourself and model good behavior. What’s that old saying, “Kids don’t do what you say they do what you do?”

It's true. Monkey see monkey do.

8.) Build A Routine Around Healthy Habits

A way to proactively discipline a child is to set up standards and schedules with them that involved them doing healthy habits.

Chores are great for a kid. It makes them feel responsible and gives them structure that is much needed.

A child having a routine also builds more resilience.

9.) Be Consistent In Your Expectations

Another way to discipline a child without it feeling like discipline is to be very consistent with what you expect of and from them.

When a child is certain about what their expectations are, they don’t push against them or act out of them.

But if you are always changing the expectations, they then develop the tendency to push them to see what they can get away with.

10.) Set Expectations, Not Rules

Let’s be real for a moment. Rules are not fun and they feel limiting, which can make a very expressive child feel reluctant about them. Instead of setting rules, set expectations for them that build their confidence and guide them in the right direction.

Expecting your child to behave and communicating that with them is always more effective than telling them to follow rules in the long run. This is a disciplinary framework that empowers children, not belittles them.

An Important Note For All Parents


The most important thing to remember first and foremost is that your children need to know that they are loved, worthy, and accepted as they are.

Not just in their minds, but in their nervous systems as well. If a child does not feel these things they are destined to act out.

Developing your child’s self-esteem is one of the best ways to proactively discipline them.

Because when they feel good about themselves internally, they don’t feel a need to act out for attention, love, or acceptance.

You must also keep in mind that you’re children are not their behaviors.

They are human beings. You can let them know that certain behaviors are not accepted, but always reassure them that they are accepted as an individual.

When you call them bad kids or hint at it, all you do is make them feel worse about themselves which will only lead to more and more behavior problems as they grow.

Communicate love, communicate it often, and never belittle your child’s sense of self.

Happy disciplining!

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