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How to Discipline Your Child Without Feeling Guilty

by Tiffany Raiford, studioD

Watching your child's eyes fill with tears or seeing her cross her arms with a pout as she heads off to time out can pull at your heartstrings. Guilt is a common feeling for parents when it comes time to mete out some discipline, but your little one isn’t going to hold a grudge forever if she has to spend a few minutes in the thinking chair for hitting her brother. While you may not be able to completely rid yourself of a twinge of guilt associated with being a disciplinarian, you can remind yourself that appropriate disciplining is part of being a good parent.

Enforce discipline with consistency, advises Kids Health. When a child understands that all misbehavior comes with a consequence it can not only diminish his desire to misbehave, it can ease a little of your own guilt. Your child’s improved behavior might help you feel better about enforcing discipline since it seems to work.

Create boundaries that are reasonable to both you and your child, advises the Ask Dr. Sears website. For example, if your pre-teen thinks her bedtime is for babies, consider allowing her to keep her current bedtime on school nights and allowing a later bedtime on weekend nights. When you both see the boundaries as fair she is less likely to overstep them and you are less likely to feel guilty setting them.

Learn to expect appropriate behavior from your child, advises the Ask Dr. Sears site. When your child learns that you will not tolerate anything less than good behavior, he is more likely to follow the rules. He may begin to understand that his actions have consequences, which may lead to fewer punishments.

Feel less guilty about punishing your child by allowing natural consequences to punish him for you, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. For example, if your child is playing with his favorite pool float around the house before you head to the pool and you ask him to stop so he doesn’t pop it, let him suffer the consequences of not listening to you that occur naturally. If he pops the pool float, he simply will not have one to use while swimming and that is the punishment he gets for not following the rules. You don’t have to feel guilty because you didn’t pop or take the float away; his actions are all his own.

Take away a privilege as a form of discipline, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. You can help yourself feel a lot less guilty about taking things away for misbehavior when you give your child forewarning. For example, if your teen is talking back to you with an attitude, tell her you want her to speak to you with respect or she will lose her driving privileges or the privilege of going out with her friends that night or that weekend. The next time she talks back, you don’t have to feel guilty taking something away because she knew what was coming and chose to misbehave anyway. This punishment works on children of all ages; you simply have to adjust the privilege you withhold to correlate with your child’s age.

Use time outs to discipline your child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, this is an effective punishment for smaller children, typically between 2 and 5 years of age, though you can use it for any child if you choose. Warn your child that misbehavior will result in time out and then place her there for one minute for each year of her life if she continues to misbehave. For example, your 3-year-old would sit there for 3 minutes and you 5-year-old for 5 minutes, etc. .


  • Spanking, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is not a recommended form of punishment. Spanking can make you feel guilty, it can teach your kids to handle their own problems aggressively and some research suggests that physical punishments increase the likelihood that a child will abuse drugs or alcohol or resort to abuse later in life.

About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.

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