When Adults Differ on How to Discipline Youth

Even though you may be following the principles in Parenting Without Stress and Discipline Without Stress, you may find yourself in a situation where another adult who interacts with your child prefers to use coercive methods of discipline, such as punishments, rewards, and lecturing. These well-meaning adults may even try to convince you that what you’re doing is incorrect—that children need strict discipline or that rewards are the only way to get youngsters to do anything.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, let the other adult know that you are NOT against punishments or all rewards. But you are against stress, IMPOSED punishments, and rewarding young people for what they should be doing.

Explain to them that when adults give rewards for expected standards of conduct, they send the inference that children will be rewarded in the adult world simply for doing what is expected from them. This is not how the real world operates. Emphasize that as children grow and mature, they will learn that the most satisfying reward is the feeling they get from their efforts of doing what is right, rather than from something that comes from the outside.

Additionally, explain that IMPOSED punishments create adversarial relationships. Besides, the person has no ownership in something imposed. If the desire is to change behavior, then eliciting a consequence or a procedure is much more effective and far more stress reducing because you will be collaborating with the child, which prompts positive rather than negative feelings.

No matter who tries to sway you away from your chosen approach to discipline and responsibility, persevere! What you are doing is in your children’s best interests—preparing them to be responsible citizens.