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Eight Destructive Discipline Techniques

Behave Yourself!

Don't correct or scold your child in front of her friends (unless you are catching all of them in a misbehavior). Making your child look bad in front of other people is embarrassing, and can be humiliating. You won't achieve your goal of correcting the misbehavior in a positive, respectful way. Save it. If something needs to be said now, pull your child aside.

Behave Yourself!

Shaking a child-even lightly-can cause permanent damage. Never, ever shake a child.

Physical Abuse

However you feel about physical discipline, there is no doubt that punching, shaking, slapping on the face or hands, beating, whipping, hair-pulling, burning, binding, or any other physical attacks on children are never acceptable, no matter what the child's misdeed or attitude, no matter how frustrated or angry you are.

It doesn't matter what you intend-to teach your child a lesson, to correct him, or to get back at him. No matter what your intent, physical abuse causes terrible harm. Kids who have suffered physical abuse spend years fighting against lowered self-respect, mental health issues, and behavioral problems. They often become part of a cycle of violence as they, too, begin to suffer from delinquency, crime, and violent patterns as both abusers and victims. If you or anybody else in your child's life is resorting to physical abuse to handle your child, you need to change these patterns, and to do this, you need help and support. Immediately.

Take this book with you to the phone, now! and call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800/799-SAFE. The TDD/TTY number is 800/787-3224. I don't care what time it is, and neither do they. They're open 24 hours a day to talk with you, and help you through this.

Punitive and Retaliatory Action

Getting back at your kid, or correcting with a punishing attitude, is not positive discipline. Your intentions and your attitudes do count, almost as much as your actions.


Warnings are an effective disciplinary approach (see the effective big seven, above), but threats are not. Threats have an element of coercion, and they make a child obey through fear or by threatening harm. Here's an example of the difference: “Lucia, you are getting late. Get dressed now or we won't get to the party in time for dinner,” is a warning. “Get dressed or I'll rip up all your clothes and you'll have to go out in rags!” is clearly a threat. The child whose parents use threats will feel uneasy in the one place he should feel secure-his family. Kids who are threatened often get into lying or deceptive behavior. Since most threats are “empty,” they also learn not to trust what their parents say.


Laying traps for kids, to see if they'll lie, lose control, or misbehave in a seductive situation, is unfair and disrespectful. Support your child. Plan for him to succeed, not fail.

Withholding Affection

Withholding affection ties your love to your child's behavior, and is completely opposite from the concept of unconditional love. A parent who withholds affection becomes cold and distant until the behavior improves, forcing the child to 1) suffer the lack of support, and 2) become an amateur psychologist as he tries to psyche out what is making you so upset. (This “method” tends to be paired with no talk.) Parents who withhold affection believe it will make their kids shape up-quick. In reality, the child will retreat, and, in anger and hurt, rebel against you.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to a Well-Behaved Child © 1999 by Ericka Lutz. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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