How to Find an Effective Discipline Strategy

Finding a discipline strategy that “works” can feel a bit like a unicorn: we’ve heard of it, but it’s likely imaginary–or so it seems.

Although we’re not about to start on a quest for unicorns, we can tell you this: an effective discipline strategy is actually within reach. For any strategy to “work,” though, we need to examine what it means to succeed.

Parenting Resource Center

By Sarah R. Moore

Founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting & Trusted Parenting Network Member

If we’re looking for the child who blindly follows orders and never pushes back, we have to remember that although that would be convenient, that would not actually be healthy. Questioning others and learning how to disagree respectfully are life skills that our children need to practice in the safest place possible. That’s with us.

The core issue comes back to what discipline really means. Although “discipline” has been misunderstood in recent years and some people consider it synonymous with punishment, it’s really quite different. To discipline means to teach.

When we think about how we, as adults, learn best, do we learn best when someone’s yelling at us, harming us, or making us feel “less than” in any way? Of course not. On the contrary, we learn best when people are patient with us, accept our mistakes while we learn, and support our growth process. It’s no different for children.

With that in mind, the most effective discipline strategy is going to be one that prioritizes the child’s physical and emotional well-being.

Sarah R. Moore

Founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting

Sarah R. Moore is the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior. She’s a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She’s a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Based in Colorado, Sarah and her family spend much of their time worldschooling. She speaks French and eats Italian food like a pro!) Her heart’s desire is to bring greater peace and healing to the world through loving and respectful parenting. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter.

To find the right discipline strategy, we may first need to break unhealthy cycles.

Since research now shows that physical discipline strategies are ineffective and even dangerous in many cases, parents and caregivers are advised to replace all forms of corporal punishment and verbal abuse with strategies that have no negative long-term outcomes.
That can certainly feel like a daunting task for parents and caregivers who’ve previously relied on emotional or physical punishment. However, there’s hope.

As with breaking all undesirable habits, we need to:

  • Admit there’s a problem.
  • Decide to make a change.
  • Choose what kind of change to make, specifically.
  • Make the change.
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As part of this process, of course, we need to be very gentle with ourselves. It’s easy to get caught up in guilt or shame about the choices we wish we hadn’t made. There’s a critical difference between guilt and shame, however. Brené Brown explains it well:

I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful—it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.


I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging—something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.


I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. 1

Without self-compassion, it’s hard to move forward with a better plan. Start small if you need to. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Give yourself grace for what you didn’t know, or what you didn’t have the power to change at the time. It’s never too late to choose a new path.

When we use discipline peacefully, we experience more peace in our lives.

Moving from punitive discipline to peaceful discipline not only benefits our children, but it also helps us heal: we become cycle breakers. We start to make sense of our history while also taking the reins on directing our future. Moreover, we equip our children with deep levels of healing that they’re able to pass along to their own children someday.

When we heal from the inside out – no matter how long it takes or how many “bumps” we experience along the way – we do brave and important work. When we make the effort to do this work, though, the benefits touch every life around us. Over time, we invariably feel more peace with our children. This is the true measure of an “effective” discipline strategy.

baby crying - shaken baby syndrome prevention

Sarah R. Moore

Founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting

Sarah R. Moore is the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting and author of Peaceful Discipline: Story Teaching, Brain Science & Better Behavior. She’s a public speaker, armchair neuroscientist, and most importantly, a Mama. She’s a lifelong learner with training in child development, trauma recovery, interpersonal neurobiology, and improv comedy. As a certified Master Trainer in conscious parenting, she helps bring JOY, EASE, and CONNECTION back to families around the globe. Based in Colorado, Sarah and her family spend much of their time worldschooling. She speaks French and eats Italian food like a pro!) Her heart’s desire is to bring greater peace and healing to the world through loving and respectful parenting. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, & Twitter.

Resources like these are provided by American SPCC – a national nonprofit dedicated to building positive childhoods for all children by empowering parents and caregivers with research-backed education and support.

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Parenting Resource Center

How to Find an Effective Discipline Strategy