Three Keys to Effective Discipline

Brother and sister having an argumentMy mother-in-law was a wise woman. Once, when my husband and his older brother were young children, they had a terrible argument. As a means of helping them resolve their differences, my mother-in-law made each of her two boys wash opposite sides of the same window. Forced to face each other, the brothers’ anger soon turned into laughter.

As I pondered this family story, whose retelling always arouses delight, I noticed three important keys my mother-in-law employed in successfully disciplining her children. These keys will work equally well for us as we apply them to the discipline of our own children.

Let’s consider the three keys one by one:

1–Do not be afraid of confrontation. Many parents fear confrontation, to the point that they avoid it at all costs. Today, I hear of mothers who want to be “friends” to their children and not parents. This attitude represents a gross misunderstanding of parental authority and responsibility. In making her boys face each other through both sides of the same window, my mother-in-law taught them to confront their problem.

When facing confrontation, we would do well to realize that confrontation is not the problem. The real problem is with the way we handle confrontation. When, however, we handle confrontation in the right way–with mutual respect and a mutual desire to resolve the problem–confrontation always yields positive results. When properly understood and handled, confrontation is really an opportunity for growth.

2–Humor always defuses anger. I am so grateful for a husband with a great sense of humor. (He got that from his mother! :)) Many tense situations with our children were defused by my husband’s humor. Laughter has a way of tearing down barriers among people, and especially among children. So, when you discipline your children, be sure to look for opportunities to inject humor into your discipline.

3–Teamwork encourages healthful relationships. By using a discipline technique whereby my husband and his older brother had to work together on the same project, my mother-in-law wisely demonstrated that she trusted her boys to work together to solve their problem. Not only did her disciplinary method work, but she also got her windows washed in the process!
Copyright 2001-2017 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD, MFA. All Rights Reserved. First Published in Healthy Kids Online, January 17, 2001.


Dr. MaryAnn Diorio writes compelling fiction about the deepest issues of the human heart. Her latest children’s picture book, THE DANDELION PATCH, was recently named “Best Book of Juvenile Fiction” in the 2017 Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards Contest.

To order your copy of THE DANDELION PATCH, click here.

MaryAnn and her husband are the blessed parents of two awesome adult daughters and the happy grandparents of five adopted grandchildren. You may reach MaryAnn at and at

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