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Discipline Styles and Strategies for Preschoolers

Discipline Styles and Strategies for Preschoolers

Parenting is not an easy task. You need to juggle many things — from providing for your child’s needs to caring for their mental health. And one of the hardest parts of parenting is making sure that your child behaves properly. Some parents consider disciplining as especially hard because it takes time and patience. If you are one of those parents who find it hard to set limits for your child, here are some effective child discipline methods to help you teach your child to learn acceptable behavior.

What Is Discipline?

The word “discipline” generally conveys visions of smacking children’s bottoms, shouting, grounding, and other forms of punishment. But the word has a more positive meaning.

At the heart of the process, discipline aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Protect children from possible or imminent danger
  • Instill self-control and self-discipline in children
  • Help children learn how to be responsible for their actions
  • Help children cultivate values

So how should parents discipline their child? Effective child discipline methods and strategies set limits while teaching children how to control their words, actions, and behavior. But finding out what is effective for your child must take into account your temperament as a parent, your child’s temperament, and your family’s philosophy on child discipline.

This means that what works for one child may not work for another. So, it is even more important that you learn multiple strategies to adjust your child discipline methods.

Child Discipline Methods

1. Show and tell. Several theories on child development state that children learn by watching and imitating adults. It is a more efficient way for children to acquire knowledge, behaviors, skills, and traditions from previous generations. It is also a faster and safer method than when done through independent study.

So, purposefully model behavior that you want your child to imitate. If you want your child to be calm, then be calm under pressure. If you want your child to learn how to share, share something with a fellow adult and point out that “Mommy is sharing food.”

2. Set rules. Have a family meeting where you lay down and explain the rules that your family needs to follow. Be consistent with how you implement the rules and what consequences your child (and the rest of your family) can expect if the rules are not followed. These do not have to be spartan rules. Allow them to be age-appropriate and explain in terms that your child can understand.

For example, when it comes to child discipline methods, you can set a rule that your child has to put away the toys at the end of the day. If this task is not done, scolding is an automatic reaction for many parents. For the creative parent, you can give positive punishments like preventing your child from playing with the toys the next day, making your child sleep early, or adding a chore for the night.

For preschoolers, a popular “punishment” is a time-out. Some parents set a specific length of time while others allow their children to stay in time-out until they are ready.

3. Have a discussion. As noted above, you want to discipline your child so that she or he will learn a specific lesson. Learning is always a two-way street though. Be prepared to listen to your child’s side and explore possible solutions to a problem. This child discipline method may be hard if your child is very young, but use simple, concrete sentences and never interrupt your child when she or he is talking.

Having a discussion will also allow you to focus your attention on your child. This will have several positive effects, one of which is that your child will get the attention she or he craves.

4. Monitor your child’s behavior patterns. If your child exhibits certain misbehavior patterns, then you need to find the root of the issue. This will also allow you to plan for events that may spell trouble like family gatherings.

By monitoring your child, you also learn when you need to redirect bad behavior. Your child naturally has a lot of energy, and bad behavior can sometimes be a result of boredom. By diverting the energy toward something positive like a game or a chore, then you will be teaching your child several lessons.

Redirection can also give your child a choice of two activities. Letting your make a decision can be exciting for a preschooler.

But you also need to know when to ignore misbehavior. For example, if your child keeps breaking toys then you can say that one day she or he will not have toys to play with anymore. If your child continues the behavior then you can let natural consequences happen.

5. Praise them. Don’t be on the lookout for just the bad behaviors. Catch your child being good and give compliments and words of praise for a job well done. Going by the earlier example, if your child does put away the toys then say “Great job for putting your toys away!”


Child discipline methods are not about making your child feel guilty or ashamed. Instead, the benefits of child discipline lead to your child learning how to behave properly, organize thoughts and responses, and follow rules.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Pediatrics Child Health (2004). Effective discipline: A healthy approach. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719515/.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2018). What’s the Best Way to Discipline My Child? Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/communication-discipline/Pages/Disciplining-Your-Child.aspx.

Meltzoff, A.N., & Williamson, R.A. (2017). Imitation and Modeling. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-809324-5.05827-2.

Pediatrics Child Health (2004). Effective discipline for children. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719514/.

Better Help (2019). 10 Positive Punishment Techniques & Their Effect. Retrieved from https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/punishment/10-positive-punishment-techniques-their-effect/.

Child Development Institute (n.d.). 20 Ways to Talk So Your Kids Will Listen. Retrieved from https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/how-to-be-a-parent/communication/talk-to-kids-listen/#gs.5jl2l8.

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Written by Tracey Romero Updated Jun 07
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel