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How to Teach a Child Respect and Discipline: A Parent's Guide

Medically reviewed by Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Feb 16, 2021

How to Teach a Child Respect and Discipline: A Parent's Guide

Respect and discipline are two core foundational things that every child must have to acclimatize well in the real world. But how to teach a child respect and discipline? At every stage in your child’s life, the approach differs, but all of it always begins effectively with a calm and firm parenting approach. 

Children who have a strong sense of respect, discipline and boundaries with other people tend to grow up into well-adjusted adults. 

How to Teach a Child Respect and Discipline

Disciplining Babies

Babies as old as six months already understand the word “No.’ But it will be impossible for babies at that very young age to reason or know the cause and effect or consequences of their actions. Spanking is not going to work at this stage. 

The best you can do to gain respect and discipline with a baby is to create a suitable environment to demonstrate it. For example, do not set up the baby to destroy objects like expensive items lying around on the floor. Do not put these things within the baby’s play area.

If in case the baby accidentally gets a hold of something that is not a toy and needs returning, firmly but quietly return the item and keep it out of the child’s reach. Look your baby in the eye and calmly explain why you need to take away the object. But do not expect your child to remember it in one go. You may have to do it a few more times for the same before it becomes a natural thing for your baby to do, depending on their stage of child development. 

Doctors also recommend setting a solid routine for sleeping and eating for babies. They thrive in structure and will be well-disposed to discipline themselves if they operate in a routine they can rely on.

Discipline Styles and Strategies for Preschoolers

Teaching Toddlers and Preschoolers

Children in this age group are not called “three-nagers’ for nothing. The time of the “terrible twos‘ is real. This is the time of pounding on the floor, meltdowns in public places like the supermarket, and negotiating with what seems like a tiny terrorist. It is easy to despair and wonder what you have done wrong as a parent when you are in this stage. 

However, it is perfectly normal for kids this age to test your boundaries and your patience. 

Julie King and Joanna Faber, who co-wrote How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, are masters of instilling respect and discipline in their kids from ages 2 to 7. In their book, they mentioned that being eye-to-eye with your child during a teaching moment helps. It would not sink in correctly if you are looking down on your child while talking to them during a teachable moment. 

Spiraling tantrum

King and Faber also explained the mechanism of a spiraling tantrum. Kids this age will not listen in the middle of a tantrum because they are in the midst of a critical time in development. They are mature enough to have a diverse set of feelings for things, but they are not yet wholly capable of regulating these intense emotions when they happen. 

You need to set boundaries with toddlers and preschoolers very often in your journey as a parent. But the manner with which you do this setting of boundaries is what makes a lasting impression on your child. More than what you say, it is how you say it that makes a whole world of difference. 

Being empathic or able to relate to your own child’s issues, no matter how trivial or nonsense it may seem to you as an adult, is the way to get to the same page. At this sensitive age, parents can make the child feel that they are valued or heard. By validating your child’s feelings, you can establish a stronger, healthier relationship with your kid. It helps instill the kind of respect and discipline that does not easily go away because you got them to cooperate with you. Children will obey their parents, not just to avoid punishment like the fear of being spanked. 

how to teach a child respect and discipline

Disciplining at School Age

Children in the school-age category have a better handle of the consequences of actions. This is where instilling time outs, curtailing of certain privileges, and other forms of discipline can come into play. This is also the time when children can make their own decisions on certain things like choosing their friends, preference over clothing or items, and favorite activities. Setting a good example of respecting others is still important in this stage, as well as empathy. Like in the toddler stage, parents can accomplish a lot more by keeping calm. 

Helping kids develop empathy on their own also helps them consider other’s welfare. Encouraging them to set healthy boundaries with people at a young age teaches them to have well-placed respect for other people. 

The Teen Years

The teenage years can be a volatile time for both parents and children. If the foundation was laid correctly in previous stages of life, it is much easier or manageable to discipline even if the teenage years have a higher risk of rebelliousness. Teens are on their way to adulthood but are not quite there yet. So there is an inner conflict, which may cause your teen’s rebelliousness. 

Dr. William Doherty, a family therapist and author of the book, Take Back Your Kids, advocates that an occasional fit of anger is necessary for parents to assert their authority. It is especially necessary if the teenager completely disregards consequences and insists on having their way around things. 

Key Takeaways

How to teach a child respect and discipline? Ultimately, parents do their best for their kids in any way possible. But those who succeed the most in instilling respect and discipline are the ones who set a good example by living their lives full of respect and discipline for everyone. Kids emulate what they see in their parents especially when they are younger, and will carry this to adulthood and in their future relationships with other people. 

Learn more about Parenting here


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

Medically reviewed by

Jobelle Ann Dela Cruz Bigalbal, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Tracey Romero · Updated Feb 16, 2021

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