18 Ways to Discipline Your Child Without Spanking

NOTE: This article was first published on January 4, 2017, but has been updated.

There are many reasons parents avoid discipline:

It doesn’t seem to work.

It’s unpleasant.

It’s easier to let the kid have its way.

They feel guilty when the child accuses them of being mean.

It doesn’t feel good. After all, who wants to make their kids cry?

Sometimes we avoid it because of the way our parents disciplined us – harshly or not at all. Maybe the problem wasn’t the correction but how we were corrected.

Is it loving to discipline?

Proverbs 13:24  He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.  (NIV)

True love disciplines. It does not tolerate wrong-doing because it destroys relationship.

Without discipline, children feel insecure and even unloved.

Discipline should be redemptive. We want our children to learn from consequences, to be motivated to change course.  We want them to obey from the heart, not from fear or force.

A child will accept correction if he senses love from the one giving it. So, while it is loving to administer discipline, how we administer it makes all the difference.

What disciplining in anger does

Angry discipline neutralizes the effect of correction and creates rebellion in a child’s heart. The secret to disciplining without anger is to be under the discipline of God yourself.  (Note: if you fail and discipline in anger, apologize.  Children are forgiving. I have apologized to my kids many times!)

To tackle discipline without prayer is dangerous.  Without God’s guidance, we’re likely to stir up rebellion.

Related: Ten things you need to discipline well

18 Creative discipline ideas

  1. Remove the privilege of having some free time and get your child to do extra chores.
  2. Remove clothes or toys left lying around and get your child to pay (either money or with chores 😉 ) to get them back.
  3. Pay for items broken or lost, or
  4. Get them to fix the item they broke.  When one of our sons broke a window he had to pay for, and fix it. Not only did he learn to be more careful, but he learned how to replace a broken window.
  5. Get your child to clean up the mess they made. They spill the milk, they mop it up.  (If they’re old enough, of course. But be sure you don’t think they can’t do it when they can.)
  6. Don’t want to sing at family worship – get them to sing a special item. We only had to use this once!
  7. Doesn’t like the food and refuses to eat it – give it to them for breakfast, cold.  With nothing between meals except water.
  8. Lazy/irresponsible with work – do the chore again plus extra, or
  9. Skip a meal.  2 Thessalonians 3:10 “…that if any would not             work, neither should he eat.” (I also only ever used this once)
  10. When your child is grumpy, get them to sing or write a thank you list.
  11. If your child has been mean to a sibling get them to do chores for the one wronged, or
  12. Write a love letter to the one wronged.
  13. Time out to pray or read their Bible.
  14. Quiet walk on their own or sit out in nature.
  15. Depending on their age, get your child to sit quietly on a chair for a short time. (Standard rule for this is as many minutes as they are years old.) We don’t really like the naughty corner idea because it provides time for a child to brood on their mistakes and for Satan to speak lies to their mind about themselves. I would use this as a means of calming a child down that is over-excited or being too noisy. I would not make him face the wall and I would set a timer. Once the child is calm I’d get down to their level and explain what I expect from him and warn him of worse to come if he doesn’t obey.
  16. A five minute run at top speed – gets rid of energy that might be causing them to be too loud or cranky.
  17. Dig or pull weeds in the garden.
  18. A fast bike ride.
Mockup of discipline ideas list

How to know if your discipline is successful

Discipline is about winning your child’s heart and gaining willing obedience. This will show in their outward behaviour. Don’t settle for outward compliance.

If your child:

  • Will not look you in the eye after the consequence,
  • Refuses to hug you,
  • Is stiff and resistant to your touch,
  • Refuses to smile,
  • Complains that you are mean and don’t love them,

then there is a heart issue and the consequence has not reached the level it should.

Outward behaviour is an index to the heart.  Body language is a good indicator of what is happening inside your child.

Good discipline aims for the heart

Too often we see discipline as a “this for that”. You did this so you get that. We think the job done because we gave a consequence. Go deeper. Look at the heart of your child and aim to win it.

Don’t be satisfied until you see a change in your child.  This may require more time than you expected but it will be worth it.

Pray with and for your child. God is able to soften the hardest of hearts. Don’t be afraid to give more consequences until you see the change.

Balance your correction with loads of hugs, smiles, affection, and encouraging words.

Related: How to get your kids to listen in 3 easy steps

What creative discipline ideas do you use?

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has three grown kids and is married to her best friend, Richard. She started this website as a platform to help families, and specifically women, to take control of their lives and grow themselves spiritually, mentally & emotionally, and to discover their God-given purpose and live it out with confidence. She is a trained Life Coach and has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). She is a certified SYMBIS (Save Your Marriage Before It Starts) facilitator. She lives in sunny South Africa.


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