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Positive Discipline Strategies Help Prevent Child Abuse

Author: Michele Tryon, CCLS
Published Date: Monday, April 5, 2021

Family stress has been particularly high this past year. With many families sheltering in place, and parents teaching from home, one of our most popular webinars has been Positive Discipline. Parents who attended have been at their wits end.

Decades ago, spanking and yelling to deter “misbehavior” was commonplace and often acceptable practices. Fortunately, things have changed. Today’s parents receive advice early on that there are healthier ways to guide children. Positive discipline techniques are an effective way to prevent child abuse.

This month, child advocates nationwide celebrate children and families during Child Abuse Prevention Month. You may notice pinwheel gardens throughout Hampton Roads – and at CHKD – as a visual reminder to celebrate children, support and strengthen families, and create communities where children can be safe from harm and free from abuse and neglect. With the ongoing pandemic and the stress it’s placed on families, practicing positive discipline techniques have become more important than ever.

During our virtual workshop on positive discipline, we first discuss the difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline means to guide and teach. The intent of punishment is to discourage “misbehavior” by applying a negative consequence after a misdeed. The problem with punishment is it often discourages the child and does nothing to teach the skills necessary to make better choices.

In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy on corporal punishment. The Academy’s stand is clear: Don’t do it. According to the policy statement, “All forms of corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children are minimally effective in the short term and not effective in the long term.” Research on brain development gives credence to the AAP’s “no spanking” stand, noting negative effects on the developing brain in children who have experienced physical punishment and other fear-based discipline strategies.

The AAP policy is clear that spanking is not effective and is harmful to a child’s development. Children need discipline that allows them to learn from their mistakes and helps them feel secure in managing their own impulses, behaviors, and emotions.

Here are some ways to eliminate the negative when disciplining your child.

  • Provide structure. Structure includes safety proofing your home, keeping expectations clear and consistent, and developing guidelines that govern behavior as children grow. Children feel safe when they have consistency and accountability. This is especially true during uncertain times such as pandemics and civil unrest.
  • Focus on positive behavior. When you comment on your child’s positive behavior, they will gain a sense of confidence and often repeat the behavior. When children feel better, they do better.
  • Be a positive role model. Keeping your composure is key. Before you lose your cool, stop and take a deep breath. Consider what your child is about to experience and what they are learning. Take the high road and respond thoughtfully with potential solutions, rather than reacting irrationally and later regretting it.
  • Spend quality time with your child. Give your child the attention and connection they are seeking by spending time together. When they have your positive attention, they’re less likely to choose negative behavior.
  • Have a support system. Raising children is one of the most frustrating and rewarding experiences that we have in life. Seek out support from family members and friends when you’re feeling overwhelmed or impatient. Talk with other parents who have children close in age to yours. Attend a parenting workshop, webinar, or support group to make community connections.

To learn more about effective discipline, check out our classes, workshops, and resources at

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About Michele Tryon, CCLS

About Michele  Tryon, CCLS Michele Tryon, CHKD community outreach coordinator and parent educator has worked with children and families for 30 years, providing services in the hospital, home, school and community setting. Michele is a Certified Child Life Specialist, a Certified Positive Discipline™ parent educator, a nationally recognized trainer/consultant for Nurturing Parenting Programs™ and co-author of The Nurturing Program for Parents and Their Children with Special Needs and Health Challenges©.