How to Discipline a Child Without Hitting or Yelling

How to discipline a child without hitting or yelling is a common parental concern. Learn why they are harmful and techniques to use instead, on HealthyPlace.

Knowing how to discipline a child without hitting or yelling is a vital part of a parent’s toolbox for child-raising. There are numerous approaches to disciplining kids, but not all are equal in the results they accomplish. Some methods are ineffective while others are dangerous. Some are positive and effective. Learning how to discipline a child without yelling or hitting will help foster a strong, close relationship between you and your children.

 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends against these discipline tactics:

  • Spanking
  • Hitting
  • Slapping
  • Threatening
  • Insulting
  • Humiliating
  • Shaming

Many well-meaning parents resort to the above techniques out of frustration over their child’s misbehavior because they don’t know what else they can do.  If that’s you or a friend or family member, you can reduce parenting stress by learning different discipline tools to replace mentally and physically damaging punishments.

Why You Shouldn’t Discipline a Child by Hitting or with Other Damaging Approaches

Parenting experts and organizations like the AAP state that physical (corporal), verbal, and emotional punishments should never be used. The reasons are sound. Hitting, spanking, yelling, and others listed above aren’t recommended because of their negative effects on kids.

Harsh punishments can cause physical injury and emotional harm. Kids learn to be afraid of their parents and that they must lie and avoid getting caught doing something they shouldn’t.

Hitting or spanking usually leads to aggression in kids and power struggles between parent and child. Hitting sends the wrong message to kids, teaching that hitting is okay when you’re upset. Further, they don’t learn positive skills they need to function at school and in society.  

Another devastating result of yelling at or hitting your child is the damage it does to your relationship with them. This type of punishment doesn’t foster closeness, affection, or trust. You can regain a positive relationship with your child when you know what to do instead of using harsh discipline.

Learn How to Discipline a Child without Hitting or Yelling

Knowing what to do instead of hitting and yelling is the key to more effective discipline and an improved relationship with your child. There are numerous ways to discipline without hitting or yelling. These effective approaches to positive discipline, when used consistently over time, will help your child be more cooperative:

Positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means seeing and acknowledging the good instead of waiting for misbehavior and punishing.

Redirecting. This involves diverting your child’s attention from something they shouldn’t be doing and steering them gently to something else.

Setting clear limits, boundaries, and rules. Kids need to know exactly what’s expected of them. They can’t follow rules or stick within limits if they don’t know what they are. If it is helpful, write them down and put them in a prominent spot.

Logical and natural consequences. In order to learn, kids must have clear and consistent consequences when they misbehave. When kids break a rule, follow through with a consequence right away so kids associate their behavior with the consequence. Also, consequences should be logical and fit the misdeed. Natural consequences are useful, too, because they let kids learn from their mistakes. For example, if your child left a book at home that he needs for school, you don’t have to rush it to them, nor do you have to yell at them when they come home. The natural consequence was not having the book to use.

Loss of privileges. Incorporating this tool into your clear discipline plan can be powerful in changing kids’ behaviors. Losing electronics for a day or the use of the car for a week impactfully teaches them not to repeat what they did.

Time Outs. Time outs aren’t for punishing. They’re to help kids calm down and reset. Whereas yelling and hitting evoke strong emotional reactions, time outs let kids cool down.

Ignore. You don’t have to call kids out for every little misdeed. When the transgression is minor, it’s okay to look the other way for the sake of maintaining a positive relationship.

Reward systems.  Young children love sticker charts. They earn stickers for being or doing good, and when they earn a set amount, you reward them. Similarly, older kids often respond to token economics in which they earn tokens and can exchange them for bigger rewards.

Perhaps the most important ingredient in disciplining without yelling or hitting is seeing the big picture. Rather than looking at short-term punishments for behavior you don’t want, think about their character as they grow up. What do you want them to learn, and how do you want them to learn it? These questions underlie all the techniques that replace harsh punishments. When they’re high-functioning adults, your kids will be grateful for you and the way you taught and guided them.

See Also:

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2022, January 4). How to Discipline a Child Without Hitting or Yelling, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: January 16, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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