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The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

I think a lot of Millennial parents, like me, can understand that the harsh discipline we were raised with was NOT the best way..right?

We can see the rise in mental health problems from the harsh verbal discipline and harsh punishment we received as kids.

That’s why there is SUCH a huge push towards gentle parenting these days. We don’t want to be permissive and have our kids walk all over us, but we DO want to learn how to discipline so that we can support healthy child development and have our kids grow into lovely adults in the long run.

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The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

Does Too Much Harsh Disciplining Cause Suffering?

Science says.. yes. I’m NOT an expert on the mental effects of harsh discipline, but I have read many papers on the subject – here are a few of them summarised!

The ACE Study, or Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, investigates the impact of early-life adversity, such as abuse and household dysfunction, on long-term health.

It found a strong correlation between these experiences and increased risks of physical and mental health issues in adulthood, highlighting the importance of addressing childhood trauma. Read more on the ACE study here.

Diana Baumrind’s Parenting Styles theory categorizes parenting into three main styles: Authoritative, Authoritarian, and Permissive.

Authoritative parents are balanced, offering rules with warmth. Authoritarian parents are strict and controlling. Permissive parents are lenient and indulgent.

The theory underscores how these styles impact child development and behavior, with authoritative parenting generally yielding the most positive outcomes. Read more about Diana Baumrind’s Theory here.

Another great subject to read about is the Attachment Theory by John Bowlby. Attachment theory, developed by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, explores the deep emotional bonds formed between children and caregivers.

It emphasizes the critical role of secure attachment in a child’s emotional development, impacting relationships and mental health throughout life.

Insecure attachment can lead to behavioral and emotional challenges. Read more about the Attachment Theory here. I also have a great collection of books on the attachment theory you can read about here.

Aside from all of the actual studies done on the subject of the use of punishment to fix a child’s behavior, I know from experience the emotional problems and all the other negative effects that come from this discipline method.

While I love my Father very much now in adulthood, I still resent him for the aggressive behavior he used on me in early childhood. And now I have to battle my own inner will to not yell at my own children when I see behavioral problems. (I have tips on how to stop yelling at kids here)

It’s HARD to parent differently than how your own parents parented you. (Wow that’s a mouthful.)

I see depressive symptoms in myself, and when I was a teenager, I almost died from suicide. My own birth mother died from suicide as well – low self esteem and child abuse played a big role there.

These harsh parenting techniques drove not only myself to the edge of life, but several of my friends as well. The low self esteem issues that this kind of parenting causes …is real.

This is very serious stuff, and I vowed to never parent in this way.

Here are some Important Self Esteem Games For Kids and also 18 Things That Are More Important Than Discipline When Raising Kids if you’d like further reading on the subject.

How I Choose to Parent – While Still Maintaining Discipline

I choose to use Positive Parenting Practices – that I learned from the Positive Parenting Solutions course – and you can use these ideas too!

The biggest part of positive parenting is preventative maintenance – spending quality time with your children and using positive reinforcement when things are going well and right. I even changed the way I say NO to my kids using this parenting style.

I actually have a positive parenting guide you can print out and place on your fridge if you want and it’s free!

The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

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I believe that positive parenting is made up of 5 Pillars.

  1. Open Communication
  2. Empathy and Understanding
  3. Positive Discipline
  4. Emotional Connection
  5. Mindful Parenting

Just because you are the parent – the big wig in the family – doesn’t mean you have to be all closed off and demanding all the time.

Using open communication, empathy, positive discipline (without time out and counting)and emotional connection are all things that lead to mindful parenting, which is how we use positive parenting in our daily lives. Even on high energy toddlers and backtalking tweens and teens. Here are some tips to teach kids respectful disagreement too.

Positive parenting has actually become pretty big among the millennial generation. I’m not sure about other generations, but definitely my generation – I can see it everywhere.

To be honest, if you’re using “preventative maintenance” techniques in your home, you’ll see less behavioral problems, so you’ll overall have a much easier time parenting.

No need for emotional abuse that create negative childhood experiences!

If you need to use a form discipline, my favorite techniques are to listen to my child, figure out the ROOT of the problem behavior and then work on that solution. It’s usually easier than trying to come up with consequences that have nothing to do with their behavior issue.

These techniques also help your child learn to listen to you as well.

I also don’t like to use rewards in my home – here is a study about the risks of rewards.

Your child’s focus often shifts towards the rewards themselves, necessitating a continuous supply of incentives to sustain the desired conduct. Like…candy as a reward for potty training! Though I did use that one so maybe it’s a bad example – but I can’t think of another one right this minute!

A more effective approach involves using encouragement to nurture your children’s best qualities.

That same study says it’s advisable to steer clear of phrases that label their character or personality, like “You’re the team’s best player!” or “You’re exceptionally smart!”

The quality of the parent-child relationship is going to help your child make better decisions because they don’t fear you, and they feel comfortable talking to you about bigger decisions on their lives.

That’s the thing about parenting – it’s all about you, not your kid. I’m learning this daily.

As I learn more about child development and the effects of corporal punishment and physical abuse on children, I work on myself to make sure my kids have high self esteem and are constantly feeling heard and appreciated.

No I’m not raising mushy kids.

No I’m not raising kids who walk all over me.


Is parenting tricky? YES.

Is positive parenting easy? NO.

BUT I choose to do it this way because of the evidence that is available out there on this kind of discipline strategy.

See also How To Create A Parenting Resolution (Anytime)!

The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

The Expert Opinion Of …Experts (On Positive Parenting)

Need more convincing that positive parenting is better than the old way of harsh punishment?

Here are my favorite experts on the subject and their findings.

Dr. Laura Markham

Dr. Laura Markham is all bout the the deep emotional connection with children believes that strong bonds are the foundation of effective discipline and behavior management – and I AGREE. In her book – she talks a lot about the emotional harm that happens when children go through physical punishment and experience verbal abuse- and how it erodes the trust between kids and parents! Her tips on getting a 2 year old to listen are great – I write about them here. On a related note, here are some GAMES that can help your child learn to listen too.

The REAL Effects of Harsh DisciplineThe REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

This is her book – you should definitely read it if you’re thinking about parenting in this manner.

Dr. Dan Siegel

If you’ve ever heard of the books – “The Whole-Brain Child” and “No-Drama Discipline” – then you might have heard of the author Dan Siegel. I watch his positive parenting seminars every year as a refresher and his books are among my favorites too.

Dr. Siegel emphasises on the science of brain development in children and the whole outlook on young children vs. emotional pain, physical force, and authoritarian parenting style. He talks about kids regulating emotions and learning a growth mindset too.

Amy McCready

Amy has a very nice and easy to to follow positive parenting course – I have a review of it here.

She really makes it sink in how it makes children feel when parents yell and how that kind of behavior from parents leads to strained parent-child relationships and resentment from the children!

She is also very strong on the emotional connection with kids and the quality time aspect too!

My favorite thing about the course Amy provides is the booklet full of tools and strategies that address the most common challenges like sibling rivalry and bedtime struggles. She goes step by step into dealing with these challenging situations. I learned A LOT from this course and use it in my daily parenting!

The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

Parenting Resources For Positive Parents

If you’re looking for more parenting resources on positive parenting I have a few suggestions!

First of all there are lots of books out there. I already mentioned a few, and I have a whole list of positive parenting books here. My favorite books are Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and The Whole Brain Child!

You can also take online parenting courses like positive parenting solutions or Triple P Parenting (which is Canadian but it’s a great course) or even Aha!Parenting. There are so many parenting courses – very well family talks about a lot of them here – but i’ve only taken positive parenting solutions myself.

You can also learn about breathing techniques to help your child learn how to self-regulate – and even help you regulate yourself too.

If your child is angry here are 25 Simple Anger Management Games for Kids and even 14 Powerful Tips To Combat Toddler Hitting.

If you’re having a REALLY hard time with your kiddo, consider a pediatrician or a behavior specialist. There is no shame in seeking help if you need it. Your little one may need special guidance that is specific for their needs – and that’s ok because ALL KIDS ARE DIFFERENT! repeat! ALL KIDS ARE DIFFERENT!

I say everything I say with love and kindness – and I urge you to learn your child’s Love Language too!

Positive parenting can encourage personal development – actually it DOES.

Counter Arguments I Hear About

Positive Parenting is Permissive

So they say that positive parenting is permissive, but this is NOT the case. Permissive parenting is it’s own parenting style.

Positive parenting actually utilizes clear boundaries, open communication and mutual respect. It is not about letting kids get away with all sorts of behavior.

I mean, the use of physical punishment causes nothing but physical harm and self-esteem issues in the long run. While it does get IMMEDIATE results because children are literally scared… consistent discipline and quality time are simply more effective long-term.

It’s Time Consuming

Yeah…positive parenting can be time-consuming, especially in the initial stages.

Building a strong parent-child connection, resolving conflicts through discussion, and teaching life skills require patience and consistent effort.

I get it, parenting is BUSY. I’m swamped up to my eyeballs daily, and I don’t get everything done….but parenting comes first! It trumps laundry, dishes, and even sports that I paid money for kids to attend.

Investing this time into parenting is very important even though it’s hard. Hard work is good for parents and kids.

The Results are Not Immediate

Yeah…the results are not immediate. That is TRUE…and that’s ok!

Because we are teaching our kids so they learn over time, this does require some patience and…time.

Positive parenting emphasizes teaching and guiding rather than simply suppressing undesirable behavior.

While it may take time to see significant changes, the approach aims for more enduring and constructive results!!

It’s A Tough Transition

For parents raised with harsh discipline, transitioning to positive parenting can be challenging…I know first hand.

Breaking away from traditional disciplinary methods and embracing empathy-based techniques can feel like a significant shift.

It is possible to adjust your parenting style, even if your parents used punishment methods. It will take a lot of determination and self-discipline on your end but it’s possible!

Honestly it’s worth it because your parenting journey will get easier over time with simple adjustments like ading in quality time and using empathy instead of going straight to yelling when there is a problem in the home.

There really are no negative side effects of this form of discipline, and the long-term effects have been proven to get rid of behavioral problems more effectively than the use of corporal punishment!

The REAL Effects of Harsh Discipline

Mental Illness As A result Of Punishment

The connection between mental health challenges and punitive measures, particularly harsh or abusive discipline, paints a complex portrait according to studies.

Although not every mental health issue can be directly attributed to punishment, there’s compelling evidence to suggest that punitive practices can significantly contribute to or exacerbate mental health problems, particularly in children and adolescents.

This issue has profound emotional implications, with emotionally abusive punishment, such as ceaseless criticism or humiliation, leaving individuals grappling with feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, and depression.

More severe forms of punishment, including physical abuse, may trigger symptoms reminiscent of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), like recurring nightmares and heightened vigilance.

Punitive discipline can chip away at a child’s self-esteem (like it did mine), potentially giving rise to behavioral troubles and enduring mental health disorders.

Recognizing these potential consequences undermines the critical importance of early intervention and support for children who need it!

It also underscores the significance of embracing positive parenting methods that prioritize empathy, understanding, and teaching over harsher discipline strategies.

Go Forth and Parent – Positively!

Ok so I hope I sold you on the idea of parenting with love and kindness over the harsh parenting styles you might have been raised with like me.

I’ve been using this positive parenting style for almost 10 years, and it’s been wonderful. Creating that foundation early on really help kids behave better as they get older!

The hardest thing about it is remembering that it all starts with you, not your child. So it might be your that needs to change the approach to the whole thing. And that’s ok! There is no shame in changing your ways because you want to be better – in fact I celebrate you for wanting to be a better human and raise better humans. Great job! <3 I love you for it!

So go forth and parent positively – raise those resilient kids!

More On Positive Parenting That You Might Enjoy

5 Ways You Can Use Positive Parenting In The Teen Years

How To Really Use Natural Consequences With Your Kids

8 Easy Ways To Battle The “I Can’t Do It” Attitude

Strong Willed Children Need These 5 Things From You!

6 Powerful De-Escalation Techniques For Power Struggles With Kids!

6 Effective Strategies To Stop The Whining In Your Home

Shaming Children Isn’t Discipline, It’s Toxic

Elizabeth | Tired Mom Supermom

Elizabeth is a mom of 3 and has a passion for helping children reach their human potential. She enjoys helping parents raise confident and healthy kids by explaining how to handle situations using positive and peaceful parenting.

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