mom disciplining child

When it comes to disciplining kids, it seems like every parent has a theory. We know spanking is not good for kids (though I confess I grew up in a spanking household), and yelling is not good either, but what is the right way to lay down the law? It seems that there are a ton of discipline playbooks out there.

Robert Larzelere, a professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University, wanted to get to the bottom of the debate, so he interviewed 102 mothers at length about their little ones. From that data, he came up with a conclusion on what works and what doesn't.

Since there is not a one-size-fits-all answer, Larzelere divided the children into two groups: easy-to-manage kids and hard-to-manage kids, and he looked at short-term and long-term behavior. The best way to get both groups of kids to behave better in that moment is to offer a compromise. If your child is bummed to be leaving her BFF's house, maybe you let her stay for a few minutes longer if she promises she'll hop in the car when her extended time is up. Compromises work for easy-to-manage kids both as a short-term behavior fix and in the long-term. If you are looking for a longer-term solution for hard-to-manage kids however, you will need to use more than compromises. Larzelere recommends occasionally using punishment or at least threatening to use a punishment, such as a time-out. Be careful about how frequently you punish your child. You should only punish one out of six times at the most; over-punishing can backfire.

What's the least effective way to discipline? For easy-to-manage kids, it's actually punishment or threats to punish. For hard-to-manage kids, the worst thing to do is to compromise too often. The bottom line is that it is important to know which camp your child falls into and then discipline accordingly.

Hannah Werthan is the associate social media editor at Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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