Discipline from DEVELOPING THE WILL, building emotional intelligence to managing choices

Effective discipline strategies are not about punishment and reward. Powerful discipline strategies are adapted to a child's developmental level. I've divided them in 3 age groups. This presentation is simply a summary. Hopefully it will pique your curiosity to delve in deeper. The strategies shared here are derived from the works of Kim John Payne and his audio course The Soul of Discipline. You can find his books here and his website.

0-7: Developing The Will

7-14: Developing The Feeling Life With Social and Emotional Skills

14-21: Thinking and Managing Choices

build a strong will

DISCIPLINE FROM 0-7 YEARS OF AGE: Developing the will.

Before children can make choices that are healthy- they need to have first learned to comply, come across some resistance, live their emotions and developed their social life.

The first seven years are crucial in establishing a strong attachement bond between the parent and child. It is the foundation of the family. Children who are securely attached and have parents who love them unconditionally require less discipline.

Here are the 5 key steps to obtain compliance from your child:

  • The magic pause: If you want compliance, many things first need to be considered regarding your request: a) avoid multiple requests; b) avoid requests made on the fly. It is essential that you stand inside the request you are making. Don't change the agenda and stick to it. You child needs to know you mean it. You child needs to know that he has to follow through with your request. If your child has any inkling that he does not have to do it, you might lose your cool out of frustration. The pause is important. You need to ask yourself the following: Why am i asking this? Am I in a good place? Do I really need this to happen now? Am I having a bad day? What is happening inside me? Am I just being authoritarian because I can? If after asking these questions you realize it is not about you and this needs to be done. Then, go ahead, make the request.
  • The request needs to be small and doable for you and the child. Start small.
  • Stay close: You need to ask yourself first if you have time to do it with your child and stay close (e.g., clean room, pick up toys...). If you don't hold off on making the request until you can drop what you are doing and assist your child if he does not follow through after the first request. Be close when you make the request. Don't shout it to your child who is in another room.
  • Insist: Do you have the will to make this happen? Do not make the request multiple times or you are teaching your child to only take you seriously after the 3rd time. There should not be a consequence for doing it or not doing it, it simply has to be done. The request needs to be made in a kind tone. If the child does not follow through and you will need to assist, do not get mad. Remain calm, kind and help him out. Do not make it unpleasant. Remember: your child is learning a new skill. There is no need to get mad.
  • Follow through: Can you stay focused? Can you stay close or do you need to move away? If you don’t follow through, the message you are sending is that the child does not really have to do it. Thus the importance of dropping what you are doing to assist. If you can't: don't make the request.

A Note on Politeness and Courtesy

  • Politeness and courtesy are also important components that help the kids come into compliance. It builds the will by developing basic and powerful impulse control. Why is that? you ask. Having to say please, waiting before interrupting requires the child to wait and delay and this slows down the impulse.
  • For example, start teaching your young child to not interrupt your conversations. This teaches basic impulse control. When the young child attempts to interrupt, turn to him and say “I’ll speak with you in just a moment” . You can leave a hand on their shoulder, hold their hand as to create a contact. Then wait a few moments and turn to him asking “Great waiting. Now what was it that you wanted?”
  • At first, wait ten (10) seconds, then you slowly increase the time interval to 20 sec., then 30 sec. and so on. You build it up slowly.
guide me, stay with me

Impulse control and compliance build a strong will.

It is important to note that you are also to be consistent in your requests for politeness and courtesy with regard to other people. For example, don’t put other people down when people are around you. Lead by example, consistently. Children learn best by observation, imitation and repetition. Long lectures are wasted. Your actions will always speak louder than your words.

too many choices

coping with feelings

DISCIPLINE FROM 7-14 YEARS OF AGE: Developing the feeling life with social and emotional skills.

understanding self and others

Behaviour needs to be learned and taught. Reminders are better than threats. Repetition is the key to consolidating new information and skills.

Always assume skills deficit first instead of assuming willfull non compliance. This way you will parent from a space of compassion as opposed to a space of frustration and anger. The latter will only illicit fear. No one can learn in a state of fear. It is biologically improbable.

Correction is better than punishment. Think of it as being part of a team instead of imposing a hierarchy and authoritarianism. Children learn skills through teaching not imposed unrelated consequences. Repetition is key and role-playing is helpful. Using life's teachable moments are golden opportunities. As a result, this will force you to be present and notice as life unfolds in front of your very eyes. If you are distracted, lost in your head, on your devices, you will miss out on the multiple opportunities that present themselves throughout the day.

Parental presence and self-awareness are key elements to a child's wellbeing.

To help delay gratification, timing is important. You can start using natural consequences at this age. Prior to this age, children have no understanding of cause and effect. This is why the 0-7 strategies do not involve consequences. The children would not understand them anyways. It may stop the undesirable behaviour but it does not teach them the alternative.

The concept of independence is about doing what’s right on your own it is not about doing your own thing.

fostering presence

When children do something you disapprove of or is not acceptable, these are the three steps to take:

  • Notice the behaviour and voice your disapproval.
  • Ask your child what it is that she/he needs (e.g., “All I see is mean actions and anger, can you tell me what you need?”).
  • Rephrase (e.g., “Let’s see how you can say and do that in a better wayI”) and offer an opportunity for a do-over.

Note: This whole process can take 24 HOURS! Especially if there is a crisis. Give the child time to calm down, don’t rush the process. Timing is important to maximize the child’s receptivity.

DISCIPLINE FROM 14-21 YEARS OF AGE: Thinking and managing choices.

the world is opening up

first loves

In this phase of development, we expect that the child will:

  • accept limits
  • have empathic relationships with others
  • know how to make choices

At this stage, the adolescent's natural tendency will be to separate and individuate from parental figures. They will experiment, test the limits, and be on a quest to discovering who they really are, separate from you. The foundation you will have established in the early years will be good predictors of how difficult this phase of development is.

When you have discussions with your teen, talk to him or her about critical thinking as opposed to using criticism. You want them to develop discernment and a strong sense of self. If they feel judged or criticized they will not be open to hearing your comments or advise. At this stage of development, parents are consultants more than managers. Attempts to control will be futile.

Disrespect is so pervasive everywhere in society that teens don’t even see it. When disrespect is present, we are disconnected from the other. The best way for teens to develop the ability to make choices is the ability to develop critical thinking and empathy. When guiding them, address issues with these two concepts in mind.

Choices made under the guise of cynicism and disrespect lead to disappointment and unmet needs.

challenging times


When you are dealing with a teen who cannot manage choices, then go back in the discipline steps regarding social skills (i.e., 7-14 age group). If that step is also not working go back yet another step, from the beginning (i.e. 0-7 age group), where you will want to cultivate compliance. Stay at that step until it works, then move up again, and calibrate based on what the child is capable of: pause, stay close, make small requests, insist and follow through.

Always remember to work from a place of unconditional love and compassion. The relationship between parent and child should always be a priority, above anything else. Ask yourself this, before making certain choices " Do I want my kid to invite me to ThanksGiving dinner when they are grown? Do I want my kids to want me over at their house ?" Parent with the long term in mind. If you make their lives miserable, don't think they will want to be around you as adults. They might not want you around or even keep a safe distance. At worse, some might even avoid you altogether. Is that the long term relationship that you want?

united in love


There will be times when you lose it, dominate, or get angry. You will resort to time-outs, behaviour modification, saying the empty "good job", etc. Don't be too hard on yourself. The important part is not to be perfect. You will make mistakes. The key is to notice when you make them and course correct. In those times, allow a pause. Don’t spend too much time there. Have compassion for yourself, the way you would for your precious child.

unconditional love

I hope you will join me online for more great content!

Questions? Need coaching? Contact me at info@dr.madrigrano.com


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