If you have been following the series of The Secret to Disciplining Well you know we are discussing Phase Three. If you have not been following the series you will want to circle back and read Phase 1 and Phase 2.

The Secret to Disciplining Well occurs in 3 progressive stages:
Phase 1 Instruction. Phase 2 Correction. Phase 3 Sanction.

Sanctions or punishment is the last phase of the disciplining well progression.

Here is what sanctions, as they relate to parenting well, look like:

  • They occur only after instruction, retraining, and correction have been used.
  • They happen infrequently.
  • They last for a short period of time.
  • They are administered following a warning.
  • They are not exercised in anger.
  • Their purpose is to change hearts and behavior going forward.
Many times moms and dads jump to punishment before solid training has occurred. We want our kids to learn the godly and best way to live. To do this the most effective way to parent is to train rather than punish. We want to reinforce the behavior and attitudes we want rather than spot light the ones we want to extinguish. 
Types of punishments commonly used are spankings, time-outs, grounding, or taking away an object, activity, item, or a privilege.
Here are some ways to approach punishment, keeping the end goal of character training in mind.
1. Spankings: Use only under these conditions. (If you have abuse in your background do not spank.) Don’t spank when angry. Don’t spank kids 5 and up. Spank with a purpose in mind, “You are getting a spanking for safety because you ran across the street without holding my hand.” Administer the punishment quickly. Finish with the words, “I love you. This will help you remember we hold hands to stay safe when we cross the street.” Hug. (You may want to check out this blog on to Spank or not to Spank )
2. Time Out and Grounding. These two are the same in principle. One is used for little guys the other older kids. I would call it a Time -In. Time to think about how to do it differently the next time. Use the time-in idea for training. “You hit your sister when she took your truck . Take a time in. Think about how you will do it differently the next time. Then come and tell me your plan.” (see this blog on Time In rather than Time Out.)
3. Warning. Warnings should be given when you plan to follow through. Warnings are not empty threats. The best sanctions are ones that follow the warning. “We spank for safety.” “We take a Time in if we are disrespectful.” 

4. Taking away stuff, activities, or privileges. Remove the child’s currency if it relates to the crime. Keep the punishment logical, use natural consequences so the child relates the undesirable  behavior to the punishment. If the teen comes home later than his curfew, perhaps he can owe you time by having to wake up early and do some work for you.

We can turn even the 3rd phase of discipline (punishment, sanction) into training. A general rule of thumb is to start small. You can always go bigger. Rather than grounding the rascal for life–administer a shorter time period combined with effectively training your child’s character while correcting his behavior.

Punishment is not for parents to use so they feel they have regained control. Punishment ought to be used to help the child learn to control his actions and alter his attitude.


She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
Proverbs 31:26


Lori Wildenberg
co-founder of 1Corinthians13Parenting.com, co-author of 3 parenting books, mom of four (plus one daughter-in-love) Contact Lori for your next event. She is also available for parent consulting and parent training courses.
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About the Author

Lori Wildenberg is a licensed parent and family educator, parent coach, and co-founder of 1Corinthians13 Parenting.com. She has written 6 books including Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home; The Messy Life of Parenting: Powerful and Practical Ways to Strengthen Family Connections; and her most recent book, Messy Hope: Help Your Child Overcome Anxiety, Depression, or Suicidal Ideation. Contact Lori for your next event or for parent consulting or parent training courses. Lori can also be found mentoring over at the MOMS Together Group on Facebook.