When it comes to raising children there are so many ways. One thing I truly do believe in is training my children, rather than focusing on punishment based discipline.

I was talking with a friend and she referred to how I talk about training my children. And she asked what I meant by “training”. I guess it comes down to the difference between training and discipline – the long haul vs the immediate response. 

When I started looking up “training vs discipline” online to see how I could best express my thoughts, I found most of the information was on training dogs. It was rather curious to me that we seem to have more thoughts on training dogs than children.

What is training?

  • Teaching a new skill
  • You start small and build up
  • No one just runs a marathon
  • Why do we expect children to suddenly “get it” and immediately change their behaviors?
  • Use reward to correct

What is discipline?

  • Practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior
  • Using punishment to correct

You might have heard the proverb “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. I get this. TRAIN them. But I have found, in my experience, that sadly too many times it has been equated with “spare the rod and spoil the child”. Grrrr. Parenting has changed over the years and there has been a trend to move away from punishment based parenting to authoritative and grace based parenting. I do NOT believe in “spare the rod and spoil the child”. 

training discipline


Make a plan and be in agreement. 

There is no point in having one parent want to train while the other wants more punitive and punishment based discipline.

Have boundaries

I am believer in boundaries with children. I really do feel that our children thrive when they know what limits or guidelines they have.

Boundaries help our children to know what their parameters are. 

We talk about fences and how they keep us safe (that is what a boundary is). If they are getting too close or start climbing over it, we let them know. 

Talk….and back up with actions

Communicate – as parent to parent and also as parents to children.

Show love and understanding in the process.

Continue to talk through expectations and positives.

Focus on the positive

Because we are in the long haul training, it is good to focus on the positive. 

Are they doing well? Reward. Make it little rewards like a treat or sticker, or whatever works for your child. A positive reinforcement towards the end goal.

Are they struggling? Don’t fall into punishment. Communicate the end goal and why it is important we reach it. 

Understand it takes time

Remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. 

You want to see movement towards the end goal and the behavior you want to see.

many clocks


Here is one example of how you can train your child to play by themself.

  1. Choose the toys or activity
  2. Set a timer (start in small increments based on the age of the child)
  3. Let them play
  4. Redirect if needs be
  5. Reward/celebrate when timer goes off
  6. Repeat 1-5 with increasing time until you hit your goal

I trained my girls this way to let me get in exercise without me having to get up before they woke up. I had to communicate clearly that this was time for Mummy. We started small and built it up. Oh, there were so many interruptions in the beginning. But they were only 2. 

I have to remember to get them drinks before I start, because otherwise they need something to drink about 5 minutes into my workout. There is a reward for letting me workout without interruption – and that often is letting them watch something they want to watch for about 10-15 minutes. 

It is totally possible to train your children in kind and gentle ways. It just takes practice.

father teaching child to ride bike

So, training vs discipline?

Does punishment based discipline work? Well, yes, BUT the use of positive reinforcement is almost always more effective than using punishment – especially with longer term results and gains. I fully believe that training our children, letting them help to set goals, etc. is the way to go. It might take a little longer, but the benefits will far outweigh any extra time.

Michayla Best

For over 30 years I have worked with children in a variety of capacities, whether as a teacher or tutor, a babysitter, a camp leader, or family advocate. I have always found a way to connect with children, to help them understand themselves and the world around.

I am Mummy to trinational twincesses who keep me on my toes with their questions, their commentaries, their shenanigans and acts of spontenudity.

Wife, world traveler, musician, crafting queen and self-proclaimed nerd; I love to take what I see, glean, know and help families to find their groove and be successful.

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