Why do some forms of discipline work for one child and not another?

It’s one of the greatest frustrations of parenting: Why does a form of discipline that proved so effective with a first-born child fail completely with a younger sibling? Why does one child quake at a stern look, while another is unfazed by the threat of losing every imaginable privilege?

Unfortunately, discipline is not one-size-fits-all. Disciplinary needs vary from one child to another and can be impacted by a number of factors:

In discipline, girls are often more strongly impacted by arguments of emotion. They tend to be moved by the ways their misbehavior hurt, or could hurt, others. Boys, on the other hand, are often more motivated by logic. They better understand the concrete results of their poor decisions, such as the risk of criminal charges or suspension from a sports team. In addition, gender may impact how a child responds to discipline coming from mom versus discipline coming from dad. Boys, for example, look to their mom and dad for different types of validation. Boys can subconsciously feel they need to compete with their fathers for their mom’s affection — and that dynamic may need to be considered when disciplining your teen. Both parents should respond in disciplinary situations in ways that are both firm and nurturing.

Birth order
Birth order has a huge impact on how one child is parented compared to another — even in the same family. Not only do first-born children, second-born children, only children and the like share commonly reported similarities in personality and preferences (for example, first-born children are often natural people pleasers, high achievers and leaders compared to stereotypical second children, known for attention-seeking behavior ranging from silliness to underachievement), their parents are different, too. A lot can change in the years between pregnancies — parents of single children may be more watchful and nervous, not to mention younger. As the years pass and more children are added to the family, the mother and father’s parenting style and circumstances change, too — as well as their attitudes and approaches toward discipline. More experienced parents are more likely to remain calm and have a tried-and-true approach to common child-raising challenges. However, parents of more than one child are also busier and have to divide attention. In either event, the dynamics of their parenting have often changed substantially by the time they add a second or third child to their family.

Some children are naturally more responsive to discipline than others, and when corrected, are much more likely to become hurt than defiant. Sensitive children may only need a stern look from mom and dad to feel genuine regret for their actions. They want to avoid disappointing their parents and have a highly emotional reaction to discipline. Other children are more strong-willed and need firmer structure and consequences. Parent to your child’s own personality.

The rate at which children develop varies from child to child. Punishments more appropriate for younger children, such as time-outs, need to be replaced with other consequence-based tactics as your child matures. Tweens and teens respond best to loss of privileges and favorite personal items. But there is no hard and fast rule on what age this progression should occur. Parents must discipline each child to his or her own unique level of development and maturity.

For more guidance on how to find a discipline strategy that’s right for your teen, contact ustoday.