What do we know?
- Discipline is what you do everyday–it is about teaching and guidance, not punishment.
- Discipline teaches children what is acceptable and what isn’t.
- Discipline that combines high levels of warmth and acceptance with firm control helps children to follow instructions, to respect rules, and to be attentive.
- Parents who establish clear rules and limits encourage the development of positive behaviours and attention in children. They also encourage children to explore their environment while respecting certain limits.
- Good discipline helps children develop their social skills (empathy, cooperation, problem-solving) and succeed in school.
- Children have a higher likelihood of developing behavioural problems when parents react with punishments or temper outbursts in face of misbehaviours.
- Attitudes toward discipline and control vary based on the social and cultural context.
- Too much parental control may limit children’s ability to make decisions for themselves and to express their needs to parents.
- In contrast, children who are allowed to do anything they want tend to have trouble distinguishing between what is acceptable and what is not. Poor parental supervision also increases the risk of injuries in young children.
This information sheet is a publication of the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (CEECD) and the Strategic Knowledge Cluster on Early Child Development (SKC-ECD). These organizations identify and summarize the best scientific work on early childhood development. They disseminate this knowledge to a variety of audiences in formats and languages adapted to their needs.
For a more in-depth understanding of discipline, consult our topics Aggression and Parenting skills in the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development, available free of charge at www.child-encyclopedia.com.
Several organizations financially support the CEECD and the SKC-ECD, including the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Université Laval, and private foundations. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official policies of these organizations.
We are grateful to the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon for its financial contribution to produce this information sheet and to the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation for its financial support of this revised edition.
Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development
Strategic Knowledge Cluster on Early Child Development
Université de Montréal
3050, Édouard-Montpetit Blvd., GRIP
P.O. Box 6128, succursale Centre-ville
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7
Telephone: 514.343.6111, extension 2541
Websites: www.excellence-earlychildhood.ca and www.skc-ecd.ca
In this document, the masculine form is used merely to simplify the text. No discrimination is intended.