The Family Discipline Issues


Over the past few decades, the issue concerning family discipline and the related subjects has grown considerably more essential in the modern society. Since children easily assume the roles that they have been offered once in their childhood and further on apply them to build the standards of behavior in the adult society, following the norms and patterns once learned in the course of the family discipline process, certain complexities might arise in due time. In addition, it is important to consider the specifics of the family discipline in the families of various national backgrounds, thus, outlining the main differences in the approaches of upbringing. Moreover, since the issue of child abuse in the families is becoming essential and topical nowadays, the consideration of the family discipline and the peculiarities of the upbringing methods and approaches is highly recommendable.

Offering an extensive description of the types of parents, the approaches that can be undertaken in the course of the family discipline process and the problems that families might encounter once using specific techniques of upbringing, as well as dealing with the issue of children abuse, the given paper seeks to unravel the main complexities in the given sphere and offer the reasonable solutions for the problems in question.


Among the most essential issues in the modern sphere of education and up-brining, the family discipline id one of the key spheres that require thorough consideration. It cannot be denied that in the given sphere, a number of controversies that impact children’s future life and the models they apply in their social behavior exist. Hence, learning the basic issues that family discipline presupposes and seeking the way to solve or eliminate the complexities found, one can deduce a specific solution for the given problems. Because of the different approaches towards the issue of family discipline and its various aspects, the entire notion of family discipline obtains a number of additional confusing elements.

Therefore, the given essay deals with the issues concerning the family discipline, namely, the roles that the members of the family take in the course of the family discipline establishing and practicing, the specific types of behavior that both children and parents follow in the course of the family discipline process, various specifics of family discipline among certain nationalities, and the issue of child abuse, which is, unfortunately, much more topical than it is desired.

It must be marked that the given research proves rather topical at present due to certain social problems and the issues in the sphere of child upbringing. Among the most widespread reasons for the given concerns to be on the agenda of the modern world, the fact that the average age of becoming a parent is getting increasingly lower, and at present, a number of young and, thus, inexperienced people become parents without realizing properly the responsibilities that they take.

It is essential to mark that in the given paper, the analysis of various theoretical sources is being offered, as well as the comment on the current situation concerning such problematic issues as the complexities in the sphere of the family discipline and the rates of children abuse. In addition, the given paper offers an overview of different type of family disciplines.

The given research is split into several parts, namely, the description of the roles that parents and children assume, the types of coaching, the types of parents and the impact that a specific family background might have on the upbringing and its results. As a conclusion, the given research offers the means to solve the existing complexities concerning the family discipline and offers a specific interpretation of family discipline.


Different attitudes to the idea of discipline in families make this issue one of the most disputable in society. People may have various educational backgrounds and rely on various life experiences to create appropriate discipline in their families. And in spite of the fact that inconveniences of discipline may bother a number of parents, when they look back at the outcomes achieved, they realize that the majority of their efforts are justified. Pantley (2007) says that raising children is “the most wonderful and rewarding jobs” for parents, still, discipline is regarded as “the most complicated, challenging, and frustrating profession in the world” (p.3). Some parents cannot even understand properly the meaning of the word “discipline” and associate it with strict parents, who have to punish their children in order to achieve particular purposes. Rodriguez (2003) makes a claim that too sever discipline in families creates children with more aggressive behavior (p. 810). This is why family discipline should become an appropriate combination of parental instructions, child’s understanding, and behavior in accordance with the values and norms set.

Family Discipline: The Roles

Family discipline is a kind of management of the relations between parents and children. According to Pantley (2007), none of people are born with a high level of knowledge of how to be a good parent (p.4), this is why it is necessary to learn as well as to give life lessons. To succeed in establishing discipline in a family, parents should clarify the roles and realize what have to be done at the early stages.

A Parent as a coach

One of the main duties of any parent is to help his/her child understand better the world around and follow the norms, which are expected to be followed in modern society. In other words, parents should perform the role of a coach for their children (Pickhardt, 2005, p.4). As a rule, they have to be good examples and a kind of people of trust. Children should not be afraid to ask questions, to show their own needs, and to expect for some explanations. In spite of the existing prejudice, Latino parents usually “raise their children lovingly and without major problems” (Fontes, 2002, p. 32), and such parents become good examples for the parents with other cultural backgrounds. Encouragement of the positive and moderation of the negative should be the main purposes of any parent in a family (Pickhardt, 2005, p.26).

Children and their rights

Taking into consideration the leading role of parents, it is possible to think that children do not have any rights and opportunities to explain their own needs when the question of family discipline is raised. Still, such attitude to the development of relations in families may grow into a serious problem. The point is that children have their own roles, and though these roles are subordinate (Pickhardt, 2005, p.111), they still exist and cannot be neglected. It is useless to promote family discipline without children, whose roles usually depend on the age. Children between 3 and 8 years may be disciplined by means of minor physical punishment, and children ages 5 to 12 understand the discipline that is based on some particular objects and abstractions (Hassan & Rousseau, 2009, p. 8).

Types of Parents

One of the factors which family discipline establishment depends on is the type of parents. Such classification has nothing in common with cultural backgrounds or the level of knowledge concerning parenting. People can be of different types by their nature: kind, supportive, independent, angry, authoritative, and so on. As a result, parents may have the same characteristics. Kremer, Lawrence, and Smith (2010) consider authoritative parents the best example to be followed as they are good at both “control and support” (p. 251). Kind parents may easily fail at establishing discipline boundaries, angry parents may negatively influence child’s understanding of the world around, and independent parents are not always ready to take full responsibility about raising their children, this is why many parents find it normal to hire nannies and provide them with the rights to establish certain rules for children.

Cultural Backgrounds in Families

Family discipline is also about using cultural norms in a proper way. Hassan and Rousseau (2009) underline that the relations between cultural field and child discipline are not properly studied, and there is a need of appropriate exploration of cultural criteria by means of which the differentiation of physical abuse and discipline is possible (p.9). Fontes (2002) also defines cultural and familial factors as the ones that can easily mitigate stressors among children and promote physical abuse, this is why it becomes crucial to investigate the relations of discipline, culture, and abuse (p. 33).

In this project, several ethnic groups will be analyzed: Latinos, one of the fastest growing groups of people in the USA, North African Arabs, one of the most religiously dependent groups, and the group of New Zealand parents, where a number of rules to regulate family relations are created. Though such limitations of the participants may influence the results of the investigations and create some biases, researchers admit that the offered ideas touch upon such issues like immigration, age variety, and cultural backgrounds, and the attention to these details contribute considerable the improvement of family discipline (Hassan & Rousseau, 2009, p. 19; Kremer, Lawrence, & Smith, 2010, p. 258; Fontes, 2002, p. 38).

Latinos and family discipline

The importance of ethnic culture is high indeed. Latinos is one of the ethnic groups that pay much attention to their cultural knowledge and backgrounds, this is why the norms under which children are raised may vary considerably. To offer powerful arguments, Fontes (2002) compares the chosen Latino group to the population of Palau, an island in the Pacific Ocean (p.33). She indicates that people of Palau may use brooms to punish a child, who is not able to complete the required homework. And Latinos, who are regarded as one of the strictest ethnic groups, cannot even accept the idea of hard punishment applied to their children as a means to promote discipline in families. It is highly valued to be a parent in Latino culture. “Family is a source of pride, strength, identity, and concrete help” (Fontes, 2002, p. 33).

Latino parents try to do everything possible to protect their children; still, in comparison to American people, who prefer the public conflict-free image (Fontes, 2002, p.33), Latinos do not find it necessary to hide true relations, and if a child makes a mistake or demonstrate disobedient behavior on public, parents may punish him/her immediately. This may become the reason why people around the whole world define Latinos as cruel or strict parents. There are also many immigrants among the Latinos, and this ethnic group is usually recognized on public. Children from Latino families demonstrate obedient behavior that makes other children think that family discipline is crucial for Latinos. However, behavior of Latino children is based more on some cultural backgrounds.

North African Arabs and family relations

The majority of North African families promote discipline by means of communication, still, some of them define the idea of minor physical punishment as a good method to give explanations (Hassan & Rousseau, 2009, p. 13). Of course, each family has its own rules and regulations, but many North African families try to apply the most favorable methods of raising children. As a rule, parents have to consider the frequency of violations, child age, and the reason of violations before they use different discipline techniques. On public, this group of people tries to be as reserved and calm as possible. In comparison to Latinos, the representatives of the North African group create a separate image of a family. At a glance, it seems that children do not have any rights. Still, such behavior is based on the idea of “respect for parental authority” (Hassan & Rousseau, 2009, p. 14).

Families and discipline in New Zealand

New Zealand is the country island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Due to the fact that this country neighbors with Australia, it is possible to believe that some aspects of family discipline in New Zealand families are similar to those of Australian families. Kremer, Lawrence, and Smith (2010) investigate the recent improvements in the spheres of family and law according to which punishment of children is now an illegal item (p. 252).

These activities make family discipline a public question that has to be discussed within a short period of time. Some results were expected. Now, parents are eager to address professionals, counselors, and psychologists for help in order to create appropriate conditions for bringing up children (Pantley, 2007, p. 187). The achievements of this country show that the impact of law on family relations is crucial, and people cannot neglect it. This is why if there is an opportunity to improve the conditions under which family have to be created, the state should use it within a short period of time and assist people with establishing proper living standards.

Types of Family Discipline

As soon as parents understand the fact that discipline is an important aspect for consideration, they should be able to choose the most appropriate discipline technique to be used. First, parents have to define their own abilities and expectations from family discipline. Parents should realize what they want to achieve while they bring up their children. Is it necessary to promote fear or respect between parents and children? Should children get support from their parents? For example, many Latino parents expect to get respect and obedience from their children using authoritarian style (Fontes, 2002, p. 32).

Separate families try to create the conditions under which children may feel the required support and care; still, children should not be spoiled (Kremer, Lawrence, & Smith, 2010, p. 251). This is why when the time to choose discipline techniques comes, parents should weigh all pros and cons of treatment and consider their own expectations and skills. It is possible to define the following types of family discipline: physical abuse, supportive, strict, and respectful.

Physical abuse as a method to discipline children

Discussions around physical abuse applied by parents in American families began in the 1960s. Media tried to highlight the most brutal cases of physical discipline in order to protect children and explain parents how to treat their children (Rodriguez, 2003, p. 809). In spite of the fact that not all experts usually support physical abuse as a method of raising children, family violence remains to be a serious issue for consideration. Some researchers admit that violence and even anger can hardly be helpful to children and parents (Pantley, 2007, p. 144), this is why the only question rises whether physical abuse is so important for family discipline. The point is that even this type of technique has its own subcategories. Physical abuse may be of mild, moderate, and borderline abusive types (Rodriguez, 2003, p. 812).

Mild physical abuse such as slapping a child on hand or moderate abuse like spanking has to be supported by explanations. A child should understand why he/she gets this kind of punishment. And borderline abusive punishment suing a belt or any other special object may be free from any explanations because child behavior presupposes certain punishment. Anyway, it does not matter what kind of physical abuse is used, parents must understand that their children are usually in need of some explanations as it is not always possible to understand what provokes such activities.

Supportive no-cry discipline

No-cry discipline in families usually helps to avoid tears and anger that main become a serious barrier to learning discipline lessons (Pantley, 2007, p. 4). Parents should try to support their children and use verbal communication as the main technique. Fontes (2002) explains that supportive discipline in families may lead to three types of behavior: “those that promote the parent-child relationships, those that reinforce positive behaviors, and those decrease undesired behaviors” (p. 36).

Children get support and develop their skills without any fear. They are understood by their parents, and such treatment may become the most favorable thing in the world. Still, it is also important to consider that not all children are able to use supportive discipline correctly. Some children cannot understand how lucky they are and use parental support for some negative purposes: they cry each time they do not get what they want, follow someone’s bad experience as they believe they can find support, or even try to neglect some rules. This is why when parents decide to use supportive discipline in families, they should evaluate thoroughly their children and relations.

Respectful relations and discipline in families

Support and respect are the two notions that cannot be confused. Support usually comes from parents’ side, and respect is two-sided notion. In families where such technique is preferable, both, parents and children, should demonstrate mutual respect. On the one hand, children are attention to all the regulations set by their parents as they understand that parents’ life-long experience helps to choose the most appropriate solutions. On the other hand, parents respect the decisions made by their children. They try to understand, make a hint, and accept the idea. Information about respect offered by parents to their children is memorized for a long time; counselors underline that it is always possible “to teach these important lessons without instilling fear and that doing so will improve family communication and reduce the possibility of other negative psychological outcomes” (Fontes, 2002, p. 35).

Verbal instructions, clear communication, and explanations turn out to be significant factors of respectful discipline in families (Kremer, Lawrence, & Smith, 2010, p.259). If a parent or a child neglects the importance of some of these factors, family discipline and respect can hardly be observed. To achieve trusted relations between parents and children, it is necessary to follow the ways of how verbal communication is developed. It may happen that some verbal conflict takes place (Pickhardt, 2005, p. 97); still, it is not a barrier to develop strong relations. It is a challenge that has to be overcome.


It cannot be doubted that the coexistence of respectful relationships and discipline in families can and must be achieved. Despite the complexities that the issue of family relationships presupposes, people have been awaken to the necessity to build the family relationships on mutual trust, respect and the appreciation of each family member and his/her rights, no matter what age the given member is. It is obvious that the family discipline must include several necessary prohibitions, yet the latter must be well-grounded, and none of the latter should presuppose a single element of humiliation or the denial of someone’s rights. Once the balance within the family is broken and the approach that has been undertaken to achieve the family discipline has proven wrong, one should admit that the process of upbringing has started to digress and requires immediate reconsideration, for the wrong approach is likely to ruin the life of a child completely and will deprive the latter of the possibility to right the wrongs in future.

However, the aforementioned does not presuppose that family discipline must be loosened or conducted so that a child should be allowed to do everything that (s)he wants to. It is important to maintain balance between providing the child with the freedom that (s)he requires to cognize the world and socialize with the rest of the people efficiently to grow into a successful person, and the necessity to draw the line between the original and the inappropriate, making the child understand what is completely inacceptable in the society.

Therefore, one must not resort to the abusive means of upbringing that are likely to humiliate the child, but seek the mild ways to affect the child’s behavior, appealing to the child’s mind instead of intimidating him/her. Once choosing the correct tactics, a parent is likely to succeed in helping a child grow into an adult person with no complexes and issues; however, a single slip in this case may prove fatal.

However, it might be argued that the methods considered rather over the top according to the U.S. standards are bound to lead to the most deplorable results. According to the data offered by Fontes (2002), the children brought up in the Latino surroundings and by the Latino parents experience rather harsh methods of upbringing that might be considered as violating the rights of the children according to the USA standards (2002, p. 31), yet, as the author specifies, the children manage to grow up into decent adults due to the unconventional family discipline: “Every person who is a Latino is also an individual, differing from others on question of individual and family history, geographic origin, migration experience, social class, religion, dreams, values, ad so on” (Fontes, 2002, p. 32).

Therefore, it can be supposed that the traditional Latino means of upbringing, which involve the elements that the other cultures might consider somewhat harsh, prove quite efficient and at the same time do not have a tangible effect on the further life of the children and their adjustment to the adult lifestyle and society. Still, it must be assumed that the effects of the abusive behavior towards children in the course of the family discipline procedures is highly likely to have the effect on the child’s psychological state and his/her attitude to the world in general. For instance, a child that has been exposed to the abusive punishments might assume the position of an intimidated person who is reluctant to take the leading positions.

Nevertheless, the process of upbringing might seem a scheme that has to be followed precisely. Once creating a pattern that is seemingly easy to follow, parents might consider that there are no alternative patterns that are required to search for. However, such a viewpoint is also erroneous. Even though a certain scheme has worked once, it is necessary to look for the alternative suggestions so that the child could develop in a versatile way. According to Pantley (2007), the no-cry discipline might prove quite lacking in variety:

Raising a child requires that we make many decisions every single day, from the insignificant to the life-altering. Sometimes it is obvious that you have made the right decision, other times it is unclear, and from time to time it’s apparent that you have made a mistake. (p. 25)

Therefore, it cannot be denied that the tactics of the upbringing must vary. However, it must be marked that, together with the variations of the problem tackling, a single approach must be offered, namely, the one that predetermines mutual respect. Thus, efficient family discipline can be achieved. Even though the experiences of the Latino families and the other ethnicities prove that, with more harsh discipline that is not allowed to practice in the USA can bring rather fruitful results and contribute to the development if the social norms and behavior patterns for the child to follow, it is obvious that for the child’s psychological and moral well-being, the respectful attitude that does not involve any corporal punishment is preferred.


To conclude, it is necessary to mark that the issue of family discipline shapes the personality of the children, which means that the approaches taken to the family discipline require considerable caution. Depending on the family background, the types of family discipline may vary, yet the key idea concerning the upbringing of a person who can become a decent member of the society and does not possess any serious complexes or stereotypes and prejudices concerning family issues is the essence of efficient family discipline.

One of the most complicated issues concerning the sphere of family and family relations as an object of a psychological research, family discipline offers a plethora of space for thoughts, ideas and solutions for the current problems. Because of the various family backgrounds, the roles assumed by parents and the impact of the latter on the behaviour of the children and the models of behavior that the latter consider proper or improper thereafter, as well as because of such topical and despicable issues as the child abuse, the sphere of family discipline becomes increasingly important and requires thorough considerations. It is obvious that, depending on the pattern of behavior learned by the child owing to the family discipline, his/her future life might prove complexes-ridden.

However, learning the basic complexities that children and adults can face in the course of the family discipline process, one can outline a scheme that will involve the most efficient means to help the child develop into a full-fledged adult and an individual with specific personality.

Reference List

Fontes, L.A. (2002).Child discipline and physical abuse in immigrant Latino families: Reducing violence and misunderstandings. Journal of Counseling and Development 80(1), 31-40. Web.

Hassan, G. & Rousseau, C. (2009). North African and Latin American parents’ and adolescents’ perceptions of physical discipline and physical abuse: When dysnormativity begets exclusion. Child Welfare 88(6), 5-23. Web.

Kremer, M., Lawrence, J.A. & Smith, A.B. (2010). Family discipline incidents: An analysis of parental diaries. Journal of Family Studies 16(3), 251-263. Web.

Pantley, E. (2007). The no-cry discipline solution: Gentle ways to encourage good behavior without whining, tantrums, and tears. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. Web.

Pickhardt, C.E. (2005). The everything parents’ guide to the strong-willed child: A guide to raising a respectful, cooperative, and positive child. Avon, MA: Adams Media, F+M Publications. Web.

Rodriguez, C.M. (2003). Parental discipline and abuse potential affects on child depression, anxiety and attributions. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(4), 809-817. Web.

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