Why do parents resort to extreme discipline?

Children need boundaries, rules and discipline. Children need know limits and to have a structure in their lives. Having said that, how do you discipline your kids?

When I talk about discipline I’m not talking about punitive actions, I’m talking about teaching our children consequences and raising them to become healthy, happy, succesful and contributing members of our society.

Every child is different and we must adjust our parenting and disciplining techniques to each of them. However, there are major lines that I belive we should never cross as parents. You all know where I stand on spanking and/or physical punishments. You can read my previous post about it here.

I’ve been puzzled by all the news about extreme parenting and discipline measures that have come up over the last couple of months:

1) Amy Chua, the tiger mom, shares with pride how she forced her daughter to practice piano for the whole night, refusing to give her water or bathroom breaks; how she make her 3-year-old daughter stand outside in 20-degree weather to get her to improve her piano skills; and how she calls her daughters ‘garbage’, worthless’ and ‘barbarian’ among other things. To me this is borderline abuse.


2) Jessica Beagley, the hot sauce mom, used to make her child swallow and hold tabasco in his mouth; and take cold showers when the child lied or got bad reports from school. She actually thought she was doing good parenting with her son, and yet he was still misbehaving. My stomach turned upside down watching her video footage on Dr. Phil.

Hot saucing is becoming more prevalent, and in fact, a non-scientific ballot on ABCNEWS.com, 35% of voters said they feel hot saucing is an acceptable form of discipline. I beg to disagree! Tabasco, is NOT a harmless substance and it IS FDA approved. However, it can cause chemical burns, especially in young children who have more delicate skin.

Cold showers were used as a form of torture and as a way to obtain confessions. Cold showers  can actually cause shock, make children faint and provoke hypothermia.

3) Daney21, the eBay mom. She decided to take the toys away from her boys after they chipped the bathtub. That’s not the bad part of the story, she make them put the toys in a bag and pose as they were crying and complaining to take a picture. She then, posted the picture on eBay next to her entry to sell those toys; and she mocked her sons in the description of the sale. This mom thought public humiliation was the appropriate response to her sons misbehavior…


4) Annette Gerhardt and Geraldo Santiago, who thought leaving their 6-year-old daughter in the police precinct was a good disciplining technique. They admitted that they wanted their child to think that they were abandoning her at the police station forever.

5) Ronda Holder, the ‘go beg on the street’ mom. She thought making her son suffer public humiliation was a good parenting technique. She made him stand on a street corner holding a sign displaying his low 1.22 GPA and begging for change.

The list goes on and on, and on. What’s really happening? Are parents getting more out of control? Why do they think these parenting techniques are appropriate? Are some parents becoming their own children’s bullies?

I believe that all these situations constituted either child abuse or child endangerment. We all get angry, feel stressed and sometimes don’t know what to do with our kids. We all do! However causing emotional and/or physical pain to our children should never be the course of action, no matter what the lesson we are trying to teach them is.


As parents, we need to remember that part of our job is to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our kids. We cannot let ourselves become the bully we fear they’ll encounter in school, by acting like this. It is not ok to privately or publicly humiliate our children, it is not ok to cause them physical harm, it is not ok to make them feel unloved, it is just not ok!

When it comes to disciplining, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain your cool and composure. If you need to take a break (time-out), do so. But do not depart from the good behavior you want your kids to emulate.
  • Teach them by doing. If it’s not ok to lie, don’t lie to them; if it’s not ok to hit, don’t hit them; if it’s good to have a balanced diet, eat a balanced diet with them…
  • You’re not the disciplinarian, their actions are. Their actions are the ones creating consequences. Help them understand that they are disciplining themselves, not you.
  • Don’t become the ‘bad guy’. We cannot become ‘the bad guy’ in our kids’ lives. As I mentioned in my previous post, they need to feel unconditionally loved, even when they’re misbehaving.
  • There’s nothing wrong with them, their behavior is the problem. Make sure your children understand that they are not bad or naughty, but that their behavior can be improved.
  • Don’t hold grudges. Once the action has passed, once your child has been disciplined and learned the lesson, let it go! Forgive and move on. Do not stay mad at your child for long, avoid dirty looks or bad answers.
  • Choose consequences that match the behavior.

When it comes to raising our children, we need to always have present in our mind, that we love them and that they need to feel that love. If you ever feel that you’re getting out of control, that you need to physically or psychologically harm your children to teach them a lesson, that you don’t know what else to do, that you are about to snap… seek help! Help in the form of a friend, a spouse, a relative, a childcare professional, a parenting coach… Don’t let yourself go to the extreme when it comes to disciplining your children.

Much love, Diana-

4 thoughts on “Why do parents resort to extreme discipline?”

  1. Hi,
    I found your blog interesting in relation to some I have myself written on the subject. I agree with much of what you say, and the examples you gave (e.g. Amy Chua) are disgraceful, and in my view barbaric.
    It is important with all children to set up the boundries from day one. I have had two children of my own and brought them up in the same manner I was.
    I found that strict discipline in the first two years set the ‘norm’ for the rest of their lives. By the time my daughter and son were two years old I was listened to, because my wife and I had instilled in them the fact that we were the bosses in the house, and they were required to do as they were told.
    There is nothing wrong with giving a small child a TAP on the hand or legs when they misbehave, and if the child is disciplined from the beginning, more brutal lessons are not required later on.
    Many parents fall into the trap of being very leniant with their offspring in the first two years, and that is a fatal mistake.
    The bottom line is, give your baby all the love it can handle, but do not allow it to become the boss, for then you will avoid the child using temper tantrums to get its own way. Unless disciplinary action is taken at the earliest possible moment you are headed for a life of misery.
    Most of today’s youth problems are simply due to a lack of discipline in their lives.
    Roy Peters

    1. Roy,
      Thanks for your comments!
      I agree with 99% of what you say, expecially with your closing paragraph: “The bottom line is, give your baby all the love it can handle, but do not allow it to become the boss”.

    1. I agree! One thing that I do and always advise parents to do, is to give themselves a ‘time out’ when they notice they’re about to loose their cool. Take a brief 1 minute break and then, deal with the situation.

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