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Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline

Discipline is hard.

Depending on one’s personal definition, the practice can yield either positive or negative outcomes in children. Research suggests that harsh discipline, such as scolding or reprimanding, can cause a child to withdraw and increase negative behaviors. On the other hand, using strategies based on love, warmth, and patience are more likely to help children – and adults, too – reflect, reason, and resolve conflicts (Pasalich et al., 2016).

That all sounds great, in theory. Making it happen is a challenge.

In Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline, Dr. Becky A. Bailey recommends that adults must develop discipline within themselves before expecting children to behave in a similar manner. Self-discipline. That’s a tall order. As an early childhood educator, I know this to be true. I see this in action everyday with young children. Yet, it’s still challenging to figure out how to put this research into practice.

Think about it: When we yell at a child to stop throwing a fit over a toy, are we in control of our own emotions? The child may stop out of fear but also learn that yelling gets the desired outcome. That means they will most likely do it again.

In her book, Bailey outlines the “Seven Powers for Self-Control” and the “Seven Basic Discipline Skills” which will help us, the adults, learn how to maintain composure, mental clarity, and most importantly, patience. With these tools, we learn to view conflicts as a teaching opportunity for children, rather than finding a “quick fix” to the problem.Bailey’s book is written in a clear and concise manner, which makes it easy to absorb. Her examples and scenarios are also helpful as they teach us how to apply these skills into daily life. Bailey’s approach to discipline is insightful and transformative.

After reading this book, I felt empowered and more in control of myself. I felt better prepared to tackle conflicts in an effective way and ready to teach children how to do so as well. I highly recommend this book!

By Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D. 306 pages. HarperCollins. $12.95 Paperback / $14.99 Kindle.

Recommended for parents and teachers.


Ashley K. Mejia teaches preschool in Los Angeles. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy. She finds time to volunteer at Hiller Therapy every week.

References. Pasalich, D. S., Witkiewitz, K., McMahon, R. J., Pinderhughes, E. E., & Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group. (2016). Indirect effects of the fast track intervention on conduct disorder symptoms and callous-unemotional traits: Distinct pathways involving discipline and warmth. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 44(3), 587-597.

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