The Discipline – Nurture Dichotomy

Charles Emmrys PhD

The most important two tasks of any parent are firstly to nurture their children and secondly to providing them with discipline. There are a myriad of techniques and practices for both kinds of intervention but there are elements that are common to all good nurturing activities and all good disciplining. The following is a summary of those common elements. Keeping these elements in mind when disciplining and nurturing will help you be an effective and appreciated parent.


  • Quick
  • Matter of fact – no emotions
  • Nothing to reason about
  • Fewest words possible
  • Predictable (consequences known ahead of time)
  • Parents have a common front
  • At home
  • Always the same


  • As long as possible
  • Emotional
  • Curiosity
  • As much talk as possible
  • Spontaneous
  • One on one
  • Out of the house or at bedtime
  • Always different


Children will want to prolong any interaction that is emotional and verbal. For them, it is nurturing even if it is unpleasant. To be verbal and emotional during disciplining simply causes the child to want to prolong it (through arguing or getting you going) which causes it to be ineffective. It is not a good idea, for example, to ask why they are being disciplined. This is a trap that allows the child to keep the interaction going and ultimately frustrate the parent.

Give the discipline quickly, do not ask for reasons and move on.

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