In my book How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, I tell parents about childhood’s developmental stages so they can positively affect them. You can only have reasonable expectations from a child that is capable of meeting those developmental markers.

So when it comes to discipline, know your child, and consider his age when deciding on appropriate discipline.

For example, a toddler doesn’t have a good sense of space or time, so any punishment lasting more than a few minutes is counter-intuitive. Not only would your toddler not remember his offense, but he may become agitated over the impact of a long punishment.

On the other hand, disciplining an adolescent with one week of grounding, but never more, may be beneficial. Punishment and consequences should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, so that your child is taught a new way of behaving, rather than being trained like a puppy or a horse. Remember: you’re teaching a lesson, not breaking your child’s will.

Further, when disciplining your child, it is important to know his maturation level. Be careful not to be fooled by strong language skills… they don’t necessarily mean maturity. As a parent, you must function as a guide, helping your child traverse the minefields of socialization.

Because your child is a child, your goal is to guide him towards making good choices, good decisions, good behavior, self-discipline, and ultimately, self-management. Use my Empathic Process to invest your child mutually into your discipline model. This can make him your partner and ally, teaching him both empathy and problem-solving.

Recognize your child’s specific, individual needs. One size of parenting does not fit all. If your child has a learning problem, your discipline model should accommodate it. For example, if your child is hyperactive, has problems focusing or staying on point, it is important for you to be the gentle, steady hand that monitors him and brings him back to his work, whether that includes chores around the house or homework.

The punishment should always fit the crime. Teaching your child problem-solving is more important than punishing him. My Empathic Process, a model of communication without defense, will give your child a sense of himself, his own ability, and self-power to work his way through any problem. By teaching your child to communicate his feelings and investing him in the process of his own discipline and consequences, you help him become self-actualized. In a sense, you are giving him skin in the game, and thus, he is more likely to follow your mutual discipline approach.

Practice and rehearse new behavior to create a new habit. If your child is disciplined too harshly or for an extended period, he will forget the cause of his crime, but he will forever remember his resentment. This can be counter-productive, as you are no longer teaching a new behavior but creating a new problem.

Moreover, a young child who’s punished too severely, or for too long, may personalize his offense and feel that there is something wrong with him, that he is a “bad boy”; remember, you cannot affect behavior successfully by causing shame or fear. And, be cautious not to do something you can’t take back. For example, never cause your child to miss a special event, either at school or home, as punishment.

In the final analysis, what you want to teach your child is to “know the rules.” Then, give him the positive incentives necessary to self-manage and behave appropriately. Positive reinforcement, rewards, and privileges will ultimately teach your child to exhibit good behavior, not because of the fear of punishment, but rather for the intrinsic feeling and value of doing something good for its own sake.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.