Science has spoken - this is the best way to discipline your kids.

New research from Robert Larzelere and Sada Knowles from Oklahoma State University has found there is a ‘best practice’ when it comes to ensuring you don’t release terrifying monster-children into the world.

The study titled Toddlers Need Both Positive Parenting and Consistent Consequences From Mothers, broke parenting styles into two varieties – positive and behavioural. The former uses compromise and open dialogue to encourage the child to adopt good behaviours, while followers of the latter assert their authoritarian power to control and negate bad behaviour.

It’s important to note, however, that the study doesn’t demonising either style, but instead looks at how both techniques can be used in certain situations in the most effective manner possible.

Scientists analysed the disciplinary techniques of 102 mums and their toddlers, and determined processes to reduce various levels of “non-compliance” in toddler-aged children, essentially science-speak for how to calm down your toddler whether you’re being faced with a full-blown meltdown to minor squabble.

We’ve listed their best tips below.

How to quell any tantrum. 


When you’re in the middle of aisle three in Coles and the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan, Larzelere and Knowles found that “offering compromises” was most effective tactic for “the immediate reduction in noncompliance, regardless of type”.

Don’t – match their temper.


Do – Offer a compromise and give them choices to negate the situation – this fosters responsibility for their behaviour and actions, and encourages a sense of autonomy.

Spanking or hitting doesn’t work. 


Proving that physical punishment is never the answer once and for all, the research concluded that at best it’s just a band-aid solution, offering a quick fix that might stop the child’s offending action then and there, but won’t teach them why.

Don’t – use spanking, hitting, or shouting to correct poor behaviour, can actually increase the chances for developmental issues and like academic dysfunction, as well as physical and mental health problems later down the track.

Do – It’s all about compromise and conversation, however if the crime deems the punishment, like violence or complete defiance, broad power assertions (like time outs, punishments, confiscation, and suspension of privileges) can be effective.

Quality over quantity.


The study continued to reinforce the importance of consistent discipline such as “firm commands, single warnings, time out, and enforcement for time outs”, and carefully catering your behaviour according to the situation.

Don’t – Repeat threats, or commands, as this diminishes the responsiveness between parent and child, and can be seen as nagging which every parent knows… does not work.

Do – Adjust your response to the situation.


Reinforce with praise. 


The old adage of you catch more bees with honey than vinegar remains, with the studying showing that rewarding positive behaviour instead of punishing negative ones is always more effective at building

Don’t – Depend on punishments as the only method of discipline.

Do – Utilise praise to change their behaviour. Quoting Alan E. Kazdin, says “we know now from our science what is needed is to train the behaviours you want… When you see it occur in the community, point it out and say, ‘Look at that child doing that.”

Be their role model.


Kids are observant when it comes to mirroring your bad habits, and while trying to get them to put their toys back after play time is a while different battle, lead by example.

It goes without saying that you know your children the best and that at the end of the day’

Don’t – Forget that the same rules don’t apply to you.

Do – Be patient and remember that it all adds up. Even though certain situations might test your tempter, the study showed that continued action pays off. For example, while in “reasoning has the least effective responses immediately in oppositional toddlers, it is effective long-term.”

LISTEN: Screw discipline, this couple toughened up their one-year-old by hiking with her through the desert.