Best Books to Discipline Anyone, Including Yourself!

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Discipline involves control obtained by obedience. The word comes from “disciple,” which is someone who follows another person.  The most famous “disciples” followed Jesus Christ.

You can discipline others, including children, animals, and spouses (some might say they are all the same!).  And, you can practice self-discipline, which from personal experience I can tell you might be even harder.  We are often our toughest opponents.  

These days, there are many ways to learn how to discipline, including personal experience, advice from others, and podcasts.  And, there are books.  Lots of books.  

Read All About It

My purpose here is to provide some of the best books out there about discipline.  I will provide you with a link to where you can buy them, providing basic information to help you decide if they are good for your needs.   

Things to look for: the author’s expertise, the specific subject matter, what others are saying about them, the skillset of the intended audience, and any deficits that might be red flags.

Children Discipline

Toddler Discipline for Every Age and Stage: Effective Strategies to Tame Tantrums, Overcome Challenges, and Help Your Child Grow by Aubrey Hargis

Aubrey Hargis is both a mother of two and a child development expert. As the founder of the Child Development Institute of the Redwoods, she coaches parents and creates online courses in compassionate discipline techniques and Montessori education.

This guide to parenting toddlers teaches you about the behavioral challenges you’ll face and the ways you can address them while they develop important life skills like curiosity, respect, independence, and confidence. It provides age-appropriate discipline strategies, helped by an explanation of toddlers’ physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Possible Problems: Some readers thought the book was not edited well, taking a long time to get to the point. Also, some questioned how practical some of the advice is. 

Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline: The 7 Basic Skills for Turning Conflict into Cooperation by Becky A Bailey

Dr. Becky Bailey is an award-winning author, renowned educator, and internationally recognized expert in education and developmental psychology.  This book on child discipline is based on self-control and confidence-building for both parent and child.  She teaches skills to set up a seven-week program to improve children’s behavior and improve your own as well.

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

The authors provide their expertise in clinical psychiatry and pediatric and adolescent psychotherapy. This book highlights the link between a child’s neurological development and the way a parent reacts to misbehavior. It provides a no-drama way to effectively and compassionately deal with tantrums, tensions, and tears.

For Companies 

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is Chairman and CEO of Brian Tracy International, a company specializing in the training and development of individuals and organizations.  

This book provides you with the lessons he has studied and preached to companies for over three decades. The latest revision has additional chapters that examine the uses of technology and advice on how to maintain focus given the latest ways to stop you from doing so.

Possible Problems: Some argue the book has too much “fluff” and “common sense” which makes the book not worth the purchase price.  I say YMMV on both!

The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Patrick Senge

This is an updated and expanded (100 more pages) edition of Patrick Senge’s classic book introducing his management philosophy. His “fifth discipline” approach over the years gain many adherents as a successful way to improve corporate culture.  Senge uses a range of tools, from science to spirituality, to show how to firm discipline in your business.

Possible Problems: Some readers felt this book could be more condensed, avoiding repetition and helping the reader understand the core principles in a better format.

Diet and Personal Fitness 

Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle by Michelle May M.D.

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training ( that helps individuals resolve mindless and emotional eating and senseless yo-yo dieting.

An important part of discipline is our diet. Many people try so hard to eat healthily that it is counterproductive. The result is yo/yo type diets that cannot be consistently followed.  

This book aims for the reader to learn how to have long time health of the body, mind, heart, and spirit.  Dr. May helps you do this by examining internal factors — your food preferences, your body cues for hunger, fullness, and satisfaction — that often cause us so many problems.

Possible Problems: Some readers argued that a book meant to bring forth new insights actually told the same old lines about how to lose weight.

No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness by Michelle Segar

Dr. Segar is a researcher at the University of Michigan with almost thirty years studying how to help people adopt healthy behaviors.

She applies her scientific knowledge to provide a step-by-step program for staying motivated to exercise. Segar has developed a four-point program to help you broaden your definition of exercise, find pleasure in physical activity, and discover realistic ways to fit it into your lives. The successful experiences of her clients are provided as a guide.

Possible Problems: Some found the book badly edited. 


Personal Discipline  

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Some might know Steven Pressfield as the author of such books as “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which was later made into a popular film.

This book is an engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere.  The author addresses an internal resistance inside of us that is a stumbling block. If you fight this “resistance,” you can be on the road to self-discipline, and succeed in all you do. 

This book is for everyone from artists to those trying to succeed in business or anyone really. Creativity is useful in all that we do.

Possible Problems: Some readers thought the author overdid it with “pop psychology” and religious-related analysis.

The Power of Discipline: How to Use Self Control and Mental Toughness to Achieve Your Goals by Daniel Walter

This is a small (132 pages) highly rated book that provides easy-to-read, scientific explanations about self-discipline, including lessons from a range of people including Buddhists and Navy SEALS.  Bulldoze toward your goals, ditch your bad habits, become an unstoppable force of nature, and start living the life you know you deserve. 

The Science of Self-Discipline: The Willpower, Mental Toughness, and Self-Control to Resist Temptation and Achieve Your Goals by Peter Hollins

Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition. This one is a quick read but one where a notebook being handy is useful. It has a bunch of new helpful ways to increase discipline and willpower. 

Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Hacking Laziness, Building Self Discipline, and Overcoming Procrastination  by Nils Salzgeber

Nils Salzgeber is the co-founder of the popular NJlifehacks blog. 

This action-oriented book examines the reason behind your procrastination (spoiler: it’s a lot more than simply personal weakness) and has 20 science-based strategies to address the problem.  This includes a 30-second trick to build “instant habits” from the start of your day. 


Pets: Cats and Dogs  

How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners by Monks of New Skete

Dogs are our great friends but sometimes need discipline too.  The Monks of New Skete are famous breeders of German shepherds and trainers of dogs of all breeds. Their approach to canine training, developed and refined over four decades, is based on the philosophy that “understanding is the key to communication, compassion, and communion” with your dog.  

Possible Problems: Some readers challenge the science and techniques used. 

Also might like by same authors: The Art of Training Your Dog: How to Gently Teach Good Behavior Using an E-Collar (with Marc Goldberg).

The Trainable Cat: A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis

Many think cats cannot be disciplined, especially some cats. It seems almost blasphemous to suggest they can be. But, there are ways to humanely and smartly train our feline friends. These feline behavior specialists help show the way. 

Religious Themes 

Discipline by Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015) was a long-time popular Christian author. This book teaches discipline using a Christian focus.  Readers are told how to discipline their minds, body, time, and feelings. The book helps the reader to overcome anxiety and change bad habits. 

Making a Change for Good: A Guide to Compassionate Self-Discipline by Cheri Huber

This book provides lessons in self-discipline through the lens of Zen teachings. The author is a long-time Zen teacher and author. The book includes a guided thirty-day program of daily meditation, contemplation, and journaling.

Possible Problems: Some argued it is better for those just starting out in this specific discipline and is too simplistic for those more experienced in Zen thinking. 

Scientific Focused Books 

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel

Walter Mischel is an American psychologist specializing in personality theory and social psychology.

The famous “marshmallow test” concerns delayed gratification that pays off in the end. Many people, not just children, rather get immediate gratification even if it means fewer returns.  This book looks at the scientific studies behind this test and provides lessons on how to have more self-discipline. A quite readable account with kudos from fans such as Alan Alda.

Possible Problems: The book focuses on research, and for those who want the “how to” part, other books might be better.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading researchers in the fields of personality, social psychology, and developmental psychology. She is known for her research on “growth mindset,” a way of viewing challenges and setbacks.

This book discusses how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and more can be influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. She discusses how “false mindsets,” including an ability to change (“fixed” mindset).  A proper mindset is very important for discipline and this book applies her research for both self-discipline and discipline of others.  

Possible Problems: Some felt that the science was not properly defended.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal is a psychology instructor at Stanford University and a lecturer and program developer at the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

This book is based on her popular course “The Science of Willpower.” The book uses scientifically based advice and exercises to help readers with goals ranging from losing weight to more patient parenting, less procrastination, better health, and greater productivity at work.

Possible Problems: Some readers like her book “The Upside of Stress” more. Others dispute some aspects of her scientific analysis. 

For Women 

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

Rachel Hollis is known for her optimism in promoting her lifestyle brand and media company.  She is a proud mama of four, a Texan, and a supporter of women’s empowerment.

This book is about ignoring all the lies women are told and believing about themselves, standing up for themselves, and improving their life. It focuses on addressing 20 lies that have been instrumental in her own life that poisons the lives of so many women as well.

Possible Problems: Some readers do not relate to a book focused on married and working moms.

Self-Love Workbook for Women: Release Self-Doubt, Build Self-Compassion, and Embrace Who You Are by Megan Logan

Megan Logan is a licensed clinical social worker.  

This is a workbook that helps women to examine themselves and build up self-love. Logan uses an easy-to-read, step-by-step process, including helpful exercises and assessment tools. Self-discipline requires a feeling of self-worth and the belief that the effort is worth it.  This book provides helpful tools for this process. 

HAPPY READING!  Hope you have enough discipline to go out and buy some of these books!