What Are the Best Books On Disciplining Children?

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

Christians are “children of Christ.”  Children generally are a mixed bag.  We love them and they drive us insane.  At times we might just not like them.  A major challenge is discipline. Sometimes it feels impossible to get control of your children no matter how what.  

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 disciplining children.  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.

If it’s your students that are the problem, check out What to do When You Don’t Like Your Students


1-2-3 Magic: Gentle 3-Step Child & Toddler Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting by Thomas Phelan PhD 

Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist.  He has a signature “counting method.”  

  • One – First warning that you want them to stop.
  • Two – Second and final warning.
  • Three – Timeout. No negotiation, no discussion

This book is geared to deal with various obnoxious habits of toddlers to middle schoolers. It has easy-to-read quick-reading chapters.  Stressed out parents should get a lot of relief.  

Possible Problems: More of an “action” book; it does not address the “whys” behind the behaviors.  If you do not find his technique helpful, you will not like it.  

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.  Learn more here.  

Possible Problems: Some readers found the content repetitious, not empathetic enough to actual parents [she does not have children], and too focused on the problems of the parent.  

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. They both are connected to the Mindsight Institute.  

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.

Possible Problems:  Not practical enough for the average parent. 

Positive Discipline: The Classic Guide to Helping Children Develop Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Cooperation, and Problem-Solving Skills by Jane Nelsen Ed.D.

Dr. Jane Nelsen is a California licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author or co-author of 18 books, including Positive Discipline, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World, Serenity, and 12 other books in the Positive Discipline Series. 

Positive Discipline has been a top-selling guide to disciplining children for over four decades.  The author is a distinguished psychologist, educator, and mother of seven.  So, she has the knowledge and experience here from various angles. 

She provides guidance for disciplining children from toddlers to teenagers, finding the right mix of cooperation, discipline, and self-dignity for the child.

Possible Problems: Some experts dispute some of the ideas and language used.  Quotes like “Yes, three-year-old children can scramble eggs,” do seem from a more permissive era. 

Raising Good Humans: A Mindful Guide to Breaking the Cycle of Reactive Parenting and Raising Kind, Confident Kids by Hunter Clarke-Fields MSAE

Hunter Clarke-Fields is a mindfulness mentor, host of the Mindful Mama podcast, creator of the Mindful Parenting course, and mom to two daughters.

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully engaged in the moment, and free from the distraction of a range of other concerns in your life. This allows (hopefully) a more thoughtful approach as compared to mindlessly reacting to stressful events.  

Clarke-Fields works with this philosophy, to aim for a kinder and less stressful means of parenting.  It might be less helpful if you are already comfortable with this approach.

The Self-Driven Child: The Science and Sense of Giving Your Kids More Control Over Their Lives by William Stixrud Ph.D. and Ned Johnson

Dr. Stixrud is a clinical neuropsychologist, who helps children struggling with anxiety and struggling to learn.  Ned Johnson is the founder of PrepMatters, a tutoring service, and is a motivational coach.

Their research and experience showed them that the key is to find a way to allow children to have control over their lives without removing the proper about of parental and school discipline necessary for proper guidance.  This book provides the way to do so with the help of cutting-edge brain science, the latest discoveries in behavioral therapy, and case studies.

Possible problems: Some readers thought the authors used too many case studies without using enough science and up-to-date science. The specific case studies, including the use of meditation, also bothered some readers.

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.

Science of Learning 

The science of learning is a contemporary interdisciplinary approach to education. People who are interested in reading about disciplining children will find some useful material here as well.