Disciplinary Strategies for Children With Emotional and Behavioral Issues

Children with emotional and behavioral issues often act out certain behaviors, such as violence and aggression toward others. This ultimately draws attention to deeper psychological issues. Discipline for these children should aim to teach appropriate behavior instead of imparting punishment for misconduct, explains Colleen Gengler, University of Minnesota Extension educator in family relations. Strategies such as time-out, removal of privileges and using rewards and consequences to redirect behavior are effective, disciplinary measures that teach children to make new behavioral choices.


Time-out is a useful disciplinary technique to use for younger children with emotional and behavioral issues. Scholastic recommends that parents use time-out as a calming technique to allow an out-of-control toddler or preschooler a chance to regain some composure and think about ways he could have displayed better behavior 1. Scholastic states that it is not effective to use time-out as a punishment, for instance, when a parent is irritated by a child's behavior.

Removal of Privileges

Removing privileges is a viable, disciplinary strategy for older children, states counseling professionals with Associated Counselors and Therapists in California. Since discipline should naturally teach a child why a particular behavior is inappropriate, removing privileges should be directly tied to the undesirable behavior. For instance, if a child chooses to forgo completing his homework to play video games instead, he should have his video game privileges revoked until he improves any dropping grades.

Rewards and Consequences

Rewards and consequence systems are often used to increase desirable behaviors while minimizing undesirable behaviors. Rewards such as extra play time, stickers and an extended curfew provide children with incentives to engage in more desirable behaviors. Consequences such as writing apology letters, for instance, can teach children how to take responsibility for wrongdoings. Any consequence that aims to teach a child the importance of engaging in appropriate behavior is useful as a disciplinary strategy.

Community Service Work

For older children who display destructive behaviors, such as vandalism and destruction of property, community service work may be a viable consequence. Public schools, colleges and universities employ community service as a disciplinary strategy to hold youth accountable for their behavior, and to teach children and teens how others are negatively affected by their destructive actions. Parents can also use these opportunities to inform their children about the community service work that many legal systems use to correct behavior, which may deter them from engaging in criminal acts.