Skip to main content

175: How to Discipline Without Spanking or Yelling

By February 21, 2022November 8th, 2023Highlight, Mastermind Parenting Podcast

How do you discipline a strong-willed child without spanking or yelling? We’re building on the last two episodes where I started to unpack the topic of how to best discipline your child. Today I’m focusing on how to avoid spanking or yelling. Most parents know that spanking doesn’t work, and yelling doesn’t either, but most households still spank and yell.


A lot of us grew up with spanking as part of our family discipline model, and yelling too, so it can be easy to fall back on these as a “go-to” method when we get frustrated and angry. And I am guilty of this as well, and today I share a recent experience where I simply lost it.


Yelling and spanking wounds and hurts our kids. Even though these may come naturally to us because of our past, and what was modeled to us, this doesn’t mean we can’t shift and adopt a different approach. Listen in as I break down my personal experience and some others to help you find a kinder and more gentle way to deal with these situations. You, and your kiddos, will be happier and more grounded.

As always, thanks for listening, and be sure and head over to Facebook and you can join my free group Mastermind Parenting Community, where we post tips and tools and do pop up Live conversations where I do extra teaching and coaching to support you in helping your strong-willed children so that they can FEEL better and DO better. If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it!

About Randi Rubenstein

Randi Rubenstein helps parents with a strong-willed kiddo become a happier family and enjoy the simple things again like bike rides and beach vacays.

She’s the founder of Mastermind Parenting, host of the Mastermind Parenting podcast, and author of The Parent Gap. Randi works with parents across the U.S.

At Mastermind Parenting, we believe every human deserves to have a family that gets along.

Randi’s Social Links

Links & Resources

Thanks so much for listening to the Mastermind Parenting podcast, where we support the strong willed child and the families that love them!

If you enjoyed this episode and think that others could benefit from listening, please share it using the share button in the podcast player above.

Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher.


My name is Randi Rubenstein, and welcome to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast at Mastermind Parenting, we’re on a mission to support strong-willed kids and the families that love them. You’re listening to the Mastermind Parenting Podcast with Randi Rubenstein episode 1 75. So today’s topic is How to Discipline Without Spanking and yelling. A common Google search. I read a thing in the New York times, which I may read to you a little bit from it that even though Most parents know that spanking doesn’t work and the American pediatric association obviously does not promote speaking as a discipline method for kids, that the majority of households in America still spank, even if they do it like in secret, and they’re not proud of it, and they’re not posting anything about it on social media, the majority of households still spank, even though we know that it’s harmful to kids like it does damage.

(1m 14s):
And we still spank yelling is the same yelling is scary for kids. And I don’t know a household that there’s not some Yelling. I’ll tell you even when you become a mastermind parent, and it’s not that I don’t ever yell. I had a couple of situations. I have one situation a couple of months ago with my son with my 15 year old son, which I’ve told the story a million times now. And I was exhausted and we were moving. We had a water leak in our house and we had to move out of our house and we moved into an apartment and it was a very stressful day. And of course, like on the same day that we moved in the apartment, it was like a furnished apartment.

(1m 54s):
So I was my typical overambitious planner, which I was like, we just have to take some clothes. It’s not going to be a big deal. Well, my husband needed hernia surgery and the doctor was like, okay, I can do it either this day or like a month and a half from now. And I was like, no, like you need to get the hernia surgery. It’s fine. Like, you’ll just get it on the day that we move. We’ll take some stuff over, maybe like the day before, and then it’s just close. Well, by the time I picked my son up from soccer at five 30 and we were coming back to the apartment, I was going to be unloading the car for like the fifth time that day. And I have both dogs with me and I had gone to surgery and driven my husband home from surgery and gotten him settled and yadda.

(2m 37s):
Anyway, it was ridiculous. It was ridiculous for me to think that it wasn’t going to be that bad. And so when we got out of the car, I just, I don’t know. I just knew that like my nerves were shot and I didn’t feel like saying, do this, do that, do that, whatever. I was like, you know what? Just stay in the car with the dogs. Cause they’re going to be too annoying when I’m trying to get all the things out and unload, I’m going to go get the cart. So just stay in the car. And then when you get out, just get the dogs on the leash and just grab my water. I always have a water cup. I go and I get the cart and I start, I load up the cart and he’s just sitting in the car and he’s like playing on his phone, but that’s what I told him to do.

(3m 19s):
Right. And finally, I go, okay, get out. Let’s take it up to the apartment. He gets out of the car with the dogs and the dogs are like acting all unruly and annoying. And I’m like, where’s my water cup? And he’s like, oh, I couldn’t, I couldn’t fit it. Cause I have too much stuff in my hand. And I freaking lost it. I’m like, are you fucking kidding me? What the hell are you doing? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Anyway, I totally lost it. And we went and we got into the elevator and I really wanted to continue ranting.

(4m 0s):
And I mean, I really don’t lose it like this. And so it’s not like the norm, but my son’s not a little kid. He’s 15 and he’s grown up. He’s my one child who has only grown up with Mastermind Parenting. So he’s a pretty chill dude and we’re in the elevator and I’m at least having the self restraint, not to continue ranting. I’m just kind of like steam’s blowing out of my ears and he like put his hands on my shoulders and he looked me in the eye and he’s like, mom, calm people, solve problems.

(4m 41s):
Nothing is going to be solved right now. So just it’s going to be okay. So we start to using the tools back on me. And I was like, so, you know, it’s like when you get a fight with someone and then, or you’re all worked up and then they’re like, hug, should we hug it out? And it’s like, no, too soon, too soon. I was surprised I do that with my kids. Like when they get mad at me and I apologize. And then I’m like hug and especially with my daughter and she like gives me a look. I’m like too soon, too soon. So I wasn’t ready to talk yet. And then we got up to the apartment, my husband’s wobbling around like a patient and he is a patient at that point.

(5m 22s):
I’m not the best nurse. I’m not going to lie. I’m not the best nurse. I’m like, suck it up. Let’s go. And he like, he gets up and he’s walking around and they go into Corey’s room at the apartment for Corey to see his new room. And Corey, I hear them whispering and I like walk in there and Scott’s like, my husband, he’s like, we’ve got it. It’s okay. You know what, why don’t you just go sit down for a little bit? And I was like, you know what? I’m over there being a freaking Sherpa. And he’s sitting in the car and blah, blah. And they’re both, okay, we hear you. We got it. You know, like they’re just wanting to diffuse the situation. So I guess my point is is we all have our moments.

(6m 6s):
We all yell me too. Me too. Me too. Me too. I get it. And let’s make it the exception. Let’s go for the exception, not the rule, right? Like let’s make it where our kids are sort of like, okay, this isn’t there every day. They understand that calm people solve problems and they understand that we’re human and we have moments, but this isn’t the way they’ve been conditioned. They’re not just expecting to have you screaming at them for every little thing. So when you have those days where you didn’t plan while you were over ambitious, like me, your self care is out the window.

(6m 50s):
You’re martyring yourself. You’re telling other people what role they can play and how to be helpful. And you’re trying to just get it all done yourself. And you have those Oop stays. Your kids are like, it’s fine. This is not my mom. This is not who you always like. We always have. We all have shitty days. Okay. So yeah. I just want to say that I get it. And this is not about going for perfect each just for as again, what Corey says, just be better. It’s just about striving as humans to just be better. Like that’s all we can do is just keep growing and becoming better.

(7m 32s):
That’s it? Okay. So I’m going to read a couple of scenarios that I pulled off the internet from moms with strong-willed kids. One is, I just can’t anymore. The constant, not listening, disobeying, pushing limits, arguing, talking back, and then pouting and blubbering crying. When he gets in trouble. I’m exhausted. I promise you, this is a mom that yells in spanks, blubbering crying. Okay. Like a child that is crying hysterically, calling it blubbering. Like that’s a child in pain. Okay. This is a mom who literally is so in her own blind spot.

(8m 17s):
And there’s a lot to do. I mean, and that’s the thing is that at some point you’re like, Hey, somebody is going to have to be the grownup here. And like the little person who is still living in their, in their emotional brain, because developmentally that’s where they are as a human, they don’t have a developed prefrontal cortex. They don’t have a developed thinking brain yet. The most developed part of their brain is their emotional brain. So they’re going to live there a lot of the time. And I have to, I have to get to the root of what’s really going on for them. I have to see their perspective.

(8m 58s):
And when we just try to shut it down by yelling at them and screaming at them and, and smacking them, do we help them solve any problems? Or do we just take our problems out on them? I mean, this is hard stuff to face. I know this is not what anybody wants to hear. And I’m not here to like, make you feel terrible about yourself or guilty. I guess that’s why I share, you know, my moment like are fucking kidding me, but we have to strive to be better. We just do. We have to, we love our kids. We love them. We want them to have the best lives possible. We want them to have better lives than we have. They’re not going to have it.

(9m 40s):
If our method for trying to discipline them, teach them how to be alive, how to be humans, how to human by doing it through Yelling and spanking. All we’re doing is wounding them. All we’re doing is continuing the cycle of raising more wounded humans. And here’s the good news. When we learn how to do it differently. When we learn how to master our minds and figure out why am I not calm right now? What is coming up for me? When, what is the main emotion I’m feeling right now? Disrespected, dismiss, whatever it is.

(10m 22s):
When was the first time I felt that way. When did I receive the message that I wasn’t worth listening to? How come, I don’t know how to step into pack leadership. I have no clue how to have boundaries and how to make sure those boundaries are respected and followed talk them. I have no clue how to do that. I need to figure out how to do that. And guess what there’s some learning to do, right? If you want to learn Japanese, do you think? Just because you’re like, oh, I really would love to speak Japanese that poof, one day, you’re just going to wake up and know how to speak Japanese. No, it’s going to sign up for a Japanese program.

(11m 4s):
You’re going to learn Japanese. You’re going to practice how to speak Japanese. You’re going to maybe go visit Japan. You’re going to find some Japanese friends that you can talk to in Japanese. Like, you know, it’s going to take time to learn how to speak Japanese. It’s gonna take time to learn how to be the parent that you wish you had had as a kid. That’s the bottom line because it’s not what comes naturally to you. What comes naturally to you is the way you were raised. And if you get really honest, if you were spanked and yelled at, how did it feel? Can you go back into those moments?

(11m 46s):
My daughter told me that a guy, friend of hers recently said, well, I was spanked as a kid. And I think it was great. I think it did. It did me. Well, he kind of prided himself on it. Meanwhile, he’s likes to numb out a lot, but he prides himself on the man he became because he was spanked. No, I think so often we’re diluting our, so I turned out fine. But did you, what about that over behavior? What about all the times that you’re not able to be present in this moment?

(12m 28s):
What about all the times that you’re trying to escape? When life gets hard when life’s uncomfortable, which being a human guess? What like 50% of the time we experienced negative emotions. But when we have no clue how to experience those negative emotions, because we got shut down, spanked told we were blubbering. When we were having a negative emotion, we don’t have the skills. We do not have the skills to deal with the negative emotions. So it’s gonna take time to learn number one, how to heal from your own stuff.

(13m 15s):
And it start to experience some discomfort, learn some new skills, realize that. Of course you’re not going to be great at it. When you first start practicing some new parenting skills or, or having boundaries or building up your own self-worth so that you know that you deserve to have your voice heard and you should command respect, and you start practicing the skill set to be able to do that. And you, if you don’t know how to do it, which that’s okay, just start somewhere, just start somewhere. Don’t think you’re all of a sudden going to be able to snap your fingers and learn Japanese, be realistic.

(13m 60s):
So I bet this mom’s exhausted. All that sounds super exhausting. And what are you going to do about it? Are you going to expect your kid all of a sudden to wake up and just behave perfectly? No. They’re reacting to the patterns that you’ve established because you’re the pack leader, right? The head honcho sets the tone. Any team, any organization, when there’s a well run team or organization, you can bet there’s somebody amazing in charge who commands, respect sets.

(14m 43s):
Expectations helps people feel safe and calm in their bodies because they know what to expect. These are the rules. This is how we run the organization. This is our family. This is our team. The soccer team that runs so smoothly. The coach knows here’s the deal. This is what I expect from you. Practice starts at this time. Everyone’s not here at this time. I don’t care who it is. We’re a team one person’s not here on time. You’re going to run two extra laps. We’re going to show up for our team. I expect you to strive for excellence. I expect you to be out there putting in your biggest effort.

(15m 26s):
If after a game, I don’t feel that everybody’s been striving for excellence and working together. Passing. If we got a ball hog, no, we’re a team. We’re gonna use our skills and we’re gonna work together. And when you don’t do that, you’re not working together. Then guess what? The next practice is going to be an extra 30 minutes because we’re going to spend some time team building, right? Like the person in charge when they had that kind of clarity and they command that level of respect and they set out expectations. The members of that team, they may not like it.

(16m 6s):
When they’ve got to run an extra two laps or when they have to stay for some stupid team building exercise for an extra 30 minutes, they’re not going to like it. They are going to recognize later that it does build team cohesion and the team is working together. And it feels amazing to be out there and to be a smooth running well-functioning team, because that is how it feels when you’re on a team like that. But it starts at the top and we’ve put ourselves in this position of authority. We are the team leaders. So we can’t expect our little tiny team players to set the tone.

(16m 48s):
We have to set the tone. Okay. Here’s another scenario. How do you cope with having a strong-willed child? Mind pushes every single tiny button most, every hour of every day. And I feel so overwhelmed so often I hate to say it, but I’m getting to a bad place mentally where I don’t even want to be around her. And that’s devastating to me as her mother, like I’ve said in other episodes recently, we love them. But sometimes it can be hard to like a strong-willed kid. Who’s not doing well. A strong-willed kid. Who’s not doing well. There’s a reason they’re not doing well. They feel dysregulated in their bodies. They’re not feeling calm and safe in the world.

(17m 28s):
There’s something to figure out. And the only place that we can really start is looking within what are we doing in terms of creating a common, grounded environment for them? Have we established the rules, repeated them often followed through consistently, hold them accountable. Have we put a bunch of energy on the front end, helping them to build new skills and learn. These are the rules of our household. This is what you got to do. Getting ready in the morning. Here’s our schedule. Let’s talk about what it looks like. Let’s do a run through. Sounds like a pain in the ass, but guess what saves you so much time, so much time where you’re not nagging where you’re not starting your day from a terrible place and sending your kids off to school with elevated stress hormones that leaves them at a deficit for learning.

(18m 28s):
Yeah. Super worth it. Okay. So it’s devastating to me as her mother, especially as a mother who fought so hard to get to become a mom. After years of infertility, she was, is still a miracle and an answered our prayers. I love her so much, but I’m just absolutely on empty with her behavior. I can pray meditate, workout, journal, talk to my husband, family, friends, take a trip, do all the things. And I rarely ever ready to get back in the game with a fresh head with her. I’m so discouraged right now we’re paying $180 out of pocket for every therapy session with her. And it feels like we’ve gotten absolutely nowhere. She’s five. Yeah. This is it. Look, therapy can be great as a supplement to what you’re doing at home.

(19m 17s):
And this is where I think we get it backwards in our society. I think that quite often, we’re going to all these specialists and sending our kids out without figuring out what we could do differently at home. And most of the time it does start with how are we actually teaching them all the things? How are we disciplining them? And if we don’t know what to do, instead of spanking and yelling, we don’t know how to show up impact leadership. If we don’t know how to have boundaries, if we don’t know how to realize what the rules are of our household, where we start, we don’t have like a family manifesto.

(20m 4s):
This is who we are as a family. We’re a family of kind words and gentle hands. We’re a family that this house is a safe place. We’re a family that loves to laugh and loves to eat ice cream and always show support for one another. We’re a family that shares our toys. We’re a family that gets other people, a glass of water. When we get up to refill our water asks, if anyone else needs one, we’re a family who takes care of each other. If you haven’t established core values like that, remember it’s a lot about leadership.

(20m 47s):
What kind of leader are you? Are you a leader that wants to yell and spank and emotionally wound your children? And I know it’s not even Yelling and spanking. Isn’t talked about in that way because it’s so commonplace. And nobody wants to hear that. But anyone who goes to therapy, it always goes back to what happened to you when you were a kid over, just wrote a book. It’s a great book to listen to you guys. What happened to you with a neuroscientist?

(21m 29s):
Dr. Bruce Perry? He’s awesome too. What happened to you? Like what happened to you? You know, Oprah talked about like the roots of her people pleasing that like even Oprah, the head of like all things, Oprah, she was at the height of the Oprah Winfrey show. And all of a sudden she realized she had a bad case of people pleasing bad, bad case. And she was like, well, how can I be an effective leader? If I’m dreading this meeting with a person, who’s my employee, my insubordinate. And I’m dreading having this meeting and holding them accountable for them, not doing their job the right way.

(22m 17s):
And I’m all bent out of shape and crazy inside. How can I be an effective leader while I’m still in people pleasing? I have to be able to have hard conversations. I have to be able to hold people accountable. I have to realize that it is not my job to please all the people and going back to her roots and her conditioning and realizing like where that people pleasing came from. It was so interesting. I mean, that’s the thing is that when you stop being afraid to look back and you really start kind of connecting the dots, I always say like, your life is a puzzle. It’s like, if you look at the box of a puzzle and you see exactly what the puzzle is going to look like, and then you dump the box out and it’s just all these pieces, and then you find the pieces and you start to put them together and slowly but surely it starts to look like the picture on the front of the box.

(23m 8s):
You know what the picture looks like in your mind? Like you have an inner knowing of what you want your life to be, what your life is meant to be. So you can see that on the front of the box, but it’s a matter of finding the pieces and piecing them together. So when we stop being afraid of what happened to me and looking at those pieces and I highly recommend therapy and having the right facilitator to help you find those puzzle pieces and holding space for you as you. And there’s also, you know, even just starting to journal or even just asking yourself, and then even just like, if you can follow it up by writing it down every time your kids push your buttons and trigger you, that’s a puzzle piece saying like, hello, I’m right here.

(24m 9s):
Here I am. All you have to do is look at me and it’ll be real obvious where I go in the puzzle and it takes courage to be willing to look at that puzzle piece. So if you are Yelling and spanking, I promise you every time you have the desire to spank your child or yell at your child, there’s a puzzle piece saying, Hmm, this is what happened to you. So how do you discipline? How do you teach your kids? You do this work so that you can show up and be the grounded grownup so that you can master your mind so that you can get out of reactivity and be the pack leader.

(24m 54s):
They need you to be, this is how they start to do better. This is how they start to feel better and do better. When you feel better, you do better. And the same goes for you. So that’s what I’ve got for you guys this week. Thanks for listening today, guys. I hope you picked up some tips tools, maybe some baby steps for creating more balance and boundaries in your life. And I just wanted to let you know, if you want to continue moving the needle forward in creating this for yourself, having a happier household. I want you to go to my website and check out Mastermind, Parenting dot com.

(25m 34s):
We have three beginning programs, and if you need some accountability and more support, then please look for the one that would be a good fit for you. And as always, we’re on all the social channels under Mastermind Parenting on Instagram, it’s mastermind, underscore parenting. And you know, periodically I do pop up on different Instagram lives, Facebook lives, where I give you teaching and coaching. And I love engaging with you live to help you help your strong-willed kids so that they can feel better because when they feel better, they do better.

(26m 14s):
And I love, love, love, getting to know you guys. So thanks for listening. If you liked this podcast, please don’t forget to subscribe, rate and review super, super appreciative.

Happy Household Cover

Sign Up for Our Newsletter and Get Our Free Guide

Creating A Happier Household

by Randi Rubenstein