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Discipline’s worst enemy is guilt - Tips and tricks - Educatall

Discipline’s worst enemy is guilt

Today, I would like to talk about guilt. In fact, I would like to talk about how guilt can affect our discipline efforts. I have often met parents and early childhood educators who have shared how they worry about “over-disciplining” children. They are afraid that little ones will love and respect them less and that their relationship will be negatively impacted. The guilt felt by parents or early childhood educators can in fact have a negative impact on discipline.


Children need an educational framework, rules help them feel safe. They must know the limits they mustn’t cross to grow and evolve. Of course, they may not be happy about facing many rules and consequences. Some may be opposed to them, others may even tell you that they “don’t love you anymore”. That’s normal. Many children use these words to express their anger. Do they really love you any less? Of course not! These words are simply their way of telling you that they disagree. Don’t let them get to you! I know, that is sometimes easier said than done… Unfortunately, I have often seen parents and early childhood educators set rules aside to avoid conflict and altercations. That usually occurs precisely when guilt sets in. Do you recognize yourself? Don’t worry, you are not alone. However, being aware of the situation is the first step towards correcting it.


Are you sometimes overwhelmed with guilt? If so, here are a few affirmations and thoughts that you can read or repeat the next time you are hit by a wave of guilt. They are sure to help reduce this highly unpleasant feeling.

  • Feeling guilty is normal, no one enjoys disciplining children, but sometimes it is necessary.
  • Children need consistent rules, a framework that will provide them with a certain level of freedom while indicating the limits that mustn’t be crossed.
  • Children need to know that you are there for them. Adults are responsible for demonstrating how they can be counted on by establishing clear rules. That is how children learn which behaviors are appropriate and which ones are not.
  • In the heat of the moment, a child may be quite angry with me, but this anger is temporary. Once his tears have dried, he will go back to jumping in my arms for a hug.
  • I must trust myself. Are my rules adequate? Am I convinced that I am doing the right thing by insisting on this rule, this consequence? Is the child’s behavior dangerous for others, for him? Is his attitude disturbing or hurtful? I know what is best for the children in my group, I must follow my instincts.

Keep in mind that nobody is perfect. Guilt is often associated with the high expectations we have for ourselves and children. Forgive yourself for your occasional mistakes. When you do make a mistake, apologize. Children will learn from your example.


Maude Dubé, Specialied educator


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