I am recently divorced and have full custody of our six children. My husband was violent with the children and I'm not sure how to discipline them without using violence. My children range in age from 3 to 10 and are all average behaved children, but two have been diagnosed with ADHD and dealing with them is an additional challenge.

I'm not sure what discipline techniques are appropriate for what age group -- the 'naughty step' doesn't go down well with my 10-year-olds.

  • A little side note because I'm researching the subject for myself > Trauma (such as physical abuse from a parent) can cause ADHD like symptoms in children. If ADHD treatment methods are not working, it could be because there suffering from a form of PTSD that causes hyper-vigilant behaviour
    – user7678
    Mar 2, 2016 at 20:35
  • I just realized that an answer below mentioned this. Sorry to beat you with the same advice over and over :)
    – user7678
    Mar 2, 2016 at 20:42

2 Answers 2


I just wanted to thank you for breaking up the circle of violence and asking for help - that seems like a hard step!

I'll add few more bits I can think of, but I'd be glad if someone with more experience joined in.

First the ADHD - it seems to me that this diagnosis is quite overused. Circumstances might involve:

  • people are having children at older age nowadays, and they naturally often don't have energy to be a partner-at-play with the child - the child is smarter and faster :). However, people perceive themselves to be OK, hence the weirdo ADHD label goes to the unlucky child.
  • advent of sweet drinks - my opinion is that children should grow up without sweet drinks just as they grow up without cocaine or nicotine (my 3.5yo does).

A big part of parenting is energy management - letting child rest when she wants to, and letting her run when she has a lot of energy. I see lot of parents around feeding their children sugary drinks, while they are strapped into stroller - no wonder they become torpedoes the moment they get out, they are bursting with energy.

So, no kid overdosed in sugar? Great!

Then the basics: ensure everyone is well rested, fed, have enough water (I can see children around who are thirsty, because their parents only remember to give them water/tea when they themselves are thirsty; kids get thirsty faster than adults and thirsty kids become moody) and enough attention.

Everyone happy? Great. The next step is both simple and hard: golden rule. Do onto others as you would have them do. This means no violence and lot of communication and self-awareness.

Why self-awareness? I often see parents in the bus or metro, who are using force on their children routinely without realising. And there is huge difference between:

  • grabbing a child by the wrist vs. extending your hand and letting them hold (& leave) whenever they want
  • strapping them into stroller (stroller as a prison) vs. letting them climb in and out of stroller when they want to (stroller as a vehicle)
  • telling them manipulative lies that make them fear the unknown ('just keep doing this and huge bogeyman will take you') vs. telling them why you don't like them to do something ('I don't like when the cupboard stays open after we clean the dishes')
  • making them follow parent's busy schedule vs. accepting their will and taking time to let them see the fountain or feed the birds

Great resource is the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk - it shows (among other great things) how to reframe the problem, so that it's you and child together against the problem.

I unfortunately witness quite a few parents every week who miss the self awareness to do this, and, as a result, problems divide them from their children instead of strengthening the bond ('look at yourself! what have you done!' vs. 'oh, the ice cream is on the floor - how can we clean this together?')

Second book I'd like to recommend is Respect and be respected - this is a fundamental book of our family. Unfortunately, it might be hard to get as it's an english translation of a great Czech book, but the key concepts are very well summarized in here (the book has nothing to do with the Bible).

Last, be a great example, as you'll realise that children are firstly the mirror of yourself and their environment.

So, there - to me, it seems that 95 % of problems (with both children and adults we found :)) can be easily solved with energy management, providing for basic needs, paying attention (listening to children), and learning to communicate.

Hope I helped a bit.

  • I don't think dismissing the ADHD diagnosis is helpful. There are various ways to help organize a child with poor focus and attention, and that will lead to better behavior and better relationship with a parent. Learning to communicate clearly and positively is even more key for such children than usual, though, so I agree with that much at least.
    – Acire
    Feb 29, 2016 at 21:36
  • 2
    I'm not dismissing it, but I feel that it is overused and over-medicated in a world of too-old parents. "Let’s not rush to medicalize their curiosity, energy and novelty-seeking; in the right environment, these traits are not a disability, and can be a real asset." Feb 29, 2016 at 21:41
  • 3
    I guess what I don't understand is how that is relevant for a parent who does have a diagnosed child -- two, in fact. Including that opinion sounds like you're just saying "you're just old and tired, stop giving them soda or juice" :)
    – Acire
    Feb 29, 2016 at 21:44
  • 2
    I obviously cannot speak for this particular case, however it is not always possible to accurately and objectively diagnose ADHD, as there is no definitive test. Health care providers therefore rely a great deal on description of behaviour from parents. If a parent is already convinced there is something wrong, this can significantly influence the doctors diagnosis. A lot of doctors now are also concerned that ADHD is over-diagnosed.... psychiatryadvisor.com/adhd/… Feb 29, 2016 at 22:49
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    Do you actually have small childen? Your "self-awareness" bullets sort of chastise parents who dont let their children come and go as they please...doing so with young kids-toddlers-is very unsafe. Not too many 2yo's know enough to stay away from the edge of a train platform or not to step off a curb at a bus stop...parents hold them by their wrists (at times) or strap them in strollers to keep them safe, not to infringe on their freedom.
    – Jax
    Mar 3, 2016 at 17:24

Six children all under 10...I don't even know how YOU are still sane. I agree with much of the first answer but wanted to add a little something in hopes that it might round things out a bit.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 14...it is not a complicated process. Now that he is 18 we have realized that it is probably NOT ADHD but the result of having been regularly physically, verbally and emotionally abused by his paternal father. Regardless of DHS involvement, counseling and coaching his father never seemed able to discipline him without violence of some sort. He sees nothing wrong with it.

To address you question regarding discipline techniques. You have 6 children of different ages, so no, using the same technique is not going to work it just isn't realistic. Each individual child needs discipline based not only on age but personality, cognitive level and needs. You can't set a 10 year old in time out because he/she is much to old to be treated like a 3 year old. It just won't work and it will most likely create more stress for all.

Observe all 6 of your children and choose non-physical consequences that relate to them as individuals. I would also suggest that for each child over the age of 2 you set down and ask them why. Why are they doing or not doing what they are choosing to do? Why do they think it is okay to behave that way? Do they know how it makes you/others feel?

I also love the comment regarding self awareness and 100% agree with this statement as well. Are you reacting or responding to their behavior? Are you instantly upset and setting out punishments or do you stop, step back and take a moment to respond with calmness or do you react with anger? For some reason so many parents seem to think that punishments need to come instantly...I'm not sure why. It is much better to take some time, look at the situation then address it when YOU and they are ready and rational. Choose time and place.

I heard this great saying once, I can't recall who it was from, but it stuck with me. "Punish in private, praise in public". Humiliation as a form of punishment is never okay and when we punish/yell at or pull/push our children in public, in front of family or friends, we are humiliating them. How would this make you feel?

I feel for you having so much on your plate and as a new single parent you are going to be bombarded with so much advice (wanted and unwanted) so many "this is what I would do..." and the never ending questioning of your choices. But each day is new and each day is an opportunity to start over. Forgive yourself for every step back and move forward. I know exactly what it is to come from a situation where your spouse had been so cruel to your children and there is a cycle of violence that seems un-ending. But it can change, it's a lot of work, but it can be done. I MUST be done because they are depending on you to show them something different, something better, they need you to stop the cycle and start over.

Best of luck and you are in our thoughts.


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