HENDERSON — During a recent class session, we talked about discipline and timeouts. I was amazed to hear that so many parents didn’t like the idea of timeouts or didn’t think they were effective. I had to catch myself and remember that I too was of the same mind a few years ago.

I remember thinking they were a waste of time and they didn’t properly correct bad behavior. I used to think only extended punishments or spankings were the only actions that would work because children are stubborn and only learn through tough love. Thinking back on it now, I only thought that way because that’s what I received and I turned out OK, or so I reasoned.

The truth was more complicated. Sure, tough love does work in many cases and delivers quick results, but the price of this style of discipline is high for all involved.

For the parents that issue it, there’s no other option but to escalate. If you spank, you have to spank longer and harder as they get older. If you take away fun for extended periods of time, you have to be the warden to this prison. Eventually, they will fall in line, but not because they decided it was best, but out of fear that you will beat or punish them again. This may work while they are younger, but what decisions will they choose when they no longer fear you?

What many parents haven’t learned is that free will is powerful. When a person makes a decision that they feel forced to make, they rarely learn anything, and they never receive the full lesson involved in that process, but when they make it because they want to, they either learn from mistakes or it reaffirms their decision. Either way, they can live with the outcomes easier and they will develop better habits and become more responsible for their actions. This is the same reason prisons don’t really rehabilitate anymore and slaves would still long for freedom after years of oppression. Things designed to break you will never leave you in a good mental or physical space, and the cooperation you get will be limited to the amount of intensity you can exert.

Discipline means to train, or teach, and we generally do this by using punishment to correct bad behaviors. Our job as parents is to teach children in ways that help them make better decisions. We teach that you should have a balance and use rewards and praise even more than punishment. When we reinforce the positive behaviors, children get excited to make the right choices and by default the habit of doing right will become the go-to action out of excitement rather than fear, building strong bonds of love and respect between you.

Love is always the answer and yes, it may take longer, but love is an action word and it requires us to be our best selves.