No Drama Discipline: How to Respond When our Children are Uncooperative or Reactive

No Drama Discipline: How to Respond When our Children are Uncooperative or Reactive

The ultimate child-raising challenge is discipline. Parents react to misbehaviour in various ways. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson’s book called “No Drama Discipline” illustrates an approach that provides an effective and compassionate way for dealing with tantrums, tensions, and tears without causing a scene. The authors explain how to reach your child, redirect emotions, and turn a meltdown into an opportunity for growth. By using their “1,2,3 Discipline” strategy, the cycle of negative behaviour can be brought to a halt. See below for details on this strategy:

1, 2, 3 Discipline, The No Drama Way

  • One Definition, Two Principles, and Three Desired Outcomes
  • Short-term goal: Gaining cooperation now
  • Long-term goal: Building our child’s brain


  • Discipline means teaching
  • The parental response is going to largely determine what a child takes away from the experience and if a parent’s focus is on consequences or punishment, then a child’s focus will immediately shift
  • Instead of immediately giving consequences, initiate a conversation
  • Give children an opportunity to exercise their upstairs brain by helping them consider their actions and how they affected others


  • #1: Wait Until your Child is Ready
    • Once you’ve connected and allowed your child to come to a place where he/she is ready to listen and use his upstairs brain, then it’s time to redirect. Not before.
    • Misbehaviour often happens because a child isn’t able to regulate his big feelings. When emotions are not regulated, his upstairs brain has gone off-line.
    • Ask yourself: “Is my child ready? Ready to hear, ready to learn, ready to understand?” If no, then most likely need more connection. (or for older kids: time and space)
    • Also important to ask yourself, “Am I ready?”


  • #2: Be Consistent, But no Rigid
    • Consistency: working from a reliable and coherent philosophy so that our kids know what we expect of them and what they should expect from us.
    • Rigidity: maintaining an unswerving devotion to rules we’ve set up, sometimes without having even thought them through, or without changing them as our kids develop.
    • Goal is to be consistent but flexible
    • Respond intentionally in a way that considers what works best for our child and our family, even if it means making an exception
    • Remember what you’re trying to accomplish. What do you want to teach?
    • Ask children to come up with creative responses


  • #1 Insight
    • For young children we might facilitate this process simply by naming the emotions we observe
    • For older kids, open ended questions are better
    • Every time a child gets specific and discusses his own emotional experience, he gains more insight into himself and deepens his own self-understanding
  • #2 Empathy
    • Asking questions and helping our children make observations about the impact of their behaviour is more effective than preaching sermons, delivering lectures, or giving consequences.
    • The more we give our kids practice at considering how someone else feels or experiences the situation, the more empathetic and caring they will become.
  • #3 Integration and Repair of Ruptures
    • After considering their own feelings and reflecting on how their actions impacted others, we want to ask them what they can do to create integration as they repair the situation and make things right.
    • We can appeal to the upstairs brain by asking questions about repairing a situation: “What can you do to make it right? What is a positive step you can take to help fix this? What do you think need to happen now?
    • Repairs are not easy for us or our kids. Especially when children are little or if they have a particularly shy temperament, parents may need to support them and help them with their apology.

In summary when children:

  • deepen their ability to know themselves,
  • Consider the feelings of others
  • Take action toward repairing a situation…

…they build and strengthen connections within the frontal lobe, which allows them to better know themselves and get along with others as they move into adolescence and adulthood.