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Inductive Discipline – Why it is the best

American psychologist Martin Hoffman theorized that there were three types of parenting: induction, power assertion, and love withdrawal. Among them, inductive parenting was believed to be the best because it was associated with many good outcomes in children. Let’s find out what inductive discipline is and how it is used in parenting.

Inductive reasoning is a method of reasoning in which general conclusions are reached through inference from some evidence. This is in contrast to deductive reasoning, in which specific certain conclusions are reached based on evidence.

Here’s an example of inductive reasoning. When someone hits you, you feel hurt. Therefore, when you hit someone else, that person must feel hurt, too. Even though you are not absolutely sure that is the case, induction allows you to draw a general conclusion with some confidence.

inductive techniques parenting explains to son with induction child development

What is Inductive Discipline

Inductive discipline is a parental disciplinary method that involves using reasoning (induction) to explain parents’ actions, values, and disciplinary approaches. Inductive parenting is a parenting style that uses inductive discipline to set clear limits, remind children of the rules and discuss with them the reasons for socially-appropriate behavior. 

This parenting style produces better outcomes than the power assertive parenting style​1​.

Authoritative parents often utilize inductive discipline to introduce rules, set expectations, and control children’s behavior​2​.

Benefits of Inductive Discipline

Less behavioral problems and delinquencies

School-age children whose parents used high levels of inductive discipline in early childhood were found to be less likely to have behavioral problems or delinquencies​3​.

Better emotional self-regulation

Inductive discipline relies heavily on verbal communication and allows parents to serve as external regulators of young children. Children learn to regulate their emotions, inhibit disruptive behavior, and self-regulate​4​.

More empathy and prosocial behavior

Children whose parents use predominantly inductive discipline, as opposed to power assertion discipline, are more prosocial. Using induction, parents teach children their values, allowing them to internalize social conventions in age-appropriate ways. These children develop empathy, which leads to more prosocial behavior​5​.

Better critical thinking skills and higher academic performance

Indictive reasoning is one of the basic learning skills and is central to the functioning of children’s intelligence and cognition development. Research reveals that inductive discipline is highly correlated with academic performance. Through using inductive discipline, parents can help their children practice this critical thinking skill​6​.

Stronger moral values and altruism

Hoffman’s theory suggested that parents who use inductive discipline encourage children to focus on learning the reasons behind their parents’ actions. They explain to the children how behavior can affect others. Anything we do can have natural consequences and influences on other people’s lives. These children can develop and consider other people’s needs. They have stronger moral values and are more altruistic​7​.

How to Use Inductive Discipline in Parenting

Tip #1: Use reasons

The essence of inductive discipline techniques is reasoning. When disciplining, instead of focus on the misbehavior itself, concentrate on the reason why that action is inappropriate and how it can affect others.

Tip #2: Start early

Studies found that children as young as 18-month-olds can start to understand reasoning. Even though they may seem to not “get it” at first, keep trying. Like any new skills, it takes practice​8​.

Tip #3: Use discipline to teach, not to punish

Know the difference between discipline and punishment – to discipline means “to teach”, not “to punish”. Teaching and learning are processes, not the results. Allow children the opportunities to practice and to fail. When kids make mistakes, help them understand the reason why it happens and how to prevent it.


  1. 1.
    Spera C. A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. Educ Psychol Rev. June 2005:125-146. doi:10.1007/s10648-005-3950-1
  2. 2.
    Alegre A. Parenting Styles and Children’s Emotional Intelligence: What do We Know? The Family Journal. December 2010:56-62. doi:10.1177/1066480710387486
  3. 3.
    Choe DE, Olson SL, Sameroff AJ. The interplay of externalizing problems and physical and inductive discipline during childhood. Developmental Psychology. 2013:2029-2039. doi:10.1037/a0032054
  4. 4.
    Chang H, Olson SL, Sameroff AJ, Sexton HR. Child Effortful Control as a Mediator of Parenting Practices on Externalizing Behavior: Evidence for a Sex-Differentiated Pathway across the Transition from Preschool to School. J Abnorm Child Psychol. July 2010:71-81. doi:10.1007/s10802-010-9437-7
  5. 5.
    Krevans J, Gibbs JC. Parents’ Use of Inductive Discipline: Relations to Children’s Empathy and Prosocial Behavior. Child Development. December 1996:3263. doi:10.2307/1131778
  6. 6.
    Csapo B. The Development of Inductive Reasoning: Cross-sectional Assessments in an Educational Context. International Journal of Behavioral Development. 1997;20(4):609-626.
  7. 7.
    Eisenberg N, Morris AS. Social Justice Research. 2001:95-120. doi:10.1023/a:1012579805721
  8. 8.
    Repacholi BM, Gopnik A. Early reasoning about desires: Evidence from 14- and 18-month-olds. Developmental Psychology. 1997:12-21. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.33.1.12


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