NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — How to discipline children can be a polarizing topic. News 2 is looking for answers to questions like, what are best practices? Some tactics and styles stem from how we were raised, but does that make them right? And what techniques are more common these days? 

Nikki Burdine sat down with an expert working to teach parents skills to have happy and healthy relationships with their children.

The mission of the Family Center is to break intergenerational cycles of trauma by working with families in high-risk situations to teach them parenting skills.

“Remember that it’s never perfect, it’s always going to be messy,” said Dr. Courtney Johnson, the Vice President of Family Resilience at the Family Center. “If you try your best, whatever your best is, that is enough.” 

Gentle parenting

Sometimes, as parents, we’ve had enough and that’s when tempers flare and things get out of hand. Dr. Johnson shared some tips for how to understand your kids’ big feelings.

“You might not be agreeing with how they’re behaving right now, but you can empathize and understand why they’re upset. I understand that you’re not happy that I had to take that away from you right now. But we don’t hit little sister with that,” Dr. Johnson said as an example of gentle parenting. 

Our parenting styles also stem from how we were raised. “A lot of the parents that we’re working with, their dad spanked them, their mom spanked them or popped them on the mouth, and it worked. They changed their behavior, so it’s what they know,” said Johnson.


Discipline techniques that we just don’t see as much, like spanking, are a stark contrast to the gentle style.

While Dr. Johnson said they don’t judge either way, it’s important to understand the results of spanking.

“In that moment, they’re getting an outcome, regardless of the style. The problem is the outcome for the child is now, ‘I don’t want to do that again, because I fear what will happen to me if I do.’ So there, the behavior gets corrected. But what’s happening with that child is that they’re learning what not to do out of fear, versus other parenting styles and other skills that we’re trying to teach parents is; we want there to be a relationship.”


Dr. Johnson said there’s no one right or wrong way but what is certain is we can always go back and apologize.

“Even when we mess up, it’s okay. And then just remembering  you’re dealing with these little human beings and their brains aren’t fully developed yet. And just know they’re not setting out to behave in a way to upset you. They just don’t know how else to communicate those things in those moments,” she said. 

Above all, have grace with yourself and your child. 

The Family Center offers resources for anyone who needs them, regardless of status. Parents can take classes, participate in group sessions or even one-on-one services, and it’s all completely free. 

For more information about The Family Center, click here