The Discipline Method I’ve Used for Over a Decade

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In my years of raising children I have grown to understand that there are many different child discipline methods out there. But, there is one method that I have used for a very long time. It is called the Oreo Cookie Method…. or so our family counselor called it.

When my oldest son was little there were discipline and behavior issues. He was diagnosed with depression and ODD, which is Opposition Defiance Disorder. His father and I had separated when he was 18 months old and went through a stressful divorce that spread out over almost two years.

From the time our son was 4 years old until he was in 2nd grade he and I saw a counselor together. Filial Therapy (also known as play therapy) was orchestrated to try and help my son. It really is a very interesting process. I also took classes from our counselor to learn to do this at home with my son. One of the things I learned in this process was that often times, especially when children feel like they have no control, they lash out more.

Our counselor reminded me that children like control and sometimes our delivery of discipline really can change the tone, especially with very defiant children. She taught me what she called the Oreo Cookie Method and I still use it to this day and I share it with moms often!

 child discipline methods

She told me the story of a professor she studied under in college. I am told this is a method he used with his children. (Let me also add, my family counselor is a Christian woman with grown adult children. She was seasoned.)

One of his children wanted Oreo cookies. He told the child she could have one.  The child started to throw a tantrum demanding the number of cookies she wanted, not happy with the number her father offered her.

He firmly responded and told her that she could have one cookie or she could have zero cookies. He then asked her which did she choose- one or none?

The child gladly chose one cookie.

discipline method for parents and kids

Over a decade later we still do this.

When little Matthew, who will be six in a few weeks, refuses to eat dinner not eating is not an option, I use the Oreo Cookie Method. You can choose to eat your dinner or you can choose to lose _____ privilege, for example. (I always encourage them to try at least a few bites of everything on their plate. That said, if I know he dislikes a certain food I refrain from putting it on his plate.)

When Nick, who is nine, thinks he needs to play a video game for hours and hours I will remind him that he can choose to play for thirty minutes or he can choose to play for fifteen minutes. I then ask him what he chooses.

When Luke thinks he can pile the Milano cookies onto a plate after eating lunch, I give him a choice- he can choose three cookies or one cookie, for example.

While this is not our only form of disciple, it is where we start often times.

We also do time out… even for the almost 14 year old.

We also use spankings as a last resort if the punishment meets the crime.

We also believe that children should be obedient and do as they are told, always respecting authority. That said, we do like to deliver things to them in a way that does not always feel like we are saying no, no, no.

Ah, raising kids is not easy is it? And they certainly did not come with a manual.


Books About Child Discipline Methods and Behaviors:

These books are on my bookshelf…. or loaned out to friends and family.

  1. Love and Logic
  2. No More Misbehavin’
  3. The 5 Love Languages of Children
  4. Boundaries with Kids


  1. We use that method a lot, too! Recently, we’ve been going through Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp. It’s very challenging, but in a good way. 🙂

    1. Jen, thanks for sharing! I am going to look this book up!

    2. Wait. I have this book. Well, kind of. As soon as I looked it up on Amazon I recognized the cover. I scoured my shelves and there it is… the Parent’ Handbook. I remember ordering it last year, maybe the year before, but ordered the handbook instead of the book for reading. Added it to my list for the future! So glad you shared your recommendation!

    3. If you think shepherding a child’s heart is good….you should definitely read “don’t make me count to three!” It provides dialogues you can have with your kids….along with Bible references to point your kids towards the Lord…..

  2. I second the Shepherding a Child’s Heart recommendation. I’m also reading through a brand new book called Motivate Your Child and it is also very good. You are so right that children like to be in control. Offering them a choice helps prevent a lot of stand-offs!

    1. Good to know! I really need to order the book so I can put the workbook to work. lol

  3. Not so much a discipline book, but one of my favorites was “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers.”

  4. love this method! I will definitely be trying it out on my 4 and 9 year old. Thank you for sharing at our FB Share Day!

  5. I also do same with my daughter who is four years old. When she wants to watch cartoons on iPad for all day long… I tell her, if she wants for one hour or I will not give her whole week …
    Then after one hour I remind her and she happily leaves and asks for next day…
    This really works..

  6. Separated Dad says:

    Thank you for the article, all the book recommendations. My wife and I are (hopefully) about to finalize our divorce (we separated last June – kids started swapping residences every Friday last July) and my 4 year old son has been acting up a lot at school. Not just disobedient, but violent – throwing furniture, ripping things off the walls, punching, shoving, kicking, etc. My 7 year old daughter went through a bit of this last Summer when she was getting used to the week-on/week-off situation. She’s better, but could probably still use some of these techniques too. This coming Friday we’re taking our son to his first Filial Therapy session. He does have a behavior reward chart at my residence, but not at his mother’s. The chart I have works, but he’s more driven by a tangible goal (eg. new monster truck if he makes good choices all week). Hopefully the Filial Therapy will help him deal with the anger he has about us all not living in the same house.

    I’m definitely going to order these books right now.

  7. Leanne Rossi says:

    I am the mother of three children who are now in their mid-to-late thirties. When they were old enough, I kept a calendar on the fridge. Each day had a chore or something they had to read. If by the end of the week, they had each completed the days successfully, they got to have their favorite friend for a sleepover. I had two boys and one girl. So we alternated with theirs and her friends. (Well-behaved friends of course). This worked very well, giving incentives to behave. We also had kid and teen parties and if someone seriously misbehaved, they didn’t get to go. Also, let your yes mean yes and no mean no. Warning them not to do something or there will be consequences and then not following through is dooming your parenting. Sometimes it hurts us as much as them to give discipline.
    I once turned the car around and went back home instead of going to a planned swim and picnic because all three were misbehaving.
    Also, when they were teens, I wanted them to learn to cook. They looked at my cookbooks or I would suggest things and then buy the ingredients and offer help if they wanted it. All three are great cooks. This also kept them busy and thinking.
    I home schooled them from 8th grade on and always made sure we had plans and activities with other home-schooling families.
    I limited television watching and made them go outside and use their imaginations. They still talk about the things they did. We did have a few video games but not any violent ones. Their use was also limited.
    I read to all three of them pretty much every night before bed. Mostly old-time favorites that were many times very funny and we would all fall over laughing on the bed.
    Movie watching was limited to PG and if there were any occult or horror tones to a movie, we didn’t see it. They went along with that through their teens and still do now.
    Nothing is perfect because we aren’t perfect, but the little successes add up to big ones in the end. My kids have thanked me for bringing them up the way I did. And one of the mothers of my sons’ friends also thanked me for my and their influence on her son. So, that feels very good.
    Just thought I’d share a few of my thoughts on the subject.

  8. Tamie Jordan says:

    Spanking should NEVER be an option. Discipline should always be handled in a way that follows the rule that discipline in not punishment but rather guidance and teaching. Could you respect someone who chooses to be violent toward you? Spanking is NOT love. I like the idea of choices. No child is always obedient. We learn from our mistakes and from our choices. I teach parenting and I always encourage my clients to remember that they are raising future mothers and fathers. How would you have wanted to be treated as a child?

    1. I appreciate you sharing your opinion, but I disagree. We do not give many spankings in our home, but I certainly believe there are times when a spanking fits as a consequence for disobedience. I was spanked as a child. I also grew up to be a functioning citizen of society who is also mentally stable, compassionate, loving, attentive and also a very dedicated parent.

      If we do not raise our children to respect authority, the prison system will do it for us.

      1. Oh, so sad.. you are just the another example of how difficult it is to break the circle of violence. You have been spanked as a child and you do the same to your kids.. Congratulations.. You said that regardless of being spanked you ‘also grew up to be a functioning citizen of society who is also mentally stable, compassionate, loving’. Great, but can you imagine how much better you could have been without all the spanking? Also can someone explain, please, how the kids, whose behaviour is shaped by all the elaborated system of rewards, charts, points etc. will motivate themselves when there is no material reward to follow their ‘good behaviour’? How about internal motivation, the drive to do certain things, just because they are right or nice to others (or on the other hand – not doing things which are forbidden or bad). Will appreciate.

  9. Parenting is not an easy job, and every child is different.
    We have tried to do something similar to this approach — love the name you gave it!
    Sometimes kids just need to know they even though they have boundaries, they do still have a choice. Like you said, you can have one, or none.

  10. I totally agree Crystal and disagree with Tamie. Spankings are necessary for certain circumstances. Everyone I know has had a few spankings as children, including myself and we all are well rounded, happy, loving and in most cases extremely successful, high paycheck earners. This notion of spanking being a double standard is ridiculous. Great article!

  11. This is an old post, but I have to chime in here. Crystal, I hope you do not feel bad about what you said about spanking, especially after the comment that suggested you could have been even better if you hadn’t been spanked at all?? Yikes, what an awful statement to say about someone else’s life. I came from a loving family that used spanking sparingly, but guess what, our lives (mine and my siblings’) then and now do not cling to any spank that we may have received. There was no “pre-spanking” me and “post-spanking” me. In fact, I do not remember even being spanked (though I’m sure I was at least once), but I do remember moments and words of impatience or feeling embarrassed or ashamed, which happen on occasion as well, all sans spanking. I myself do not use spanking very often because I have found it just doesn’t work with most of my kids: they completely lose focus of what they did wrong in the first place, but I do feel like people who criticize others for spanking occasionally are losing focus of the real issue with spanking, and that is when it is used by parents who have lost control of their temper, a key component of effective parenting.

  12. Love this OREO Cookie Method – we use the same method but I’d never heard it called by that name. Pinning to my parenting boards. Thanks for tips! I can also say we have the exact same books on parenting on our shelves – great wisdom there!

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