Helpful Discipline Approaches for Your Bipolar Child

One of the most difficult parts about having a child with bipolar disorder is probably the role of disciplining them.

Sometimes they might be hyper and with a hint of disobedience, other times depressed, gloomy and lethargic. The difficult thing here is to know how to discipline without triggering their bipolar symptoms. You don’t want to make things extravagant in the name of disciplining a bipolar child.

In this article, we will go over different types of discipline approaches that can work well for children with bipolar disorder: time-outs, logical consequences, rewards/incentives, and natural consequences.


What is Bipolar Disorder?

A mental illness that causes extreme mood swings and can impact a person’s behavior, thoughts, feelings, and daily activities. Bipolar disorder can be mild or severe. It is not uncommon for children to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder before the age of 19.

How to Discipline a Bipolar Child?


When a child does something unacceptable, it’s important that they learn what behavior is acceptable and unacceptable. A good way to help the child learn good behavior is through “time out”. To make use of time out, explain to the child the guidelines of what’s expected. This could involve simple rules such as “don’t slam the table, it’s bad”, “don’t run out in cold rain it’s dangerous for your health”, “or don’t throw stones at the neighbor’s window”. The goal is to prepare the child psychologically for any consequences.

The next step involves giving the child a time out for breaking the rules. For example, in the event that the child slams the television using a remote controller, a good time out will involve “no television watching till afternoon”

A time-out allows them to take some space away from an environment where their actions may lead to adverse consequences (such as screaming at someone when they are upset or slamming the television).

During this time, parents should make sure they don’t give any attention to the child until after they’ve calmed down completely. This way, your child will know that if they act up again during another episode, then there will be no hope but to have another time out.

Logical Consequences

Another type of discipline involves logical consequences, which basically means disciplinary measures taken because something negative is happening.

For example, if your child throws a tantrum and knocks over a plastic cup containing juice—  some logical consequences could be to clean up the dripping juice, probably without help.


Rewards can also play an important role in bipolar disorder discipline for children. Rewarding good behavior with fun activities, praise, treats, etc. Although classroom teachers are advised to refrain from food items and rather use stationeries or toys. It’s recommended to give the rewards as immediate as possible.

Rewards help improve your relationship with the child while increasing positive behavior at home and school (if applicable). The child gets accustomed to the concept of acting positively which ultimately brings them a reward.

Again, It is important for parents to avoid accidentally overlooking opportunities, or dwelling so much on one side of habits. Both positive and negative behaviors are meaningful

Responding to learners complains

Discussing the problem with your child can be helpful, and surprisingly may always lead to a change in behavior. More often than not, the root of their complaints lies with something else; entirely different from the context. In that case, you will need to offer more guidance or resources if they need any.

Teachers are often trained to encourage the child to open up in case of environmental or physical difficulties. Whether teacher or parent, try to keep a genuine conversation with the child.—not exaggerated anger or praise.

Set up a schedule to keep them on track

Creating a daily schedule can be helpful if your child has trouble staying organized. Many children with bipolar disorder struggle to keep track of time because their thought process tends to bounce around (especially during manic or mixed episodes). A schedule will help them stay on task for the appropriate amount of time, and then they’ll get rewarded when it’s over!

Spend time with the child

Spending time with your child can help them feel more secure and supported. When they’re struggling, it’s important that you show any interest in what they have to say, so that their bipolar symptoms don’t overwhelm them. If possible, try going on a walk or engaging in another activity together each day (even if it is for a short amount of time).

Keep track

Keep track using a journal of what works best for the child, and don’t be afraid to make changes when needed. Changing your approaches enables the parent to fine-tune to the best approach among a plethora of approaches.

Have them aware of what’s coming for supper

Having your child aware of the next meal and/or bedtime prepares them psychologically of what to expect, and subsequently reduces tantrums. When the child knows he’s about to eat veges in four hours’ time, there’s a greater chance for a positives outcome. Conversely, a random meal will undoubtedly trigger the child and perhaps end in meltdown or utter rejection of the impending meal.

Break the task into small chunks

Break tasks into smaller chunks if it helps your child focus. While this might not be an option for every parent, it’s a good way to help children with bipolar disorder stay on task and complete their work as expected. Breaking tasks also reduces the chances of a meltdown.

The main takeaway here is that disciplining a bipolar child will probably always involve positive and negative reinforcement whenever possible. Both are cognitive-behavioral therapies used by child psychologists for normal kids, autistic, ADHD, as well as bipolar children. There may be no way of preventing bipolar— at least for the moment. Scientists are yet to uncover the root cause of the bipolar disorder.

Fortunately, with the strategies above, a bipolar child will certainly become disciplined and perhaps even improve academically and reach for the stars. The herculean task usually lies in uncovering the child’s problem. Once figured out, then the child can be assisted with appropriate strategies.


National Institute of mental health. (2021). Bipolar Disorder.

Last Updated on September 29, 2021