The McDrill: A technique for discipline

By Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel

I believe all ideas come from God, so I am not being egotistical when I tell you that I’ve not seen a discipline technique work as well as “my” Minute Drill. Parents are exhausted from telling a child to do the same thing a hundred times, breaking up fights, dealing with attitude or disrespect, and getting a child to do what they ask him or her to do. The object of the game with the Minute Drill is to get NO pennies in your jar. Each child has a jar with his/her name on it. A child gets an instant penny for disrespect, hitting or unkindness. These behaviors need to be nipped in the bud, stopped immediately.

If you ask a child to do something or to stop doing something and the child is not responding, say, “You are on the Minute Drill. You have 1 minute to be standing next to me.” If the child fails to come, hold up a finger and say, “That minute cost you a penny!” Don’t take the penny finger back if the child whine, fusses or fumes. The finger raised becomes a penny in the jar. Should the child continue to fuss or fume say, “Keep that going and it will cost you another penny!”

Each penny in the jar represents 15 minutes off of something fun during the day: TV or media time, going outside to play, playing a family game (child needs to sit and watch the game — no media). There is always going to bed earlier and getting up earlier as consequences for poor choices. The trick is to be really “on it” the first three days; line up things for the 15-minute consequence. Once the kids hate the pennies, the battle for power ends. They hate the pennies but do not resent them as they are clearly a result of a child’s choice, not the result of a psycho-angry parent making an unfair consequence.

A mother of two boys, ages 3 and 4, told me that her 3-year-old was continually undressing when it was time to go to a birthday party. “In the past,” she commented, “I would have threatened that he wasn’t going to the party or gotten really angry. Instead, I took a deep breath and turned my wrist over to reveal my watch.” The little boy chimed in, “I know, I know, I am on the Minute Drill” and quickly got dressed.

When I began working with a 14-year-old boy, his mother had already taken every possible thing away from him for three months. Anger was king! Part of our recovery program was to use the Minute Drill. The boy had accumulated a couple of pennies. His mother drove him to a birthday party. When the boy started to get out of the car his mother said, “You have a penny in your jar. We are going to sit here without talking for 15 minutes then you can go to the party. If you fuss or fume, it will cost you another penny.” Inch-by-inch the boy changed his behavior because he, like other children, detest life being interrupted.

If a child melts down say, “It’s okay to feel angry; it is not okay to melt down. I am going to count backwards from 5. If you have not stopped the meltdown by the time I get to zero, it will cost you a penny. Then you will go on the Minute Drill and each minute you keep melting down, it will cost a penny. You can scream as long as you want and it will get really expensive!”

For ages 8 and up, give the child a specific task like, “Go clean up your room; put all dirty clothes in the hamper, hang up or fold clean clothes, pick up all trash and put all dishes in the dishwasher. You have 45 minutes to accomplish that. I will come and coach you to do anything you missed. Each minute I need to coach you on something you could’ve done by yourself will cost you a penny.”

The Minute Drill is not to be used in an area where the child has made an agreement to be present, such as being on a sports team, being in a class, or taking a lesson. Children need to learn to keep their commitments.

For dozens of examples on how to use the Minute Drill, see “Don’t Feed the Dragon” (Amazon and For private parent coaching to implement this technique, contact me at If you are exhausted from wanting to discipline your children or get them to mind, get help. You don’t have to do it alone.

For more than 55 years, Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel has been an international speaker and recognized authority on families and children. Author of five books, columnist, founder of, she is a resident of Meridian and loves spending time with her three Idaho grandchicks. Semi-retired, she speaks to schools, churches, and MOPS groups and provides parent coaching sessions in person and on the phone. She is available for parenting talks/trainings in the Treasure Valley and may be reached at Also, go to YouTube: Sandy Spurgeon McDaniel to see videos on specific parenting issues.

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