Disciplining Your Children - Do's and Don'ts

We all know about disciplining children. But do you know how to do it right?

In most Asian families, corporal punishment is the way to go. We’ve all been there, a victim of the infamous cane or even slipper! However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Corporal punishment can bring on a vicious cycle of escalating poor behavior and more severe punishment.”

“But I turned out fine!” You might exclaim.

Be that as it may, the way that you were brought up and the environment then versus now, is extremely different. Children gain much exposure to the world from an early age, much more interconnected and exposed than we couldever imagine. Research has shown that children who experience repeated use of corporal punishment tend to develop more aggressive behaviors, increased aggression in school, and an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognitive problems.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also stressed that having a good relationship with your child does not mean that certain behavioural issues won’t occur. In fact, even in cases where warm parenting practices occurred alongside corporal punishment, the link between harsh discipline and adolescent conduct disorder and depression remained. So think twice before using the cane again!

How then should we bring our child up in an environment that is nurturing and will ensure that they do not develop behavioural or cognitive probems? Firstly as parents, we need to understand that trust, stability, safety, and security are the keys to helping children develop the skills they need to manage their behaviour.

Discipline shouldn't be about controlling kids, but rather, teaching them to control themselves. Hence, it is best to use techniques that will teach your children to know what went wrong, learn from it and hence cultivate good judgment skills which is quintessential in making choices in future.

There are five rules for disciplining your child, also known as Positive Discipline, a program developed by Dr. Jane Nelson based on the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs.

  1. Positive discipline is firm and kind at the same time.
  2. It helps children to feel a sense of belonging and significance.
  3. It works for the long-term, unlike punishments that work only for the time being.
  4. It teaches life skills and social skills that will help them to respect others and solve conflicts peacefully.
  5. Lets children discover their capabilities and use their personal power in constructive ways.

Disciplining does not mean to punish, but to help improve behaviour with positive and negative consequences. It is very important that your child knows that you love them and that these boundaries are set to help them in life. Hence here are 10 discipline techniques that will not only help you discipline your child, but also build a safe environment for them to grow up in. With these methods in mind, you will be able to create an environment that is suitable for your child to grow and learn.

Discipline 101:

1. SET LIMITS

How do you know or test one’s limit? By pushing it till the breaking point. Same for your child.

He or she (in one way or another), will push and trigger you in every way imaginable until they know what is the breaking point. In order to prevent it from even reaching this stage, you should let them know what the expectations are in each situation, and what is allowed of them. That will also help you know better how to discipline if they end up misbehaving later on. Doing this with empathy is they key difference here. Your child will learn that the behaviour that they started, created the consequence and repeating this behaviour will result in the same consequence.

For example: Your child throws his forks onto the floor. You say “Forks are not for throwing, they’re meant to be used for eating”. If he does it again, you can remind him again and tell him that if he repeats it, you will have to take the fork away. And if he does it a third time, take away the fork sternly. When this happens, your child will scream and cry.

The key here is that you do NOT give in. Offer him empathy instead. Say, “ I know it’s hard for you to not throw your fork. But I can’t let you do it. We can try again when you are ready to use it for it’s intended purpose”. No threats, no punishments, and no scolding. Even though it was taken away, he knew you were on his side and he didn’t feel humiliated.

2. HAVE CONSEQUENCES

Use threats, not in the “I’m going to hit you” kind of way, but rather to tell them that if they misbehave one more time, they will have to suffer a certain consequence. The problem with having such consequences is very often the follow through. Act on your words and mean what you say. Very often, we feel sorry for our child and hence we relent.

But it is precisely this relenting and giving them their way that allows them to trod all over us. Your child will never believe a word out of your mouth unless you follow through with actions every single time. We talk and talk and talk but never do it. We tell our children: “This is the last time.” “Only ten more minutes. “You will not get the dessert anymore” But we don’t act on our words.

In positive disciplining, consequences have to be set and followed through when the limits are crossed. This is different from being cruel. Very often, we relent and give in to the children because we feel sorry for them. However, bear in mind that even when we stand by our words, we can show empathy and prove to them that we are on their side. If we don’t do this, they in turn don’t learn the consequences of their actions and keep repeating the mistakes.

3. IMPLEMENT A TIME OUT

When a child misbehaves, immediately dedicate a place inside the house without distractions for them to go to, in order to reflect on their actions and calm down Make sure to inform them why they are sent away. Setting a time out is a useful a consequence for toddlers ages 2 and above till 12.

It is a proven approach that aids in enforcing self discipline and self control in children. An apt amount of time for a time out is the child’s age in minutes. Leave the child until the time-out is done.

Therafter, talk to them clearly about what transpired and discuss how they are going to alter their behaviour moving on. Have a fresh start with a new activity when the situation blows over. Time out is a way to redirect attention by taking a break or enforcing quiet time. This is as simple as walking away from an activity or focusing on a different one to gain back control and get a grip on emotions.

4. NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT

Toys and food are some of the best motivators for children to do what they are told. It’s as simple as warning them that they will lose the item until they can do what they’ve been told to. Make sure to follow through with your words otherwise your child will not take you seriously.

For instance, one way that will help your child learn to appreciate these privileges as a gift instead of a given, are things like decreasing favourite pastimes such as watching TV will incentivize them to obey the rules you set.

Some methods that you could try are:

  • Enforcing an earlier bedtime
  • Less screen time
  • Less time with friends
  • Taking away privileges (removing electronics for 24 hours will hurt and be remembered more than a spanking will)

5. NATURAL CONSEQUENCES

When your child forgets something or breaks something, do not run to their aid. Let natural consequences take its course and let them work out how best to solve their own problems.

What this means is – for instance, if your child forgets to bring something to school. Do not bring it for them but rather let them suffer the consequence of getting reprimanded by the teacher.

After awhile, they will come to understand that their actions can create effects, and thus they need to be more responsible in the future.

6. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT

When your child conducts themselves in a way that you’ve been striving towards, be sure to compliment them! Give them a reward or token system and let them know how proud you are of them! It is instinctive for people to want to please others and over time, they will want to keep making you happy you by behaving themselves.

Doing so will help solve behavioural problems while bringing them up in a safe and secure environment.

One trap that a parent can fall into is overgiving of rewards, so be sure to wean off the gifts so as to not nurture an entitled child.

7. IGNORE THEM

If you realise that your child is misbehaving on purpose to attract your attention, take no notice of it, especially if it is a minor issue.

For instance, if they start calling you repeatedly to attract your attention to buy a new toy, try to see how it’s like if you ignore them. Chances are, you’ll be astonished at how quickly they want to get your attention for good behaviors, instead of bad.

8. OFFER CHOICES

Life is a trade off between choices and this lesson is best learnt from young. Teach them this and let them live with the choice they choose. Sometimes, your child is wants to be in control of the situation. Giving them choices that you are comfortable with as well will allow your child to ultimately feel like they are in control the situation. This also helps them to learn when they make the wrong choice, to live with the consequences instead of trying to wriggle their way out of taking responsibility.

9. CHOOSE BATTLES

You and your child will definitely think and act differently depending on the situation. What you need to do is to choose your battles. Which is the fight that is more important? Which is the battle that you cannot accept losing?

Being consistent with your expectations of them will aid your child to learn how to follow the rules. Before saying no to a certain thing, think about whether you really mean it. If you are able to change your mind when your child kicks up a fuss, they will soon learn that your mind is not set and they can get you to change your mind. If you are uncomfortable with bending certain rules, stand your ground when they start to pester you.

If your mind can waver depending on your mood, it will send a confusing message to your children. Remember to never give up on what you want to teach and instil in them. The faster you give up, the chances are that they will never learn to improve their behaviour.

10. STAY CALM

Remember to always stay calm as most children, especially toddlers, react to your emotions. Overreacting will only propel your child’s emotional state which may result in a worse situation than before. If you are calm, your child is more likely to stay composed as well. 

 

Ultimately, the choice is yours regarding how you would like to discipline your child. Listed above are the ten ways that we here at Weekend Kids feel is the most important and necessary ones to enforce discipline but yet stay their friend.

Here's a quick summary of the points listed above

Regardless of what the struggle or the argument may be, remember to take a break from it once in awhile! Some people need to cool down after a fight and taking a breather may just be the solution for the both of you. Have you and your child go in different rooms to calm down. Eventually, this will allow both parties to stand back and observe the situation in order to be better able to communicate what the problem is when you have both have cooled off. 

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