Using a rod on your child does not always translate to a more disciplined child who will turn out to be a good adult. A child is moulded by lessons learnt from you, the parent, and other adults around him, as well as the means of discipline used.
Effective discipline helps a child develop to maturity with ability to exercise self-control, accountability, sense of security and respect for all. Many parents desire to bring up their children in a disciplined, loving, God-fearing and high achieving manner. However, this is not always achieved as successful parenting calls for knowledge of ways of instilling discipline in children, which is a continuous learning experience. The following tips should help you become better at disciplining your child.
GIVE INSTRUCTIONS CALMLY BUT STEADILY
It’s normal to become angry when your child throws a tantrum but it is not wise to react in anger and beat up the child. For instance, you may have severally warned your children not to play near the road due to the risk of being run over by vehicles. However, one day your children run out of the house on to the road with their toys as a vehicle emerges from a corner at high speed. You are in shock, expecting the worst when the speeding vehicle comes to a screeching halt just before hitting the children.
Without another thought, you run towards the children, yank them off the road and give them a thorough beating while shouting and swearing at them and reminding them of the number of times you have told them not to play near the road. In your children’s young minds, your behaviour could leave the lesson that yelling, anger and violence are acceptable in relationships with friends and family. Effective punishment should not be spontaneous; it should be well deliberated. Take a moment before delivering the punishment, as children respond best to a direct, precise, calm and reasonable approach.
DON’T ISSUE IDLE THREATS When you consistently issue idle threats to your children, they stop taking you seriously. When you say, “if you don’t do your homework, there will be no TV,” it should be so. You must not allow children to watch TV if they have not completed their assignments, as your word on discipline should be final and non-negotiable. If you do not stick to what you say, your children will get into the habit of not following your instructions, as they know there will be no consequences.
BE CONSISTENT IN DISCIPLINE
Many parents are guilty of using inconsistent disciplining styles. This means a behavioural offence elicits different responses at different times. To be consistent in your way of disciplining your children, put in place a well established and understood set of rules and standards with defined consequences. If at one time your child uses a swear word and you just giggle, and the next time you impose a stiff punishment, the child becomes confused and unsure of what to expect. Being consistent in child discipline is the best way to teach them what is acceptable and what is not.
DON’T BRIBE CHILDREN Imagine this scenario. A child throws a tantrum when you are hosting visitors and in a desperate effort to quieten him, you promise him ice cream. Giving or promising a reward in such a situation wrongly teaches a child that if they behave inappropriately, they can be rewarded. A good discipline alternative is to train him to feel good doing the right thing and encourage him to behave appropriately at all times. Teach him dos instead of don’ts. This brings a feeling of positivity in your child and not negativity.
HAVE A COMMON DISCIPLINE STRATEGY
It is critical for parents raising a child together to agree on a discipline strategy. If a child runs to one parent and finds leniency, it tends to destroy the other parent’s credibility as a disciplinarian. As a precautionary measure, never override your spouse’s disciplinary decision in the child’s presence. If you have a disagreement in the way your spouse is treating or disciplining the children, discuss the issues in privacy. It’s important that parents share disciplinary roles so that children grow with understanding that both parents have authority. Do not lecture your child Many parents, especially fathers, use lecturing as a way of punishing their children. Monologues on bad behaviour can last hours yet never make sense to children who often laugh behind their lecturing parent’s back when it’s over.
A monologue does not result in learning but resentment. A better approach to child discipline would be dialogue as you try to establish the cause of your child’s bad behaviour. For example, if a child fails to do homework on time, a lecture on the value of education is probably not going to result in a change of behaviour. Instead, identifying reasons why the homework was not done and developing a plan to address them is a more productive approach.
DO NOT COMPARE YOUR CHILDREN
Some parents make comparisons between their children thinking that it will encourage the one performing poorly in a certain area to improve. You should handle each child as a unique individual because comparisons serve no useful purpose in offering hope. Instead they erode the child’s self-confidence.
DON’T USE COMMANDS
Do not issue commands and expect instant co-operation. Avoid giving orders such as, “Go clean your room!” “Go take a shower!” or “Bring me that cup!” These don’t help in child discipline but only make your children resentful because of being treated in a manner they may not approve. Your children are human beings who will have a tendency to resist when a request is made as a command. Instead, use a calm yet authoritative voice to make your requests and never forget the all-important word – please.
BE PHYSICALLY AND EMOTIONALLY PRESENT
One of the most basic human needs is to be noticed. Children want and need their parents’ attention. Some parents are often physically present, but emotionally absent. They make little time to talk with their children and keenly listen to them. Parents who communicate with their children are able to recognise what is important in their child’s life. They also get to know and understand their children better. If you don’t give your child time, they will misbehave in an effort to get your attention. Creating time for children generally improves their behaviour.