More on Discipline - part 1

Boundaries, Discipline and Punishment

Setting boundaries and disciplining your child is the beginning of social edict. We are marking out the boundaries that our society expects ie - What is accepted as good behaviour and what is not acceptable. The boundaries you set at a young age will last your child for life; alternatively the lack of social skills you instill within your children will often be the bench mark that leads them into adulthood. We have all seen unacceptable behaviour in adults, this invariably stems from a lack of discipline or boundaries set during toddler hood. Our ultimate goal as parents is to encourage self control and to help our children to understand and manage their own behaviour.

As parents we are responsible for teaching our children socially acceptable behaviour and self-control. This is accomplished through appropriate and consistent discipline and boundary setting. Our children then learns about consequences and taking responsibility for their own actions. The discipline or punishment we deal out will more than likely set the standard for their actions and reactions later in life.

What is discipline?

Firstly let’s have a look at what discipline in not – discipline is not physical punishment – hitting, or smacking or verbal abuse such as yelling or threatening a child.

So what is discipline? Discipline is discouraging bad behaviour and encouraging good behaviour by using rational and positive action.

Results from physical punishment

Parents are role models for their children thus the importance of positive parenting. What children see you do they will copy. They see your actions as approved of and therefore is the correct thing for them to do also. Inflicting pain to stop a child from behaving badly only teaches them violence is OK. For example if you smack a child for doing something wrong and they see their younger sibling doing something they perceive as being wrong, they will believe they are doing the right thing to correct their sibling with a smack. This is why it is very important that we lead by example.

Physical punishment may also cause problems such as:

  • Psychological or physical injury

  • Undermining a child’s sense of justice, trust and fairness.

  • They may turn to lying to avoid physical punishment.

  • They may become fearful or withdrawn

  • They may become aggressive or develop bullying behaviour

  • It may damage the parent-child relationship

  • It may do irrefutable damage to a child’s self-esteem, self-respect and dignity.

  • You have also let slip an opportunity to teach your child self-control and responsibility. Some of these may become long term problems affecting their adult lives.

Alternatives to physical punishment

Once we have established that physical punishment is wrong, what else is there? Firstly we need to understand that it is in their nature for children to please parents, to do the right thing. Children are seeking approval and love, therefore one of the easiest ways to encourage good behaviour is to recognise, acknowledge and praise good behaviour. This shows them what is expected from them. By reinforcing and giving attention to good behaviour your child will be less likely to seek your attention through bad behaviour. Secondly children are to understand that bad or unacceptable behaviour is not tolerated and that there are consequences to their actions. If a child is aloud to get away with unacceptable behaviour it is like saying you approve of their behaviour. Therefore unacceptable behaviour is to be corrected. How does one correct unacceptable behaviour?

Strategies to discipline

Discipline is part of learning about the consequences of your actions. With young children the consequences need to follow as soon as possible after the action and should be relevant to the behaviour. These may include:

  • Distracting the child

  • Removing the object

  • Isolating the offending child from the group.

  • Taking ‘Time out’ – spending time alone to reflect on their behaviour and regain their composure before returning to the group.

Part 2 'Time - quality time and time out ' will be continued in our next newsletter....


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