There’s nothing more cringeworthy than having a mall full of strangers stare at you while your little one decides to throw a temper tantrum. Been there, done that, got the World’s Worst Mom T-shirt too. All parents go through it and we all want to raise well-behaved children that can function effectively in the world. But if we’re being 100% honest with each other, the art of discipline is one that’s hard to master.
Temper tantrums, fights between siblings, or having to repeat the same things over and over again is endlessly frustrating and we always seem to question ourselves and our parenting techniques first. So let’s talk a little more about discipline…
Discipline refers to the process of teaching your child to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour. And there are endless theories on how to go about disciplining your child – from traditional forms of physical punishment to ignoring bad behaviour and only rewarding good behaviour.
RESEARCH HAS FOUND that forms of physical punishment such as regularly hitting children when they behave badly can actually reinforce aggressive and even criminal behaviour in adulthood. In addition, studies have also found that such children often lag in terms of their development, demonstrate lower IQ scores and also possess a higher risk of developing psychological difficulties later in life.
ON THE FLIP SIDE, many child-rearing experts have suggested that children respond better when their good behaviour is rewarded, as opposed to punishing them for bad behaviour. Promising your child rewards such as a toy or treat in exchange for good behaviour is an effective temporary solution that rarely translates to long-term improvement. When behaviour is rewarded with material goods it is unlikely that children will start to exhibit good behaviour on their own accord, simply because they know there is no reward in it. This form of discipline also does not help to teach children why they should behave in a specific manner, but merely that if they have to endure something they find unpleasant they will be rewarded for ‘putting up with it’ in the end.
THERE IS NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL SOLUTION when it comes to discipline, but most experts suggest that discipline should be dependent on theses few things:
- Type of behaviour being displayed
- The child’s age
- The child’s temperament
- The parenting styles employed at home
With the above points in mind, try these tips when enforcing discipline at home:
- Speak to your children about acceptable and unacceptable forms of behaviour and why it is important to behave in a certain way.
- Establish clear rules and discuss possible solutions to prevent bad behaviour.
- Always make sure they understand what the consequences will be for bad behaviour.
- Make sure that such a discussion is done in a constructive manner and preferably refrain from doing so when your child has disobeyed you or is upset.
- Be consistent in your approach. Rarely following through on agreed forms of discipline can create confusion for your child and often yields little or no results in terms of changes in behaviour. Consistency creates predictability and helps to establish a definite link between the child’s actions and the consequences that follow.
- Reward good behaviour but move away from promising material rewards such as toys or money. Instead, compliment your child when they demonstrate good behaviour in order to make good behaviour intrinsically rewarding and to enhance self-confidence and a willingness to cooperate.
- Keep calm when enforcing discipline and don’t underestimate how powerful a kind tone of voice can be. Research has shown that yelling at children often only escalates the problem and can have the same negative impact as found with physical forms of punishment. Use clear and direct statements when talking with your child and sometimes it is best to say less as opposed to a long-winded lecture to ensure that the point remains clear.
- Be respectful towards your child and serve as a role model for good behaviour, especially in situations where you have to discipline them. This is, however, often much easier said than done. When you find yourself in such a situation where you might have overreacted, make sure to apologise to your child and use it as a learning opportunity for both of you.
- Ensure that you do not assume the worst before you have granted your child the opportunity to explain and don’t dismiss your child’s experience, even if it might seem ridiculous. Even adults get upset when told to ‘calm down’ or ‘it isn’t such a big deal’.
- Be mindful of what behaviour is appropriate in terms of your child’s developmental level. Sometimes parents can make the mistake of demanding behaviour that children are unable to demonstrate as they still need to develop certain skills.
The benefits of employing well thought-out discipline methods can include a happier and more peaceful household for you and your family. While there might be days when it is easier to enforce than others, commitment and consistent practice help to create predictability and lessen the stress that might escalate already difficult situations. Many behavioural difficulties may not be in your child’s control and could be symptoms of something else. If you believe that your child’s difficult behaviour might relate to other possible causes or contributing factors, talk to us about what you’re experiencing. Contact The ADD Lab by emailing email@example.com or call (011) 888 9334.