For many parents, disciplining children is not an easy job. On the contrary, it is often very difficult and trying for both parents and children. Some parents avoid using any form of discipline for fear of hurting their children; others assume their responsibility reluctantly.
The classic method
Even though it is essential that your children respect a series of rules and values, some ways are more effective than others for teaching them right from wrong. Research indicates that the classic “reward and punishment” method is often a source of confusion and misunderstanding between children and parents. That method only corrects bad behaviour as it happens. We should instead encourage a reasoning process that helps children discipline themselves. Discipline should be a tool that, in the long term, helps your child make his/her own choices while accepting the consequences that follow.Parents who use the punishment system often feel tired and guilty when disciplining their children. They have the impression that their role as a parent is to police their children and punish them when they are bad. This technique has one serious problem, because it makes the parents directly responsible for their children’s actions. The parent decides everything for the child. This absolute control situation prevents the child from learning to take responsibility for his/her own decisions and following effective rules for behaviour. The punishment system implies that good behaviour is only expected in the parent’s presence. As soon as the child is in another environment, such as school, she/he may revert back to the undesirable behaviour.
A more efficient technique
A system of logical and natural consequences shows children that they are free to make their own choices, but this right means that they must accept the consequences that accompany these choices. When you clearly present to the child the choices he/she can make in a given situation and the consequences for each, the child becomes responsible for his/her behaviour. To transfer this method into practice, you need to answer one important question when your child acts inappropriately – what is motivating the child to act this way? The answer to this question will help you decide the choices and consequences to be presented to the child. There could be a variety of reasons why your child disobeys at the shopping centre, for example. Is she/he looking for attention? Does he/she want to avoid a particular situation or gain control over it? Does he/she want something material (i.e., toys, candy)? Try to understand what is prompting your child to behave this way.Once you have identified the cause, ask yourself what your expectations are in regards to your child in order to explain them to him/her as clearly as possible. Give her/him two choices (one positive, one negative) along with the consequences for each choice. For example, if your child screams for attention, you can say, “I can’t understand you if you’re yelling so I won’t be able to listen to you, but when you speak in a normal tone of voice, I will give you all my attention.” When possible, give your child what he/she asks for when he/she makes the appropriate choice.You must be firm and clear in your words and tone of voice. If your child is not happy with the consequences of bad behaviour, show compassion even while reminding the child that he/she chose those consequences in deciding to act that way. Think the consequences over thoroughly before presenting them to your child to avoid reversing a decision. Be consistent and try to separate the child from the behaviour. Remember that behaviour can be bad without the child being bad.