Children grow up in a different environment today and spanking or harsh punishment is less acceptable. Each child is unique with different character traits and temperaments, but parenting experts generally agree on the few discipline measures below that work!
Timeout is appropriate discipline for young children, where the child is taken to a designated timeout area to calm down and be told why certain behaviour is not acceptable. Timeout should be kept short (a minute for each year of child’s age) and the child should not be allowed to play or watch television during the timeout. Apart from being told what not to do, children should also understand what the desired behaviour is. The discipline methods adopted for younger children should be fast and simple – waiting too long after the misbehaviour or making it too complicated will confuse the child.
Boundaries and rules have to be enforced consistently – not doing so can create confusion for the child and soon, the child starts to wonder what the limits are and test the limits. For the same reason, parents should avoid making rules with the view that they can sometimes be broken. In such instances, it would be better to have fewer rules but enforced consistently, than to have many rules but always making allowances for non-compliance.
In child-centred families, parents are less likely to enforce the consequences (for instance, taking away a privilege for bad behaviour) or letting the child face the natural consequence (of destroying toys or not doing homework). A warning can be given for first-time misbehaviours and once the child has learnt what and why not to do certain actions but continue to do so, he should have to face the logical or natural consequences.
#4 Praise/ Reward
Praising the child for the desired behaviour can help to reinforce it – children sometimes misbehave to get attention as parents don’t seem to notice when they are on good behaviour. Parents should also make it a habit to praise more specifically, to identify the reason for the praise instead of a general ‘good job’. A reward chart can also be set up to guide the child towards the desired behaviours and being consistent in doing them over a period of time. Rewards can come in many forms and need not be material things – time spent at the playground can mean a lot more to a child than the latest playset.
#5 Parent Modeling
Children learn by watching their parents – good manners, attitude in life and values are more likely to be caught rather than taught. For instance, to teach younger children to share, parents can make an effort to show that they are sharing things with other family members or volunteering in a community project.
Spanking young children is not recommended as they may not be able to understand the connection between their behaviour and the physical punishment. Children may also ‘model’ spanking and in turn, hit their friend or younger sibling when they are upset. The problem with spanking is in part the delivery of the punishment, where parents may use too strong a force, not explain clearly the reason for the spanking and allow spanking to be a habitual form of punishment rather than for specific misbehaviour. Various studies on the effects of spanking had shown associations with behavioural issues, delinquency and lower self-esteem.
The overriding principle in disciplining children is to remember to focus on the behaviour rather than the child. The child should not be shamed, teased or threatened to not be loved. The child should still be loved and a loving relationship helps build trust between parent and child, helping both to stay connected as the child grows older.