When children misbehave it can be very difficult to think of anything other than making them stop. For many children this means punishing a child, such as by taking away the item involved in misbehaviour, by telling a child that (s)he will not be able to attend a favourite activity later, or even by Smacking The Child. Many parents think that punishing a child will teach him or her discipline, but this is not the case. Punishment and discipline are two very distinct concepts and they should not be used interchangeably as they so often are.
Discipline and Children
Disciplining children helps them to realise what has gone wrong, that they have become out of control and that they need to regain control before an activity can continue. This is done in a positive and consistent manner so that children can see the pattern of what is appropriate behaviour and what is inappropriate behaviour. It is also done through a variety of positive options so that when children realise that they have acted inappropriately, they can select an alternate, more appropriate course of action for the future. Discipline does not seek to simply call out children’s faults or misgivings (which very often is the basis of punishment), and instead uses praise for appropriate behaviour to gain results.
Discipline is also never physical (while punishment very well may include swatting or smacking), sarcastic, belittling or disrespectful. Finally, discipline is a means of leading by example. Parents who want to teach their children best behaviour display this behaviour themselves rather than saying one thing and doing another. Unfortunately, punishment very commonly is the result when children copy something inappropriate that their parents have done, which is not fair to anyone.
In order to teach children Self-Discipline, adults must act as regulators and supervisors for a time so that they can teach children what is appropriate and what is not. There are many methods of disciplining a child, and some may work particularly well for one child but not at all for another. This is normal. Most children do not respond well to all methods of discipline and so a wide range should be tested to find out which method suits which child.
Ignoring misbehaviour and encouraging positive alternatives, putting a child in open-ended time-out to allow him or her to regain their self-control, discussing inappropriate actions and how to make up for them, Using Sticker And Star Charts to map good behaviour, and giving a child two positive options for future actions are all methods of discipline that help redirect children to more appropriate behaviours. Delivering discipline in private, in a controlled voice or even a whisper and while an adult is kneeling down to look directly into a child’s eyes will likely make the episode more efficient for everyone involved.
It’s never fun when a child loses control or misbehaves, but such situations are a natural part of growing up and maturing. To help them along the way, parents should take care to discipline their children and help teach them self-control rather than punishing them and having no one at all learn from the situation.