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It’s safe to say that one of the most pressing questions on parents’ minds is “How do I discipline my children?” or “Is discipline important or necessary?”
According to Vinti Mittal, Director of SACAC Counselling, “Discipline is not only good for a child; it’s necessary for their well-being. Without discipline, children lack the necessary tools to navigate through the challenges in life – for example[,] discipline help[s] the child differentiate an appropriate behaviour from an inappropriate one – it helps the child understand their boundaries.”
While there is no surefire way or cookie-cutter method, here are some guidelines you can follow to ensure your child behaves – whether it is at school or at home.
Set limits and be firm about them
According to this study by Karen DeBord, Child Development Specialist at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, children may resist when there is excessive adult control. Therefore, it is key that kids are taught to make their own choices.
The whole concept behind setting limits is to teach boundaries. When a child breaches those boundaries, they need to understand why. Not knowing creates tension, a sense of guilt and hostility. Essentially, the goal is for them to make decisions without incentives or bribes.
It is not about punishment
Discipline should form a way to guide and manage a child’s behaviour. Having said that, it is crucial to develop a trusting, caring and reciprocal relationship between your child and yourself.
Give positive reinforcement
It helps to give positive reinforcement for good behaviour such as praise or attention. As Mittal states, a good method to adopt is to have clear communication with your children and have clearly defined messages. However, you should avoid rewarding them too often as you do not want “to raise a child who will behave well because they will get something” in return.
Role play the right behaviour
Kids pick up cues from their surroundings easily and you can be a role model by demonstrating your actions in different settings. Your behaviour matters when it comes to how your kids learn and ultimately, they will see you as an example to learn from.
Instead of harsh punishments, withholding privileges teaches children that these privileges come with responsibilities and have to be earned. For withholding to be effective, you need to establish the rules and consequences beforehand to ensure your child understands what is expected of them.
Only take away something that your child values and not what they need, such as meals. Connecting their misbehaviour to the action is also more impactful. For example, if your child didn’t finish their homework because they were watching television, take away television time.
Lastly, be consistent in your actions and make sure the rules stay the same. Frequent changes will confuse your child and they might push further to test your limits.