Many mothers and fathers associate the word “discipline” with punishment and see it as their duty to correct their children’s behavior through a variety of stern measures, including spanking. Yet punishing a child is only one small part of discipline, and corrections can be made without harshness.
Unqualified love and reasonable limits are the twin components of all effective discipline. Using both, parents can guide their children towards good behavior. Once you have discovered all positive methods of discipline that are available to you, you can reserve punishment as a very last resort.
Discipline requires that you establish a balanced system of rules and that you enforce them consistently so that your child will always know where you and she both stand. Discipline also requires the kind of home atmosphere and environment that promotes good behavior.
Playing by the rules
Good discipline requires not just love and patience, buy clarity of purpose. Nothing works better than a reasonable set of rules that establish boundaries beyond which the child may not stray without encountering parental intervention.
The first rule you make, in the early years when the child is not mature enough to understand the potential consequences of her actions, should be designed to her safety. As the child matures, rules can grow in number and variety, but by no means should they become so numerous that they overwhelm and confuse.
Effective discipline also requires time, patience above all a willingness to teach – rather than merely impose – the rules you have laid down. You must be able to explain them as often as may be required to get them across.
The benefits of limits
By setting limits on your child’s behavior, being consistent in their application and spelling out the consequences that her actions can lead to, you are adding to her sense of security.
Use simple words and a voice that is authoritative but not bossy. Situation permitting, say “please do this,” more often than “Don’t do that!” and be flexible.
Do not let the child get away with a behavioral no-no one time and then come down hard on him the next time. This will befuddle him and weaken your authority. Tell why rules must be followed. Instead of issuing a terse “because I told you so,” explain the rationale behind your decisions and rules.
Never demean or embarrass your child
Discipline is not meant to shame or embarrass. Always treat your youngster gently and, whenever possible, discipline him in private.
If you have a sound, realistic reason for wanting your child to adhere to your standard, and can explain it to him, that is enough. Do not cajole him or attempt to make him feel guilty for an act in the hope that you can play on his guilt the next time he misbehaves.
Discipline without comparisons
It will get you nowhere to point out to a youngster whom you are chastising how much better a sibling or a playmate behaves. He can learn from the examples of others, but not when under pressure.
Discipline at the moment
Do not delay the consequences of your child’s misbehavior. Postponing punishment creates undue anxiety in the child, and the impact of the discipline is diluted when punishment is distanced from the act.
Monitor the result of your discipline efforts
What ever techniques you choose to use with your child, always observe his reactions closely to make sure your methods are bringing the intended results.
Do not dwell on issues
Young children, amazingly resilient, can usually absorb discipline, adjust and move on while their parents are still fretting over the incident. Once you have takes action, let the matter be over.
Offer praise and encouragement when your child responds positively to your discipline
Nothing works as well as approval, and your child will be eager to show you how he can follow rules once he has obtained your blessing.