No child is born perfectly behaved, they are taught to behave by parents; teachers and peers. It is very important that parents teach their child what is right or wrong and the best way to do this is to discipline without anger or violence. Disciplining an older child is different from disciplining a toddler. They now have a voice and the ability to explain their bad behaviour and they also won’t respond very well to the ‘naughty corner’.
- Set Rules: Set well formulated rules for your children. Each of these must come with a reason and a consequence. Eg: you must be indoors by 5pm everyday because this is when you need to have your bath and get ready for school the next day. If you do not come in by 5pm you will not be allowed to play outside for an entire week. This gives them a rule, a reason and a consequence. Do not set too many rules as your child may not remember them or may get confused by them. Be very clear with your rules and don’t allow for any loopholes, kids will find ways to get around rules if they can. Write them down and stick them on your fridge for your child to have access to.
- Give Your Child A Voice: If your child disagrees with a rule for a valid reason give them room to talk it through with you and explain their issues. But, teach them to do this without shouting or getting angry! This also opens the lines of communication for them to talk to you about other things that are bothering them.
- Make Them Feel Good About Themselves: Kids with high self esteem are less likely to behave badly and are more likely to engage in healthy pursuits like sport and extra-murals. The best way to increase your child’s confidence is to let them know what they’re doing right and praising them for this. If they do something wrong make sure to tell them that they have done wrong, execute the appropriate punishment but don’t dwell on the negatives.
- What If Your Child Hates Your Rules: Rules are not designed to be liked, in fact it’s highly unlikely that they will be. But, if you don’t set limits for your children they will never learn what is expected of them. You wouldn’t want your child’s boundaries set by a school principle or policeman.
- Discuss The Issue: If your child has done something wrong discuss it with them. Give them a chance to explain their behaviour and why they did what they did. Do not let them get away with what they did, but do give them a chance to talk through solutions to their problems with you.
- Possible Punishments: There are various possible punishments for children, depending on the severity of the crime. It is also important to note that each child will respond differently to different punishments. For some a severe talking to will do, while for others no telephone for a week is necessary. You know your child and you will know the best way to discipline them. Smacking is not an option and nor is screaming and shouting.
Below are a few discipline methods. Remember though that the older your child gets, the more you should lean on discussion of the wrong act rather than punishment. Communicating with your child is one of the most important things that a parent needs to do. The only way you will help your child is by talking to them.
- Naughty Corner: The best method for toddlers and younger children is time out i.e. the naughty corner. Find a location in your house, have a chair there and inform your child that is the location where they will go when they are being naughty. It has to be the same area at all times. The time that the child is in the naughty corner for is consistent with their age i.e. 2 minutes for 2 years of age, and no more. It is also essential that when you place the child in the naughty corner you explain to them why they are there. It is essential that you collect them from the naughty corner after the appropriate amount of time and request an apology for their actions. The discipline method works best for children aged 18 months to 5 years.
- Removal of Privileges: Once children start actual school i.e. aged 6 we suggest the method of removal of privileges. Naughty corner does not really work anymore as the children have outgrown it and they are now old enough to understand consequences of actions over an extended period of time. If your child is being naughty go up to them, inform them that if they do not stop they will have a privilege removed. It is essential that you give your child the opportunity of rectifying their misplaced action so that they realise the cause and effect relationship and that they have control over their own actions. By doing this you are making your child aware that their life is in their control and they do have power over their own actions. This is important for lessons learnt later on in life. Privileges that we suggest being removed are:
- Rights to play dates with friends
- Favourite food / treats
- Going to the movies
This method of discipline works best with children aged 6 to 12. Any older and it starts becoming more of a game about control issues rather than anything else.
- Punishment Fitting the Crime: As a parent you have now entered the “teenage” years and punishment takes on a whole meaning to the word. Naughty corner, removal of privileges and any other punishments that you gave over the years are now simply a joke to your teenager. If you think not, we urge you to seriously reconsider that thought. In fact you may just find your 13 year old mocking you behind closed doors while at her friend’s sleep over. Regarding punishment during the teenage years we strongly urge parents to firstly communicate with their naughty little adult as to the reason that the act was executed and find out from them, their thoughts on the matter. Discussion is perhaps one of the best forms of punishment as this means your child has to think about the action and the result. We also suggest that you then dish out a punishment that is fitting for the crime i.e. if your child snuck out to go and visit a friend, then ground them for 2 weeks. If your child watched pornographic videos then remove the use of electronic equipment for recreational purposes for 2 weeks. If your child was caught smoking, then do not allow your child to be with his/her friends for 2 weeks, do 3 hours of supervised research on the internet regarding the downside of smoking and possibly take them to the cancer ward at your local hospital. I am sure you get the idea. Just make sure that the punishment is stern enough that your child will think twice before opening that bottle of Tequila!
Disciplining a child is a complex and individual decision. As said above each child is different and will have different needs in terms of discipline. It is impossible to give you a fool-proof guide to discipline. If you find that your child has severe behavioural problems it might be time to seek the help of a professional. They will be able to advise you on the best way to deal with your child’s specific problems. The most important thing is not to turn a blind eye and act like nothing happened.