Disciplining kids is hard work. We just want our kids to follow instructions, be respectful, courteous and to grow up to become good citizens of the world. How hard is that, right? Unfortunately, children can be a handful, and often times we are at our wit’s ends, so we resort to screaming or spanking to get our message across. It almost seems like it’s the easiest method to get our kids to do what we want, but did you know that shouting at your kids can have negative consequences in the long run?
Research has shown that hitting your child is not more effective than other methods of disciplining and establishing control. In fact, excessive spanking in the long run may increase the level of subsequent misbehavior. Your child may also develop psychological issues in future (Straus, M. A., & Field, C. J., 2003).
So, what is discipline?
Discipline is the process of imparting skills and knowledge to someone – to teach. However, it is often mistaken as punishment and control. Discipline is more than just punishment; It is to teach your child the right way to behave instead of forcing him/her to comply with set rules. It involves helping your child to understand, learn, and to replicate the same (good) behavior.
Disciplining your child at a young age sets the foundation for good character development as he grows up. Hence, it is one of the most important responsibilities of a parent and it requires great patience and perseverance.
10 ways to discipline your child
If your kid does something wrong for the first time (e.g. pounding his toy aggressively), sit him down and explain to him that it is unacceptable to treat his toys in such a rough manner. But don’t stop here; explain to him what he should do instead – treat his toys with care and respect.
If he does the same thing again, it could be that he simply forgot what you taught him. Young children can be forgetful sometimes! So, don’t lose your temper just yet. Remind him again what he should and should not do. It is only when he makes the same mistake again and again that you should start punishing him to make it clear that such behavior is unacceptable.
Your child might be acting in a certain way because of reasons aside from mere disobedience. Perhaps your daughter refuses to go to school because she’s being bullied at school, or perhaps your son doesn’t want to eat his dinner because he’s not feeling well.
Rather than jumping to conclusion that your child needs to be punished for his bad behavior, ask him why he’s acting that way and how he is feeling. When you listen to your child, you can better understand the reasons behind their behavior. Of course, it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but by understanding why it happens, you and your child can find ways together to prevent it from happening again.
Just like any human being, your child wants to feel respected and valued. Regardless of the type of mistake that he makes, talk to him in a way that makes him feel that he is still loved. Avoid name-calling or talking down to your child, because that will diminish his confidence and his self-esteem. When you respect your child, your child is more likely to respect you too.
Babies and toddlers are naturally curious, so it’s perfectly normal for them to gravitate towards any kind of objects that hold interest for them. If they move towards a dangerous object (e.g. a sharp edge of a chair), firmly say ‘no’ and move them away from that object. Distract your baby with another toy and that should do the trick.
Do note that you should not yell or hit your toddler, because it is likely that they are unable to make the connection between a bad behavior and the resulting consequence (your punishment). This is because they are still at a stage where they are developing cognitive, social and emotional skills.
However, as your child begins to get older and is able to understand cause and effect, make sure that the do(s) and don’t(s) are clearly spelt out, and that consequences for bad behavior are meted out.
Communicate to your child clearly what are the rules and the consequences that they will face if they break those rules. Ideally, the consequences should be something that they value.
For a child who loves to play with toys:
For a child who loves to draw:
When your child knows what to expect after a certain action, he/she will come to his own realization that it is best to avoid doing that.
Your child makes a mistake, and you let him/her experience the outcome of that action. In this situation, there’s no need to scold or punish your child. The natural result of that action is already a lesson. For example, if your child breaks his favorite toy on purpose, the result will be that he can no longer play with it.
Follow through on the rules and consequences that you set. If you say no more crayons for a week, then make sure to stick to it regardless of the amount of tantrums or whining that your child makes.
When you are consistent with what you say and do, you make it clear to your child that you mean what you say, and you reinforce their understanding that with every action, there is a consequence that they have to face up to.
We all like to be complimented on, and so does your child. Acknowledge your daughter’s good behavior by praising her. This will encourage her to continue her good behavior.
Your son wants to have ice cream for breakfast, and when you say “no”, he whines and throws a big fit. What should you do in this situation?
Instead of getting riled up and shouting at him, tell him in a firm voice that “We don’t eat ice cream for breakfast. You can have fruits or cereal instead. Which would you like?”
By reasserting the rule and offering alternatives to his demands, you can calm him down and resolve the situation without yelling or arguing.
If you notice abnormalities in your child’s behavior, or that his behavior is getting out of hand, consult a doctor about it. Your child may have a medical condition that you are unaware of.
Click here to learn more about the signs of mental illness in children.
Remember, these ten things are not mutually exclusive. A combination of different tactics should produce effective outcomes for you and your child.
Nieman, P., & Shea, S. (2004). Effective discipline for children. Paediatrics & Child Health, 9(1), 37-41.
Straus, M. A., & Field, C. J. (2003). Psychological Aggression by American Parents: National Data on Prevalence, Chronicity, and Severity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65(4), 795-808.