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Disciplining Your Child

THE MOMENT one talks about discipline, the image of punishment flashes in the mind. But in reality discipline is not just another word for punishment. All of us need to discipline our children because it is likely to teach them responsible behaviour and self-control.

india Updated: Apr 18, 2006 14:03 IST

THE MOMENT one talks about discipline, the image of punishment flashes in the mind. But in reality discipline is not just another word for punishment. All of us need to discipline our children because it is likely to teach them responsible behaviour and self-control. With appropriate and consistent discipline, children learn about consequences and taking responsibility for their own actions.

At it’s best, discipline rewards the child for good behaviour and discourages bad behaviour using fair and positive means. Some parents think that discipline means physical punishment, such as hitting and smacking, or verbal abuse such as yelling or threatening the child. This is not discipline.

Children misbehave for many reasons

They are too young to know that their actions are unacceptable.
They are frustrated, angry or upset and have no other reasonable way to express their feelings.
They are stressed by major changes, such as a new sibling or school related issues.
They want your undivided attention.
They feel you have been unfair and want to punish you.
They need a greater degree of independence and feel constricted.

The need to stick to rules

YOU NEED to be consistent with rules of behaviour, or else you risk confusing the child.

If you are amused by your child’s naughty behaviour, try not to show it on your face, or else your child might think you approve.
Don’t bend rules too often, because the child won’t know whether or not a certain behaviour is permitted.
Clearly explain the preferred behaviour, to make sure your child understands what you expect of them.
Make sure you’re not expecting too much
Don’t make empty threats, or your child will ignore your warning signs.
Ask your child to be involved in some of the rule making for the family.

Try explaining the consequences

GOOD DISCIPLINE helps a child to learn that there are consequences for their actions. Ideally, the consequence should immediately follow the action, or else the child may forget and fail to make the connection. Teaching your child about consequences may include:

Cleaning up a mess they have made
Tidying up their toys when they can’t find the one they are looking for
Spending time alone when they have been naughty
Playing by themselves when they have been aggressive.

The ‘time out’ technique

MANY PARENTS use some form of ‘time out’ to discipline their children. Time out means asking the child to be alone for a while to think about their actions. Children under three years of age don’t have the intellectual maturity to understand time out, but it can be a valuable opportunity for self-reflection with older children. As a general guide, time out can be around one minute for every year of your child’s age.

Lastly don’t forget that every child wants the love and approval of their parents, so one of the easiest ways to encourage good behaviour is to reward and praise them for it.

(The author is a Psychologist and a professor of Psychology at BSSS. He can be contacted atdrvinaymishra@rediffmail.com)