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Spare that rod?

Does disciplining a child mean punishing it or allowing some at times. Where do you draw a line, asks Kanchan Apte.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2008 17:20 IST
Kanchan Apte

Does disciplining a child mean punishing it or does it mean allowing some fun once in a while. Where do you draw a line? A friend of mine complains that her sister is a strict mother. She insists that her son eats only at the dinning table and never in front of the television.

The pre-schooler has to eat on his own and the mother refuses to feed him. The child is not allowed to eat chocolates or watch cartoon—ever.

I thought to myself, if this is strictness, then what would constitute as discipline.

Thin line
There is a fine line between discipline and strictness. You are disciplining your child by doing all the above, but if you don’t allow some concessions or are constantly shouting to make the child behave, then it is being needlessly strict, says Jyoti Modak , a counsellor.

My teacher friends tell me children love discipline — a certain routine and firm dos and don’ts are a must.

Most schools follow this routine. As long as the parents are firm about issues like junk food or cleaning your plate or being polite, the
children don’t find it difficult to cope.

Change in routine
The problem arises when it’s not part of the routine for the child but the child is still expected to behave because you have guests.
Priya , a school teacher, believes that discipline helps children become independent and learn rules that everyone lives by. With abundant praise for good behaviour, you give the child a fair idea about approved and unapproved behaviour.

If there is no discipline, the parents have to be strict in dealing with a situation, often resulting in a rebellious child, says Modak.

Discipline need not be military. In fact, the earlier you start with discipline, the easier it will be to drive home your point, says Priya.

Practise and preach
With working parents and a rise in income, it’s become convenient to spoil the child, which usually results in irrational behaviour as
an adult, says Priya. There are many ways which vary from nature of the family—working or non-working, joint or nuclear, the age of the child or activity involved.

The parents could draw up a list of activities and talk it over the child. For instance, if the child is not allowed to have his meals watching television, the parents need to follow the same rule and explain the child why it is not allowed.