DISCIPLINE VERSUS PUNISHMENT
As a parent, you may wonder what discipline strategies are the most effective. Is it wrong to raise your voice? Should you give your child a time-out or just an icy stare? It is essential to understand that discipline does not happen only when your child misbehaves. It is part of your education system that not only encourages proper behavior, but also promotes resilience, independence, strength of character, and solid values. There are two sides of discipline: proactive techniques that promote good behavior and reactive techniques used in the moment when your child is misbehaving. The more proactive you are, the less reactive you will need to be.
Here are a few proactive techniques to help you achieve those goals:
1. Determine the root of the problem. If your 5 year old throws a tantrum at night when going to bed, she might not be oppositional, but rather might have nightmares or be afraid of something. Then, figure out with her what could help her feel better. Maybe a nightlight and a picture of her parents on her nightstand. Involving your child in the solution will give her ownership over it and promotes self-discipline.
2. Be authoritative, not authoritarian. Setting limits is of course necessary, but if you make all the decisions and ask your child to follow your rules, then you ask your child to be obedient. Instead, let your child help establish the rules, set goals, compromise, and work as a team. For instance, your child may help devise a chore chart at home and an older child could help set limits on how much screen she is allowed to have on weekdays and weekends.
3. Make sure everyone is clear about the rules and their consequences if they are broken. Set realistic consequences and follow through. If you do not, your child learns you do not mean what you say. If you clarify your expectations and the consequences for poor behavior in advance, your child is more likely to behave properly the next time. For instance, if your children fight in the car, tell them before you leave that if they misbehave, you will pull over to the side of the road and wait until they are ready to stop.
4. Encourage your child, but limit rewards. Rewards can be motivating to a certain extent as you do not want your child to be so reward-focused than he does not want to do something unless there is an external incentive. A child’s main motivation to behave well should be her own sense of accomplishment, not just pleasing the adult. When you say to your child “I am proud of you”, you praise her, but when you say “You must be proud of yourself”, then you encourage her. Encouragement is an essential component of education as it teaches your child to seek inner satisfaction rather than looking for constant approval. Your child needs to learn how to self-evaluate instead of relying on others.
Keep in mind that discipline has two functions: one is to ensure that children have a consistent and a safe environment in which they can learn and understand the importance of reasonable rules and limits and the second is to nurture self-discipline that will help them develop resilience and let them deal with frustration and mistakes.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.