How do I discipline my child fairly? How do I know that it will work, and I am doing it the right way? For many parents, these are the questions we ask ourselves.
How do we create the best values, and do the right thing by our children and help mould Adults who are responsible, caring, and have strong values. The best place to start is to define what discipline is. Discipline is about teaching and helping them regulate their own behaviour, emotions and actions.
Usually when our kids, are acting in a way that we do not agree with, it can be the simple fact that they do not yet understand what we expect of them. Also, it can be a way of expressing their feelings that they do not know how to express any other way.
A great way but one that can be challenging is to ask them questions. For example:
Is there something wrong, are you feeling bad or upset?
Do you need a cuddle, or some love?
Identifying the cause of the behaviour is the best place to start, as when we identify this we can also help our children express what is going on. If you want your child to do something, explaining why is often helpful to the outcome. For example “When you eat vegetables, you are making your body strong and healthy.”
Having a routine and structure also helps, as does allowing your child to be involved in decisions. For example in our home, we brush our teeth before bed that is a rule we all follow, so this has become easy to implement. We tell our daughter, she has only one more show to watch on television, and to come and tell us when it is over. She always proudly runs in the kitchen to tell me she has finished watching the show, at which point we both turn the television off.
And if she is misbehaving we have found it best to ask her why? She is strong willed, so we are and will have some debates :).
Our children learn by our actions, having rules, and being involved in the decisions. When your child simply won't behave and you feel there needs to be consequences, they need to be aligned with the behaviour.
They need to happen soon after the event as practical. As the longer you leave it the less likely the child will know why they are being punished. They need to know what the best behaviour is, and what you expect of them. Your child always needs to feel loved, safe, secure and listened too.
Your Baby (0-1)
Your baby needs no discipline at all they do not yet understand the world and they are simply trying to communicate with you. Another misconception that we will touch on is that you cannot spoil your baby with too much love. That is right, it is impossible.
They need to learn new skills, you are their teacher, and showing them the way in a calm and well-communicated manner is the best approach. At this age, the do not understand consequences, and if they express their feelings it is best to acknowledge and listen to them. For example, they might say they do not feel like breakfast, and the best thing to do is gently prod them throughout the morning, and ask them if they are hungry yet? Eventually, they will eat, and there is no point forcing them.
3 to 4 years old
We are still very much teaching at this age, and we need to show and explain to our children what we expect of them. If they feel loved and understood, they will be more likely to go along with your request. It is a lot like the Television example we gave above. If you tell them in advance or show them they will be more inclined to follow.
5 - 12 Years
At this age, your child certainly knows more about consequences, and they have started to understand a lot more about themselves. At this age, you can start to tell your child about your feelings, and what makes you behave in certain ways. This helps them understand other perspectives and behaviours.
It is also helpful to ask them about their feelings and thoughts, so that they may share with you how they see the world. Remember we are all-different, and just because they are your child does not mean they are going to see the world they way you do.
At this age, it is important to understand your child and build an open and healthy communication channel.
Discipline is a tricky subject, but in summing up the consequences need to match the action. Before the age of 4, it is best just to build trust and communicate with your child. And from five onwards, if they are running around the house and knock over a drink, then they should clean it up. But taking their bike off them for a week is not aligned with the action.
We hope these ideas are helpful, and would welcome any questions you might have. Staying calm is sometimes a challenge, but one that will reward you and your child for a lifetime.