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Motivation and encouragement make a child an eager and happy learner. When parents use these two as disciplining tools, the outcome is more likely to be successful. This approach is called ‘Positive Discipline.’

The approach of ‘Positive Discipline’, attempts to teach and guide children gently to the right ways of life. It does not cause high voltage conflict situations nor does it coerces them to obey the directions.

The discipline that leans more on punishment or parents’ angry outbursts is self-defeating. It leads children to hide facts from parents out of fear of punishment or to avoid unpleasant situations. Sometimes when children find themselves in this predicament they turn for advice to outsiders, and often the outsiders are their peers only who lack the maturity to guide. The outcome of all this could be worse than the original offence.

Discipline is not about punishment or control. It is about guiding your child by connecting with her through a bond of love and mutual trust in an attempt to equip her with a set of values.

Why do parents need to discipline their children?

1. Help children distinguish between right and wrong: Many a time the behaviour of children puts parents in an awkward situation. For example, you go out visiting a relative and come back frustrated as your child wouldn’t stop jumping on the sofa there. Children are spontaneous as they are not aware of the consequences of their actions. Sometimes they may even act in a manner which is not safe. Therefore, establishing clear rules regarding acceptable behaviour is essential. It is equally important to explain to them the need for these rules and the consequences of their violation. This awareness will help children draw lines between right and wrong.

It is desirable to involve children while framing these rules. When this happens, children own the rules as their own rules and are better prepared to act within the defined parameters. Their effort to choose ‘the right’ must be noticed and applauded. The rules needed for a pre-schooler will be different as the ones for a teenager. Hence, a review of regulations must be taken up as and when required.

To see their parents following the rules sets in a tone of discipline in the house.

2. Lead children to make right choices:  Specific values, like compassion, empathy, hard work enrich life. Discipline should lead children to make right choices – choices that do not always concentrate on self-gratification but consider others’ happiness too. In the process of making right decisions children acquire values like empathy and consideration. They also acquire skills needed to manage their emotions, time and pocket money, all very essential to lead a happy life.

To develop this ability, parents need to give options to children to make their choices. When children are small, give them simple options, like,” Will   you like to wear a red dress or a blue one?” Gradually parents should pose tougher situations where decision making is difficult. For example, “We had decided to take your friends tomorrow for a picnic. Now your Granny wants to come over tomorrow to meet us all. Do you mind if we go for a picnic next weekend? She will be happy to meet you. What should I tell her?” Or “If you play for too long you will have no time left for doing homework. You want your Ma’am to be happy or annoyed with you?”

Parents need to help children become aware of the consequences of their choices.

3. Encourage self-reliance: Some parents are too eager to help their children and do things for them which they ought to do by themselves. Parents carrying school bags of their children while dropping them to the school bus stop, or packing their school bag or keeping their toys back are some common examples.

Dependency deprives children of learning those skills which help them grow into responsible beings, ready to face the challenges of life successfully. Thus discipline should aim to make children self-reliant.

Parents can start from simpler chores and gradually make them responsible for more significant responsibilities. It is advisable to include children in simple family decisions to make them feel that parents value their opinion and trust their judgement.

4. Develop a spirit of co-operation: It requires efforts to discipline children to be tolerant of each other. They are self-centric, and it does not come naturally to them to think of others, especially when they are young. So right way is to lay the foundation early. Begin with simple steps, such as encouraging them to take turns at swings or to share their toys. Arrange play dates, organise picnics or story sessions to help them experience the joy of each other’s company. This joy acts as a motivator to share, to help and to cooperate with friends. 

Once children imbibe the spirit of co-operation they find greater acceptance within their peer group which contributes to the development of social skills which in the journey of life bring happiness and success.

5. Teach patience: We understand the value of patience when we see people driving their vehicles and overtaking others, jumping red lights or incessantly honking as they don’t have the patience to wait. Even getting in a bus without being pushed or jostled around is not possible. Therefore, it is vital that children are taught to be patient as early as possible. Tough task, as children want instant gratification. A toddler would yell or scream or throw a tantrum if her demand is not met. Train the children to be patient.

If a parent is on the phone, the child will have to wait for her turn to speak. Make them wait for their turn and then attend to their call.

6. Respect for elders: It is a common sight to see many elderly standing while the younger lot is occupying seats in buses or waiting lounges. It indicates youngsters’ attitude lacking respect and consideration for elders. But worse is to observe the lack of concern and love for the old parents who are left to languish in old-age homes by their children.

Create opportunities where children spend time with their grandparents, engage in conversation or play games with them and attend to their needs. Parents can lead the way by being role models. Exhibit the behaviour you want your children to imbibe.

We as parents need to keep in mind that there are no bad kids but bad behaviour and it is the discipline that sets a foundation for good behaviour. It is about teaching children a system of values that makes them good human beings.

With inputs from Sheetal Sharma, an academician of repute, who is also an author for children’s books.

This Story was first published in the print version of SUBURB May 2019 issue.

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