Parenting and discipline is a subject that has been hotly debated in recent years and much of the reason for this arises out of the word ‘discipline’ itself, which paints a picture of unreasonable and harsh punishment in many parents’ minds. Indeed, the debate has meant that many parents today have chosen to adopt an approach that is best described as being excessively permissive.
We all need discipline in our lives and have to know what is right and wrong and what we should and should not do. We also know that there are many things in life which we have to do, even if we don’t particularly want to, and that self discipline is essential if we are survive in the modern world.
But we are not born with self discipline and it is something that we have to learn as children and something that as parents we have to teach our own children.
Perhaps most important lesson we have to learn as parents is that children are individuals and that what may work for one child will not necessarily be effective or appropriate with another.
We also have to realize is that discipline needs to be linked to a child’s level of understanding. In large part this is a function of age, but individual children develop at different rates and this needs to be taken into account.
There is little value for example in attempting having a deep and meaningful discussion with a two year old about the rights and wrongs of taking sweets from the shelf in the local corner shop. Similarly, sending a fifteen year old to her room simply because ‘I say so’ is not going to have the desired effect.
The answer lies in acknowledging that any response to poor behavior has to be appropriate to the age of the child and also effective for the individual child.
Another very important principle of discipline is that your response to poor behavior needs to be considered and that the child needs to see that your response is a considered one. You should always avoid reacting to bad behavior on impulse or simply out of anger.
Parenting When Angry Might Not Be Very Effective
If you find that you are angry then take some time to compose yourself before reacting. If necessary, walk away from the situation to decide what to do, possibly discussing an appropriate response with your spouse, before saying anything or taking any action. The delay shouldn’t be too long of course and it wouldn’t usually be appropriate to punish bad behavior days or weeks after the event. However, ‘sleeping’ on a problem can sometimes be very helpful.
Dealing with a problem teenager after a good night’s sleep can be very effective, giving the teenager time to consider what he or she has done and also giving you time to think carefully about both the lesson that the teenager needs to learn and how best you can go about teaching it. At the same time, sleeping on the problem will also show the teenager that you are concerned about what has happened and that you have taken the necessary time to consider your response, rather than merely reacting on impulse or out of anger.
Discipline is not always an easy part of parenting, but it is certainly necessary. The realization however that your role is not merely to punish your children but to teach them to develop a valuable life skill will help considerably in taking away much of the unpleasantness often wrongly associated with disciplining your children.