Children have to be taught discipline. They are not born with it. Little by little parents have to teach it to them. While teaching discipline does take time and practice, it gets easier as children learn to control their own behavior. And best of all, teaching discipline does not have to hurt either the parents or the children.
What is discipline?
Discipline is helping children develop self-control. Discipline is setting limits and correcting misbehavior. Discipline also is encouraging children, guiding them, helping them feel good about themselves, and teaching them how to think for themselves.
Is spanking necessary to have discipline?
No. Discipline should help children learn how to control their own behavior. Spanking is used to directly control children’s behavior. Spanking does not teach children how to change what they do, as good discipline should.
Won’t spanking teach children who is the boss?
Children do need to know that the adult is in charge, but spanking can teach children to be afraid of you. Good discipline teaches children to respect you. Respect goes both ways. Treat children with respect and let them have some control, and they will respect you and listen to you.
If I do not spank, then what can I do?
You can do lots of things that will help your children learn self-control. You can:
• Help them feel good about themselves.
• Show them how a person with self-control acts.
• Guide them.
• Set limits. Correct misbehavior by talking to them.
• Teach them how to think for themselves.
What can I do to help my children feel good about themselves?
Let them know what they are doing right, as well as about the mistakes they make. Hearing good things makes us feel good and makes us want to do more good things. Say two nice but true things to children for every time you correct them. Remember, when they are changing their behavior, tell them how well they are doing, even if they only improve a little.
What do I need to do to guide them?
One thing is to set routines for bedtimes, meals and chores. Routines help children feel safe, because they know what parents expect.
• Young children have a hard time going from one activity to another. Warning them a few minutes ahead helps them get ready.
• Be clear about options your children have. Make them choices that you can live with.
• Remind them of your rules. just saying no is not enough. Children often need reminders.
How can I set limits?
• Start with only a few rules. The more rules you have, the harder it will be for your children to remember them.
• Be sure you know whey you are saying no. As a parent you must keep your children healthy and safe. You must help your children learn to get along with other people. And you must stick to what you believe in. Explain your reasons for saying no. Be sure your child understands your reasons.
• Give children a voice. Children need a voice in setting limits. They need a chance to tell you what they think and feel. When children help you make rules, they are more likely to obey them. You may set many limits together, though some may have to be set by you alone.
• Say what you mean. Be clear about your limits.
Will my children like me when I set down limits? Will they think I’m a “meanie”?
Setting limits does not make you a “meanie” forever, not if you are fair. when you stick to your limits, your children may not like what you are doing. Accept their feelings, but stick to your limits. Fair limits show that you care. If you set limits by yourself that are unfair and too strict, your children will try to get back at you. If you do not set limits, your children will push and push until someone sets a limit for them.
What do I do when my children break the rules?
Stay calm. Do what is fair. Do something that makes sense and will help them learn not to make the same mistake again.
You can use these problem-solving steps to help children think through what happened and figure out how they can help themselves not make the same mistake again:
1. Have the child say what the problem is.
2. Have the child come up with as many solutions as possible. At this point, the number of ideas is more important than how good the ideas are.
3. Discuss solutions together and have the child choose which solution to try next time. Be sure it is a solution you can both accept.
4. Try out the solution.
5. Check the results. If it works, great. If not, start again.
Two important messages come across to children when you use this approach. First, no problem is so great that you cannot solve it. Second, you are responsible for your own behavior.
Source: From “Appropriate Discipline: Setting Limits with Young Children” Child Abuse Prevention Campaign, Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, 2002.