Sometimes, parents and teachers find it hard to cope with their child’s undisciplined behaviour and resort to using the rod. But, is that the best way to instil discipline in a child? Certainly not.
By Arun Sharma
In September 2017, the video of a teacher slapping a student no less than 40 times for 'not standing up during the attendance calling' shook the whole nation. The student was slapped, but his self-esteem was battered by the action of the teacher. It wasn't a stray incident. Almost every other day, we come across newspaper reports, videos or images on social media of a child being beaten up by a parent or teacher. While the mistreatment being meted out to the child fills us with a sense of outrage, we rarely spare a thought about the way we treat our own child. Such incidents only reinforce the need for 'positive' approaches to discipline.
Of course, children of all ages, especially younger ones, learn the ways of the world by pushing boundaries. In the process, they often tend to overstep their limits or behave in an undisciplined manner. And, this invites the parent’s wrath, and the child ends up at the receiving end of a stick. But, this is not the solution. For, resorting to physical abuse can affect the child's emotional health in many ways.
Here are some ways beating can have a negative impact on the child:
Lowers self-esteem: Physical abuse and punishment make the child feel bad about himself. His confidence level takes a dip and his self-image hits a low.
Instils fear: The physical pain and mental agony caused by the act of being beaten or slapped makes the child afraid of the person who indulged in the act. As a result, it affects the relationship between them. This fear also manifests in other areas of life affecting the child's attitude and performance.
Triggers rebelliousness: Rather than correcting the child, beating may only make the child become a rebel and commit similar wrongdoings again and again. This rebellious streak will, in the long run, become a trait of the child's overall personality.
Leads to aggressive behaviour: The child begins to believe that 'might is right' and indulges in physical abuse himself. He resorts to bullying and beating others. His overall behaviour may turn out to be rude and overbearing.
Causes anger and frustration: The child will be filled with a mixture of emotions when he is physically assaulted. Anger, despair, frustration and other similar feelings overwhelm him and, in the process, take away the focus from the problem at hand. Therefore, parents may not be able to correct the wrong behaviour but only end up causing emotional pain to the child.
There are better ways of dealing with your child’s discipline issues. Let’s look at some of them:
Set rules and consequences: Can a young child understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the absence of clear guidelines? The answer is ‘No’. So, sit with your child and tell him in clear and simple language what is considered acceptable behaviour. This will give your child a clear understanding of how he should conduct himself. Also, discuss with him and come up with a list of consequences for breaking the rules. But, while framing consequences, keep in mind that the larger objective is to make your child realise that he was wrong and shouldn’t repeat his actions. Time-outs and denial of what is dear to your child usually works the best. When you impose a consequence, tell your child to think about his actions and how they hurt you.
Praise your child's efforts: Children hold their parents in high esteem. So, a few words of praise from their parents for his little efforts is more encouraging, satisfying and motivating than any other gift. Develop the habit of praising your child for the effort she puts in to do something good and fruitful, irrespective of the result. This will spur her to act in ways that make you happy, and elicit your approval and praise.
Spend time and communicate with your child: As children grow up, they extend their personal space as well. This, coupled with your busy lifestyle, can create a communication gap between the two of you. Inadequate levels of communication can prevent you from understanding your child, and also make your child hesitant to interact with you. So, make it a point to spend time with your child every now and then. Talk to him about his concerns, what makes him feel good, what he wants to do and so on. Not only will this allow you to understand your child and handle him in a better way, but also bring your child closer to you.
Involve your child in activities: You must be familiar with the adage, ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop’. Being full of energy, enthusiasm and ideas, children need to engage in a lot of activity. The absence of opportunities to release their excess energy can make children feel bored, irritated and destructive. This can give rise to inappropriate behaviour. So, apart from giving your child toys to play with, take her out as well. Take your child to the park, the beach, or other such open areas where she can run around and play. If there are no such places around your neighbourhood, just take her out for a walk and engage her in a conversation. This will make your child feel relaxed, connected and happy, which will also reflect in the way she behaves.
Seek professional help: We may not have solutions at all, or at least not effective ones, to all the issues that we may be facing. However, help from professionals is always at hand when you need it. In situations where you are unable to come up with solutions to the issues you are facing, seek the help of counsellors or psychologists.
Although picking up the rod may seem like the easiest way of instilling discipline in a child, it is certainly not the right way. It can send out several wrong signals to your child. For example, your child may grow up with the idea that hitting someone is acceptable behaviour or that hitting is an acceptable form of punishment. So, instead of resorting to beating your child to instil discipline, come up with ways that allow you to handle him in a calm and composed manner.
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