In trying to teach their children to be disciplined and well-behaved, sometimes parents adopt methods that yield the opposite result. Here is what doesn't work and what you can do, instead.
By Ashwin Lobo
Disciplining is an unavoidable aspect of parenting because it plays a big role in helping children grow into well-rounded adults. However, many parents adopt negative disciplining techniques such as scolding or hitting, which, in the long run, worsen the behaviours they set out to correct. They focus on the mistakes the child made and mete out the punishment while ignoring the cause of the undesirable behaviour.
Parents who adopt negative disciplining techniques do so because they confuse discipline with punishment. They lose sight of the fact that the objective here is to foster and nurture good behaviours in a child. Here are six disciplining techniques that always backfire.
1. Yelling: Once in a while, most of us lose our cool and raise our voice, especially when we are overwhelmed or angered by what our child has done. However, with some parents, yelling become a habit. Usually, when parents lose their temper and yell, the child tunes them out. Also, yelling frequently makes a child get used to it, and, after some time, it no longer has the desired effect. Being frequently shouted at also makes a child aggressive. Gershoff et al published a study titled, ‘Parent Discipline Practices in an International Sample: Associations With Child Behaviours and Moderation by Perceived Normativeness’ in the journal Child Development (2010). They found: "… mothers' use of corporal punishment, expressing disappointment, and yelling were significantly related to more child aggression symptoms, whereas giving a time-out, using corporal punishment, expressing disappointment, and shaming were significantly related to greater child anxiety symptoms."
So, when you sense your anger rising and feel like yelling at your child, take a time-out for yourself. Come back after you have calmed down. Then, explain to your child how she should or not be doing things. Gently make her see what was not right about her approach.
2. Using negative words: Some of us often use words like 'No' or 'Don't' when we are disciplining but do not tell the child what we want him to do. For example, while walking in the park, when your child starts running, you may say "Don't run." This tells the child that he shouldn't run. However, it does not tell him what he should be doing, instead. As a result, the child may feel confused and act in a manner that further annoys you. For example, when the child hears you say "Don't run", he may stop where he is or slow down so much that he falls behind.
Using negative words to stop your child from behaving in an undesirable manner doesn't work. For, at times, that behaviour may be the result of the child not knowing what to do. So, explain to your child what he should do and why, instead of using negative words.
3. Shaming: The feeling of shame is painful to endure,for both children and adults. Shaming your child to punish her is only likely to fuel her anger and make matters worse. Shaming gives rise to negative emotions and affects the self-esteem of a child. It damages the parent–child relationship.
Instead of shaming your child for her shortcomings or mistakes, have a conversation. Try to understand why she acted in a particular manner. You can ask her questions such as, 'What made you behave in this way?' Once you understand the reasons, tell her what to do and guide her towards becoming a better individual.
4. Withdrawing privileges: Taking back the privileges a child has been given is something most parents resort to. This is done to make the child realise his mistake and make amends. However, frequent and unreasonable withdrawal of privileges dampens a child’s motivation. It makes a child feel that, since he is going to lose anyway, there’s no point in correcting his mistakes or trying to become a better individual.
Discipline your child with consequences which are appropriate for the undesirable behaviour he has engaged in. Also, be flexible with revoking the consequences when his behaviour improves. This will motivate your child to work towards improving himself and regaining his privileges.
5. Bribing: Giving their child what she wants is something most parents do to bring about a change. While bribing does give results in the short term, it proves counterproductive in the long run. Bribes fail to teach a child that it is her responsibility to think before she acts. Also, it makes a child believe that she can get what he wants by resorting to bad behaviour.
Resist the temptation to bribe your child in an effort to encourage change. Instead, reward her when she behaves well. And, if your child has got into the habit of throwing tantrums to make you give her what she wants, ignore those outbursts. Doing so a few times will make her realise that bad behaviour does not produce a positive result.
6. Hitting: Physical punishment models aggression. It instils fear in the child due to which he stops behaving badly. However, hitting never makes a child realise what he should not have done or what his mistake was. A children expects and trusts his parents to protect him from harm. But, hitting breaks this trust and damages the parent–child relationship. It also makes a child believe that hitting is an acceptable way of showing disapproval and disciplining.
Do you also have the habit of hitting your child when you are angered by what he has done? If so, then take deep breaths or count to ten or move away from the spot to calm down. Once you feel that your emotions have settled down, reconnect with your child and try to understand the reason behind the unacceptable behaviour. Also, try to inculcate the habit of praising your child's efforts when he does something good to encourage him.
Some parents, unfortunately, don't seem to understand why a child should be disciplined. Nor do they realise the harm caused to a child by negative disciplining methods. The intention behind disciplining a child is to foster good behaviours, establish positive personality traits and also, teach her how to appropriately express thoughts and emotions.
However, while disciplining your child, try to ensure that you don't negative techniques as those are sure to backfire. Instead, use positive discipline techniques that help a child learn how to set limits, make good decisions and reflect on how to do things differently when he has made a mistake. Adopting positive disciplining methods also makes a child feel empowered and increases his self-confidence.
According to *Arundhati Swamy, "Positive discipline lays emphasis on a parenting approach that turns a home into a warm, caring and trusting place where their child feels safe and secure in a trusting relationship. It shows parents how to teach their children to deal with emotions and focus on strengths. The parent’s empathy and respect help build a strong parent-child relationship. Most importantly, the outcomes of positive discipline help parents feel confident about their parenting. The benefits for children are manifold:
• The child is encouraged to explore and discover his world within safe boundaries
• The child feels confident that his parents will help him handle the big and confusing emotions
• The child learns from mistakes because parents turn those mistakes into teachable moments
• The child responds to his parent’s encouragement with effort and grit
• The child’s growing resilience helps him face difficulties and setbacks
• The child learns to be respectful, caring, cooperative, grateful and optimistic.”
*Arundhati Swamy is a counsellor and the Head of Parent Engagement Programmes at ParentCircle.
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