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Disciplining your child


Merriam Webster dictionary offers the following definitions of Discipline

  1. Training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.
  2. Control gained by enforcing obedience or order
  3. Orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior and
  4. Self-control meaning restraint exercised over one's own impulses, emotions or desires.

As good parents you must mix and merge all of these and inculcate discipline in your child. Basically it means that a child should remain within norms set by the society while interacting with all and sundry and be taught to exercise self control in aggressive situations. Children, who have not learnt self control, not only hurt the feeling of elders but expose themselves to danger as they do not have control over their impulsive actions.

An important part of teaching discipline to your child is to teach reasoning between right and wrong. Your child is amenable to external control by 6 months of age. A child continues to need external controls, in gradually decreasing amounts, through adolescence, although they begin to develop self-control (internal control) by 3 – 4 years of age.

Before we go into the details certain Guidelines that need to be kept in mind:

  1. Begin discipline from 6 months of age – once infants begin to crawl, they need external control to protect them from injury.
  2. Each act of misbehavior should get a clear and concrete rule – "Don’t bite your brother" or "Don’t pull my Dupatta"
  3. Ignore unimportant or irrelevant misbehavior – On the other hand avoid constant criticism or ‘nagging’. Acts which are not very important in the formative years, like spilling food while eating or swinging legs while sitting should be ignored
  4. State the acceptable or appropriate behavior – Your child should be told in no uncertain terms what is expected of him. "Do not cross the road when light is green" or "Do not watch TV sitting too close"
  5. Be just while reprimanding – Do not punish or condemn a child for acts which are normal in development like bed wetting, fear of dark or school phobia
  6. Concentrate on two or three instructions initially - even adults can not take too many instructions at one go. Prioritize your instructions. Issues that concern child’s safety should be top of the list followed by acts that damages property (toys, books, crockery) and acts that just irritate you (crying, complaining) should be the last.
  7. Avoid trying to change "no win" behavior through punishment – In most cases there is a power struggle between parent and the child and these are normally on unimportant issues like thumb sucking, wetting the pant, not eating when/ how much mother wants, not sleeping when mother wants and playing when mother does not want him to. The first step to resolve this is to withdraw from the struggle. In most cases, the acts reduce in frequency as child has repeating them to show supremacy over parent. Once the child behaves the way you want him to, give positive feedback or reward.

Your comments, experiences or problems

Next month Techniques of Disciplining

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