Discipline is the approach of raising a child while guiding them through learning right and wrong behaviors. There are many variations of discipline can that be effective for different behaviors. Unfortunately, many times child discipline is taken upon in ways that are undermining the child rather than preparing them to be successful adults.
Children being incorrectly disciplined can cause many problems as they grow older. Many parents do not know what they are doing to the child’s mentality when physically punishing their children. Jan Hunt, Director of the Natural Child Project argues, “Hitting children teaches them to become hitters themselves. Extensive research data is now available to support a direct correlation between corporal punishment in childhood and aggressive or violent behavior in the teenage and adult years” (www.naturalchild.org). In fact, physical punishment is said to be a big part of many murderer’s adolescent lives. In addition, Hunt also describes spanking, a form of physical punishment, to be dangerous because it may injure the lower spine. Specifically, Hunt states, “children have become paralyzed through nerve damage from spanking, and some have died after mild paddlings, due to undiagnosed medical complications.” Without a doubt, traditional forms of discipline have been proved to be not only ineffective, but remarkably detrimental to children.
On the contrary, there are a number of solutions to the issue of defective discipline which many parents have an inclination to enforce on their children. One of these solutions is to be firm. In some instances, parents often tend to be nice, and not firm enough. In contrast, others are too firm and not nice enough. The key is to find the fine line right in the middle of the two and simply- be firm. This includes making sure your word is what goes and your child cannot sneak their way out of it. To illustrate, if a child refuses to sit in a time out, you may need to “remain nearby to monitor them” and for some, it is recommended by experts to “[have] a ‘time-in’ rather than a ‘time-out’ which consists of sitting with the child to talk and reflect about their behavior” (time.com). Finding ways to teach your child a lesson even though they may reject the discipline is the idea of being firm, and it is a great model to teach children to listen. As a parent, it is important to understand “that firmness is necessary to avoid permissiveness. Permissiveness is not healthy for children” as it may lead to misbehavior, as said by Alexandra Sifferlin, a journalist for Time Magazine. Creating and enforcing boundaries, and having reasonable consequences for crossing those boundaries is the foundation of being an assertive parent. However, as any other forms of parenting, there are weaknesses to being firm. To begin with, all parents struggle to say “no” to their kids. This struggle is based off the fact that parents would rather give in to their children’s wants rather than deal with their anger when they are told no. But in the long run, this is only setting you and your child up for failure. For example, when children grow older and get rejected, they might find themselves in absolute shock. That is to say, being an assertive parent prepares children for real-life. Another weakness of being firm is that if you haven’t been doing it all along, it can be quite hard for your child to get used to. It really depends on the child and on you, as a parent. Nevertheless, no matter how rocky the path may be, implementing your rules and remaining firm as a parent is going to be well worth it in the end for both parent and child. Therefore, it is important not to give up in the stage of transition from a previous discipline style to a more assertive one. Even more, one last imperfection to this solution is that kids who come from backgrounds with firm parents have been said to have lower self esteem because they might get used to being told what to do and how to do it. Thus, when they are to be independent, they might question themselves. Aside from these points, taking a firm stand in your rules with your child can be one of the best ways to discipline your child. With this approach, your child will learn that what you say is what goes, as opposed to making you give in to their wants. Also, children of this discipline style have a strong sense of what is wrong and what is right, and where the line stands. Along with that, they know what is expected of them, which will give them a good mindset of striving to be their best. The results of assertive or firm parenting may take time to be seen, but the improvement will be there. With this, children will carry out their good behaviors with them into adulthood, allowing them to be successful. Undoubtedly, the solution of being a firm parent can be ideal to any parent, even with its weaknesses.
In addition to an assertive style, making sure you connect with your child on an emotional level is another solution to the problem of incorrect discipline. What this means is that you, as a parent, analyze your personality and your child’s personality. Psychotherapist, Amy Morin, asserts, “Developing an awareness of your temperament can help ensure your parenting in a way that teaches your children the life skills they need to become responsible adults” (www.verywellfamily.com). This can help you find the right techniques to parent your child. In another instance, Morin also states, “A firm redirection may be an effective consequence for a sensitive child. But a strong-willed child may not be phased unless she loses her privileges” (wwww.verywellfamily.com). In short, knowing your child is one of the best strategies to making the path to good behavior smooth. In like manner, as other styles of discipline, this solution includes a couple of weaknesses. For one thing, as a parent, you may find yourself to be too hard on the child. It may be for a good cause, because you want the best for them; however, it’s important to stay grounded and know what you want for the child in the long run. Moreover, another negative effect of this problem is that your child may be too dependent on your support, since that is the one of the keys of this solution. In the end, when you know your child, then you can strategize the best ways to teach your child good behavior as opposed to picking strategies that don’t work.
Lastly, the most favored solution to ineffective punishment is the use of positive reinforcement. Such a technique is to teach children good behavior with a rewarding system that motivates them. One example of positive reinforcement, used and described by Katazyna Bisaga, M.D.,Ph.D., in Stefan William’s article “How Experts DIscipline Their Children,” is to use a points system for every good behavior a child does. Such behaviors can include: using the toilet alone (if being potty trained), cleaning their room, washing their hands, brushing their teeth, and any good rewards at school. Bisaga states, “At the end of the week, the results were tallied and he earned 10 cents for every three points. Marcin would look forward to buying Yu-Gi-Oh! cards and Bionicles with his loot” (www.parents.com). With this system, children can find a way to look forward to getting used to normal behaviors and possibly even enjoy them. Another instance of positive reinforcement includes creating goals for children and working to achieve them. In other words, Tina Ann DePomer mentions, “Set goals to your kids for future to keep the improvement in progress. Like when combing your kid’s hair you may add ‘I can be surprised if I find you combing your hair on your own. In fact, I’d feel great about it’” (www.newkidscenter.com). With this, not only will the child improve their behavior but also continue to do so. Along with this solution, comes some imperfections. One in particular includes that this may teach children to always expect a prize in return for their good behavior. This would mean that if nothing is given in return, the child may not complete the action. This can be a negative aspect because in adulthood, many things are expected to be done with no reward. Therefore, this can set them up to have a harder time when they grow older. However, if a parent is careful enough to not cross the line between positive reinforcement and bribery, then this problem should not occur. Additionally, with this solution, it might take longer to modify behaviors. This would be due to the fact that the child may focus more on the attention they get from the parent more than the reward. To avoid this issue, Dr. Nadja Reilly, a clinical psychologist and the associate director of the Freedman Center for Child and Family Development, gives an example about homework (www.care.com). She describes, “When you see your child independently starting her homework, you can use verbal positive reinforcement as a way to encourage her to continue to do it,” and instead of focusing on the completed action of doing homework to “focus on the process of doing the homework itself rather than on how your child does on the homework” (www.care.com). This gives the child motivation through verbal encouragement to keep going. Indeed, there are negative aspects of positive reinforcement as there are to any other discipline; however, they are the easiest to avoid. Even if they are to be encountered, they can be fixed and the severity of them is particularly minimal. On the other hand, there are numerous strengths to positive reinforcement. One of them is that the children who are rewarded by good behavior develop a healthy self-esteem. Along with that, there are less issues with behavior when children have a motivating factor. Last but not least, children with positively enforced discipline tend to be happier than others, as young children and as they grow older. In the end, although it has a couple of weaknesses, the strengths of positive reinforcement undoubtedly overpower them. In the same fashion, positive reinforcement works for everyone, it just has to be tweaked to fit you and your child. To conclude, positive reinforcement can be an easier and more effective manner to discipline your child.
Overall, it should be avoided that discipline be corresponded with punishment and judgement, as that is the first step in finding the best way to discipline your child. Also, all solutions have a lot of good qualities; however, when comparing all of them, positive reinforcement has the most to offer. With that being said, the use of positive reinforcement undoubtedly the best way to discipline your child.
- Aparna. “Authoritative Parenting: Style, Characteristics, Pros & Cons.” FirstCry Parenting, Firstcry Parenting Community, 20 Apr. 2018, parenting.firstcry.com/articles/authoritative-parenting-characteristics-effects-pros-and-cons/.
- DePomer, Tina Ann. “Why Should We Use Positive Reinforcement for Children?” Depression After Abortion – New Kids Center, 2017, www.newkidscenter.com/Positive-Reinforcement-for-Children.html.
- Feldman, Bev. “6 Positive Reinforcement Examples to Try With Your Kids.” Care.com, Care.com, 2015, www.care.com/c/stories/3467/6-positive-reinforcement-examples-to-try-with/.
- Hunt, Jan. “Ten Reasons Not to Hit Your Kids.” 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child – The Natural Child Project, 2017, www.naturalchild.org/articles/jan_hunt/tenreasons.html.
- Morin, Amy. “5 Things to Consider When Determining How to Discipline Your Child.” Verywell Family, www.verywellfamily.com, 28 Sept. 2018, www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-determine-the-best-way-to-discipline-your-child-1095038.
- Pells, Rachel. “How Middle-Class Parents Are Damaging Their Children, According to a Child Psychologist.” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 4 Nov. 2017, www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/middle-class-parents-children-not-say-no-spoilt-dr-amanda-gummer-child-psychology-a7886441.html.