In short, those are only a few questions that we ask ourselves when the time comes to talk about discipline.
To start off, let’s take a quick tour of the question: what is discipline and why do we need it?
You know me by now. I always start you off with definitions. So let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about discipline!
“In its original sense, discipline is systematic instruction intended to train a person, sometimes literally called a disciple, in a craft, trade or other activity, or to follow a particular code of conduct or "order". Discipline is the assertion of willpower over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self-control.”
Therefore, discipline is a set of rules that can be followed. First of all, the rules must be realistic or else, it will be impossible for your child to follow them. Asking your child to have breakfast, get dressed and brush their teeth in 15 minutes every morning is not realistic. Impose rules that they can achieve.
Children see, children do, so if I am not disciplined, neither will my children. If I don’t want to spend all my days and evenings cleaning up so I decide to set rules on putting everything away, I must put everything away too!
Self-control and respecting others
Discipline helps your child develop self-control and the respect of others. It is necessary for all adults who interact with a child to apply the same rules, or else they will be lost! Through discipline, we teach our child the importance of having good self-control. When your child plays with a friend, they must understand that they will not always win but that they can’t throw a tantrum or be mean each time they lose.
Discipline will teach them right from wrong. Taking a toy away from a friend is bad and is a lack of respect towards a friend. That’s why it’s important to teach these basics. A good starting point is what I call the mirror effect: ask your child how they would react if a friend took a toy away from them. Would they be sad? Would they be angry? That’s often enough for a child to understand if an action is good or bad.
Be careful how you build your sentences. We always tend to speak negatively rather than positively: “if you don’t stop, you won’t get a surprise” instead of “if you want your surprise later, you must do as I say and sit on your chair”. We say negative sentences a lot when we talk and after reading this article, you will probably analyze the way you talk and realize how easy it is to talk negatively. You will also realize how you must stop and think about what to say and how to speak more positively. Congratulate your child when they do well! Children need encouragements and to feel how proud we are. We are quick to judge bad actions but slower to acknowledge good actions.
Understand the needs
It’s important to understand the needs of your child. Most parents will react directly on an action (hitting, for example) but won’t wonder why their child has done this. Of course, if I keep putting my child in a corner or if I take away a privilege each time he or she hits someone, I will achieve nothing else than imposing a very bad atmosphere in the house.
Stop for a moment and wonder why your child hits. Sit with them and find out why they did this action in the first place. You could be surprised to hear that another child is mean to them in school, and it is to defend themselves that you’re your child has started to hit back. Most children won’t talk because they are afraid of being scolded. That’s why it’s so important to talk and develop a strong bond based on trust with your child.
Imagine what would happen if you’d punish your child without going any further. They would keep hitting to defend themselves, and you would keep punishing them. However, if you talked to them and tried to understand what causes their behavior, in most cases, you could solve the situation (call the school or talk to the other child’s parent, for example) and because the situation would be resolved, your child would stop hitting.
Talking with your child is imperative and the relationship based on trust that you will develop will become your ally for everything that concerns discipline.
Be patient! Your child is learning through trial and error. Give them time and space! They will master the rules and guidelines at their own pace. Don't constantly watch over their shoulders and intervene. Let them be, and let them follow the rules on their own!
Use time wisely: children understand much better that way. Nobody likes being interrupted in the middle of an activity. Give clear indications of time to help them better manage every step. For example, tell them that in 5 minutes, or when the timer rings, the game will be over, and it will be time for them to put on their pyjamas and brush their teeth before going to bed. It will make it easier for them to end the game and be ready for the next step.
Make sure your child is giving you their full attention when you're giving instructions. Stop what you’re doing, go near them and make your request clear. Shouting across the house will be inefficient and will feed your anger.
Keep in mind that discipline is a love story. Every parent tries to discipline their children out of love and in order to help them grow on strong foundations! It doesn't need to be full of anger and frustration, discipline is a good thing to help guide your children and prepare them for everything life has to offer!