As your children get into the swing of things at school this academic year, take the time to educate yourself on the subject of ‘positive discipline’

For every parent, his or her child’s first years are marked by bliss — every day holds happy surprises as your child achieves milestones and grows up, stage by stage, before your eyes. But this happy time is also when unsuspecting parents are first introduced to the hair-raising, ear-splitting and stomach-churning world of tantrums. Understandably, the average toddler hears the word “No” about 400 times a day. Although raising a child comes with no guarantees, if parents acquire the skills required to discipline their children ‘positively’, it would go a long way to shape the personalities of the young ones for the better.
Most parents confuse discipline with being unpleasant or meting out punishment. The purpose of discipline should be to help your child learn how to be free from faults and handicaps, so as to achieve his or her full potential. Psychologists believe that the first five years of life are crucial in a child’s development. Harsh discipline, or conversely, over-pampering and protecting the child can lead to children developing low self-esteem issues later in life.

What is punishment?

Pooja, mother of three-year-old Anu, tries to ignore her daughter when she throws tantrums. But when things get out of hand, Pooja locks Anu up in the bathroom until she stops wailing. Pooja says Anu stops crying now at the mere threat of being locked up.

Punishment is any type of behavior used to control the child. In a bid to inspire obedience, often, parents resort to punishing a child by slapping, beating, or by ridiculing or using cruel words. Such methods may yield results but these results are unfortunately only temporary and will not accomplish the long-term goal of teaching the child self-control.

Another unfortunate outcome of using physical punishment is that it sends negative messages. Slapping/spanking may lead a child to believe that those who love him or her the most will also hit him/her; that violence is acceptable; that it is okay to hit people who are smaller or weaker than you. Children raised thus, almost always become selfdestructive or aggressive.

Try these techniques

Psychologists say that the one of the most effective methods of positive discipline is to “redirect”. Redirection is a disciplinary technique that helps kids learn appropriate behavior without damaging their sense of exploration and discovery. Children, being innocent yet curious, are bound to explore and they will very frequently do or try to do things which are not safe or even pleasant. For instance, your 14-month-old son may, out of curiosity, reach for the kitchen stove. Instead of screaming “NO” try to gently redirect him by offering a toy as bait to lure him away from the object or area.

The technique works best on very young children who do not follow instructions well. Getting the child to move away from an electrical socket to a safe toy or into a different room, could be all you need to do to put an end to that behaviour — the child may not give the activity a go again. Always offer a choice as toddlers develop a sense of independence and competence through choices. As soon as the child does something right or good, reward him/her with praise. This is important. When you discipline, explain why you did what you did or said what you said. Do not fear that defining limits will result in the loss of your child’s love for you. The most important thing to remember with any disciplinary technique is to be “consistent”. Lastly, positive discipline needs to be displayed in a positive manner. Tell your children what ‘to do’ instead of ‘what not to do’ as positive wording is very important. Swami Vivekanandaprobably said it best: “You cannot make a plant grow in soil unsuited to it. A child teaches itself but you can help him or her to go forward in his or her own way. Loosen the soil a little so that it can come out easily, put a hedge around it, see that it is protected, and there your work stops. You cannot do anything else. The rest will depend on its own nature.”

The Article was Published in Mumbai Mirror on July 2nd 2018