“I realized that discipline was going to be a complicated and emotionally charged affair”
Lessons on Discipline: a real life experience!
“It is helpful to take a child’s personality into consideration when disciplining.”
Every child is different. Although there are some principles of discipline which can be broadly applied like being consistent (SO IMPORTANT) and keeping one’s emotions in check, it is helpful to take a child’s personality into consideration when disciplining. My son was extremely sensitive, and any form of smack would devastate him and me for that matter. We both just couldn’t handle the repercussions and I soon learned this was not going to work for us. He responded well to stern words and the naughty corner.
He didn’t like being separated from the family so he was very obedient in the naughty corner, knowing that if he came out, we would take him back and delay his return. I think if I did this over, I would have called the naughty corner the “cooler” or “chill out zone” or something suitably positive but unfortunately by the time I thought of this, the naughty name had stuck.
My daughter was tougher, and she got the odd smack with great effect. One occasion was when she absolutely refused to be belted into her car seat. There was no time for a naughty corner and her safety was at stake, so I figured she deserved a smack. It sorted out the problem instantly and she never gave us any trouble with strapping in again.
Discipline should be age appropriate.
- Effective discipline for the Baby stage
In the baby stage, I think distraction is key to discipline. Take baby away from the source of the problem and give her something else to focus on. Having said that, I believe that using firm words and making eye contact also makes baby understand that the reason for the distraction is his bad behavior and hopefully makes him less likely to repeat this.
Focus on the behavior rather than the character of the child. Instead of saying “you are very naughty” say “we don’t touch the plug socket because it can shock us.” Practice your “I mean business” voice. It also helps to baby-proof your house to decrease temptation. Babies are naturally curious and playing in the toilet bowl may not be due to naughtiness so much as curiosity. But even then, if you catch baby in the act, tell him firmly that it’s “not OK”.
- Effective discipline for Toddlers
As babies get older it may be appropriate to use a time-out or naughty corner equivalent. I liked the way child psychologist Derek Jackson explains the method:
- The child needs to know exactly why you are instituting the time out.
- Get down to their level and make eye contact and explain what the child did wrong and what is going to happen next.
- Explain how long they will need to sit in the spot and that once it’s over, all will be well.
- They need a chance to calm down and examine their behavior.
- An appropriate time frame is 1 minute per year of child’s age. Every time they leave the spot, calmly return them.
- Once the time is up, help them give an age-appropriate apology. A young child may just express remorse with a hug while an older child may need to go to the specific person they have wronged and say sorry.
It’s important that at the end of the process the child is totally reinstated into the family and feels loved and accepted. Many Moms tell me that their children won’t stay put. I never found this. My children had great respect for the naughty corner procedure. This may be because my children like structure, but it may also be because my husband and I were very intentional about being consistent and following all the steps. It was a great tool for us. It allowed what we felt was a fair form of discipline and a chance for the child, and us, to calm down.
When we were out, I sometimes found another naughty corner at a friend’s house or sometimes made my child sit near my feet for the amount of time.
Discipline during tantrums: “I learned to feel less guilty about the bad behavior of my child and to accept him as his own person whose behavior was not solely my responsibility”
Tantrums were also a learning curve for me. I was far more lenient on my son and the tantrum season lasted a long time. By the time my daughter came along I changed my approach. I made sure she was in a safe space and left her to carry on. I did my best to ignore her. At around age 2 my daughter had 3 terrible tantrums. We left her in her cot, and eventually she tired herself out and fell asleep. She quickly learned that bad behavior did not warrant positive attention and after the 3 biggies she never tantrummed again.
Tantrums in public are more difficult. I tried to remove myself and my child from the people and let him continue to cry without attention. This is not always possible, and each situation has to be handled differently. As I grew in confidence as a Mom, I found it easier to ignore my attention-seeking child and to get others on board. I learned to feel less guilty about the bad behavior of my child and to accept him as his own person whose behavior was not solely my responsibility.
Once I had made this disconnect, the lack of guilt and the increase in my confidence rubbed off on my children, who took me more seriously. Somehow children know when we are emotionally affected by their behavior and it fuels their fire. One of the great challenges of the parenting journey for me was not to take my children’s behavior personally.
“It’s not what you did, it’s what you do after you did what you did”.
Discipline is a challenging but essential part of being a good parent. It takes a lot of hard work, especially to be consistent. It’s so important, and much easier said than done, to not to let our emotions get in the way. Ideally, any threat should be followed through on so try not to make an impossible one! We all sometimes get caught up in the heat of the moment and say something we regret.
Derek Jackson has a quote which goes something like, “It’s not what you did, it’s what you do after you did what you did”. What he means is that even parents have to ask for forgiveness sometimes. Sometimes we need to explain to our children that we said something too harsh or acted too severely and ask them for forgiveness. Children need to understand that parents can also make mistakes.
Remember, “to discipline is to love.”
I wish you luck on your journey of disciplining your little one. With much consideration, and preferably as a couple, decide on the strategy that feels right for you. Discipline is not an easy task but what a privilege to be allowed to mould the character of your child. As we are reminded in Proverbs 3.11-12, to discipline is to love.
Note: If you enjoyed this article, and would like to stay updated with more, you can: