The journey of parenting can be like a roller coaster ride… with many ups, downs and thrills along the way. For many parents, one of the most daunting and challenging tasks of raising a child is discipline.
The importance of discipline
The term discipline comes from the Latin word ‘disciplinare’, which means ‘to teach’. “Teaching a child the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour involves a multi-faceted approach. It requires empathy, patience, energy, creativity, and a bag of useful discipline techniques…” According to Kerry Skinner, Play Therapist and Clamber Club Expert.
Children learn socially acceptable behaviour through testing and learning about boundaries in the home. Emphase the principles of cause and effect. Praise good behaviour. And actively work with your child, allowing them to choose a more favourable and acceptable way of behaving. These are some of the useful tools in your discipline tool box.
Finding the discipline balance
Research shows that children benefit from parents giving them firm but loving discipline. They are generally more skilled socially and do better at school than children whose parents set too few limits (permissive parenting style) or too many limits (totalitarian parenting style).
An ‘authoritative’ parenting style, also known as a democratic or balanced style of parenting facilitates positive parenting values. This style highlights the importance of ‘emotional coaching’. This is where both parents and children are encouraged to recognise and express their feelings appropriately. Which establishes firm and consistent boundaries at the same time.
The ABC of discipline
The ABC approach to positive discipline is grounded in the work of Garry Landreth, a well-known child therapist in the USA.
A stands for acknowledgement of a child’s feelings or wants.
Research shows that for a child to learn, they must feel that they are being accepted unconditionally and that they have the freedom to express their emotions. When a child feels heard, they are less likely to escalate their behaviour to get their message across and are likely to be more responsive to the next step.
B stands for creating a boundary for the behaviour or action
No matter the discipline model, boundary-setting is important. Far from restricting children, rules actually give children a sense of security. It also helps them to build a sense of self-mastery of their own world and their environment.
C stands for choice and consequences
Always offer a more favourable, positive alternative choice, even when there is really only one choice available. For example, if your child doesn’t want to wear a helmet while riding their bike, you can offer a choice of wearing the helmet or not riding their bike
Experiencing the consequences of their choices is one of the most effective ways children learn self-discipline. Being able to think ahead about the positive or negative consequences of an action and choose accordingly is a skill we want our children to learn.
The consequences of an action will depend on a number of factors, including the age of the child, the nature of the ‘offence’ and your belief system. If you believe that giving a young child a smack is unacceptable, that is your right as a parent. You could also choose to withhold privileges or implement a time-out.
Consistent, fair and developmentally appropriate forms of discipline are key for a child’s development. With a strong sense of self-discipline, founded in the early years of life, your children will become independent adults, secure in the knowledge that their parents loved them enough to say no.
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