My school memories are hazy. When I look back, I visualise a teacher shouting, screaming, hitting children on their knuckles with an orange wooden foot ruler. I see hair pulling and slapping. I see books being flung across the classroom. Child discipline was traumatising. The environment at home was less gruesome, but we did receive some form of corporal punishment. Most of our generation did.
Parents don’t want this for their child. They don’t want to coerce their child into doing the right things. They know that a positive and gentle way of being firm with kids yields better results.
The eye-opener for me was a line I read during the course of my research. Discipline has its roots in the word disciple – a learner who comes to a teacher to learn something. A disciple doesn’t come to you be hit, beaten, shouted or screamed at.
We all know that a newborn is incapable of doing things on their own and so all their incessant crying and wailing and nothing is their fault. So we put up with this. But suddenly you have a toddler and they are climbing up tables, sliding down the bed, splashing about in the wash basin, painting their faces or the walls and you know this is behaviour which needs to be checked.
It’s just easy to say NO
With babyT we really used NO a lot when he attempted to climb on to stuff. The result: he stopped attempting to climb. Even when we took him to the park he did not want to climb the slides or other rides. We realised then that this was a result of our saying no. So we stopped doing that. But how do we encourage the good stuff and prevent the bad stuff?
New age parenting has many solutions to offer us when it comes to discipline. .It is likely that one methodology works sometimes and not in another situation. At such times its good to have a basket of tools.
Explain to make sense
From an early age, we have been using the power of explanation to tell our child why he must do (or not do) certain things. So rather than yelling out “Don’t touch that cup of tea!” when he is just about to grab it, we told him even before he saw the teacup on the table, “This is a cup of tea which mummy drinks every morning. It is made on the gas where the fire is. This makes the tea and the cup very hot. If this tea gets on to our hands or body we get hurt.” I then proceeded to touch the tip of his finger to the outside of the cup and explained that “this feeling is hot.” My smart kid then attempted to prevent mommy from drinking her tea too, but well at least he did not touch it and still doesn’t.
Children do understand a lot more than we give them credit for. The common remark you hear around, “He’s only a kid, what will he understand” is just a myth. If you explain in a manner they will understand they get it.
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” – L R Knost
I think this was a simple way of teaching something to a toddler, but the terrible two’s showed us a whole new dimension to children’s power of making us rue having children in the first place. True story.
How then do we keep it gentle and tear free?
Power of choice & something else…
One of the biggest things that work with kids is giving them options and distracting them from the scene of crime. I am sure you’ve seen often how there is a yellow coloured ball in your playroom which your child will never touch, but when some other kid attempts to touch this ball, all hell breaks loose and your child decides that is his favourite toy. At such times, I find that redirecting the toddler’s attention works well. “Hey look there’s a new blue ball here, maybe you would like to play with this.” or “Let’s read some books, shall we?”
There was a phase with babyT, when he would love to throw all his things on the floor, across the room. I am not a stickler for neatness but it still drove me mad. I channelised this energy into teaching him something positive out of it. “Here help me toss these used clothes into the washing machine.” or “let’s throw all these blocks into this big bag.” The toddler today, loves throwing things into the bin and asks if there’s anything I want to be thrown away. He even knows that dry waste must go into the brown bin and banana peels in the green bin. I think I deserve an award for teaching my child waste segregation.
Every action has a reaction
I have also turned this on its head, by sometimes getting him to understand why he cannot always throw toys on the floor. I tell them that if he does throw things he has to pick them up and put them back or ask me to help him do that together. The consequence of not doing so is that in the morning the maid will come to sweep the room and think that the toys on the floor are unwanted and thrown away. And once thrown away they are never coming back. This usually makes him see reason and he picks (only his favourite ones sometimes) toys off the floor.
Ignorance is bliss
Sometimes bad behaviour is a call for attention. Remember when they were newborn all they had to do was cry and a boob was pushed into their hungry mouths? Well, this is the same, only it usually is just for “hey mom look at me.” There are times when drawing attention to the unwanted behaviour has the effect of making it worse. A big example, swearing in front of kids. Did I hear an a-ha there?
The ignoring trick works like a charm in cases where you’ve said a word you shouldn’t have and in the vicinity of a toddler. We were on holiday last year and we stepped out of our hotel room to go to the beach. I was the last one out and pulled the door behind me, only to realise that no one had taken the key. “F*$@” I said and “F*$@” said the toddler. My husband and I didn’t know how to react but we ignored it. He said “F*$@” a few times. We pretended like we didn’t hear the word at all. Normal conversation happened and “F*$@” was forgotten. Until the next time that I said the “S#&*” word that is…
Use aids to help you
I found a beautiful book that helps me drive home the point of tidying up the playroom. Its a story about a bunny rabbit who wants to go to the beach and play with his toys, but cannot find them in his messy playroom. So what does he do? He tidies up until he finds his toys. Lesson learnt if you keep your room tidy you shall find your things.
Using external aids like books or even message driven videos on YouTube (especially about brushing teeth) have helped us discipline.
I feel you
Tantrums, naughty or unwanted behaviour in children (and also adults sometimes) is when they are feeling all muddled in their heads and not able to make sense of things.
In such cases, it is important to acknowledge their feelings and give a name to it, “Were you feeling disappointed that I did not see your car fly?” The answer usually will be a “yes mommy, I was sad.” Work on this emotion first and then slowly proceed to explain why you didn’t/ couldn’t give them what they wanted, and eventually ask them to show it to you again. Your acknowledgement of the feelings inside their head and then working to resolve it will help them develop important skills of patience, self-resolution and acceptance of emotions.
Discipline is not a tool you can pull out of a box and use. Sometimes none of it may work. There will be times when you have to say NO. There will be meltdowns. But never raise your hand or scream at a child. Remember they are picking up everything they see and tomorrow will do the same.
How do you discipline? Any tried and tested tactics which you swear by?
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018