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Disciplining children

  • During a recent children's camp, children were asked to provide their opinions on discipline. A large majority of the children gave a negative response. Some commented that their parents discipline them for anything and everything, and others wished their parents would not enforce rules and regulations.

During a recent children's camp, children were asked to provide their opinions on discipline. A large majority of the children gave a negative response. Some commented that their parents discipline them for anything and everything, and others wished their parents would not enforce rules and regulations.

One child however, was very quiet and when he was asked that question, he replied, "I wish my parents were interested in me enough to be around and exercise some rules and regulations".

Deep within each child, there is a need to be wanted. Subconsciously, they would interpret parents who are relaxed and do not impose rules as parents who do not have the time to do so or are not interested in their welfare. Many surveys have been conducted on children with high self-esteem and some of the common findings from these groups of children are:

1. These children come from homes where the parents love one another and where they mean what they say.

2. There is a fair amount of discipline exercised. Children are corrected for misdeeds and there is a clear understanding between childish irresponsibility and willful defiance.

3. Children are free to express themselves rather than "being seen and not heard".

These may be some guiding principles for us in the area of disciplining of preschoolers children but above all, we must recognize the importance of spending time with them and to understand their character and nature. When we understand our children better, it becomes easier for us to administer the right type of discipline.

In the area of discipline, some are of the opinion that we should not exercise corporal punishment as it may be damaging to a child. As the saying goes, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child'. We are of the opinion that discipline exercised with love and concern would create a more positive and lasting effect on a child as opposed to a permissive and lax attitude.

Question: At what age should discipline begin?

Answer: There should be no physical punishment for a child younger than fifteen to eighteen months old, regardless of the circumstance. An infant is incapable of comprehending his or her "offense" or associating it with the resulting consequences.

Some parents do not agree and find themselves "swatting" a baby for wiggling while being diapered or for crying in the midnight hours. This is a terrible mistake. Other parents will shake a child violently when they are frustrated or irritated by incessant crying.

Let me warn those mothers and fathers of the dangers of that punishing response. Shaking an infant can cause serious neurological damage, which can occur as the brain is slammed against the skull. Do not risk any kind of injury with a baby!

Especially during the first year, a youngster needs to be held, loved, and calmed by a soothing human voice. He should be fed when hungry and kept clean and dry and warm. The foundation for emotional and physical health is laid during this twelve-month period, which should be characterized by security, affection, and warmth.

Question: Please describe the best approach to the discipline of a one-year-old child.

Answer: Many children will begin to gently test the authority of their parents as they approach their first birthday. The confrontations will be minor and infrequent at first, yet the beginnings of future struggles can be seen.

My own daughter, for example, challenged her mother for the first time when she was nine months old. My wife was waxing the kitchen floor when Danae crawled to the edge of the linoleum. Shirley said, "No, Danae," gesturing to the child not to enter the kitchen.

Since our daughter began talking very early, she clearly understood the meaning of the word no. Nevertheless, she crawled straight onto the sticky wax. Shirley picked her up and set her down in the doorway while saying no even more strongly as she put her down. Seven times this process was repeated until Danae finally yielded and crawled away in tears. As far as we can recall, that was the first direct confrontation of wills between my daughter and my wife. Many more were to follow.

How does a parent discipline a one-year-old? Very carefully and gently! A child at this age is easy to distract and divert. Rather than jerking a wristwatch from his or her hands, show him or her a brightly colored alternative – and then be prepared to catch the watch when it falls. When unavoidable confrontations do occur, as with Danae on the waxy floor, win them by firm persistence but not by punishment. Have the courage to lead the child without being harsh or mean or gruff.

Compared to the months that are to follow, the period around one year of age is usually a tranquil, smooth-functioning time in a child's life.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from "Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide" with permission. For more information, please contact:

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY MALAYSIA
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Tel: +603-7954 7920
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