Is discipline possible in children without punishment?
Yes, disciplining the child without hitting, scolding, shouting or even rewarding is possible. This might come as a shocker for many parents, but believe it. Punishment only suppresses the emotion or desire of the child for a limited period; it does not teach the child the correct behaviour. For example: “You broke your sister’s toy, so no chocolate for two weeks.” The child here needs to understand exactly why this behaviour was wrong before pronouncing the judgement.
Looking from another perspective, punishing them for a certain inadequate behaviour by screaming, hitting and shouting only allows children to learn from us and use the same behaviour with others. This way there is more damage done than repaired. Punishment at times has a negative effect on children; the child might try to take a flight from the whole situation or start showing aggressive or stubborn behaviour.
Now let’s just understand why parents punish their children? Your answers are:
- To teach them good manners
- To teach adequate behaviour
- To teach them the cultural and religious values
- To guide them to be a part of the society
All the above answers crops up in a parent’s mind when this question is asked. Now let us ask you a question again.
Does punishment have proven evidence to be an effective measure to discipline a child?
So, how do we discipline a child without Punishment?
1) Discipline yourself: Children learn from others, especially from their parents. So before we correct our children, we need to make sure we are at our best behaviour. Try to regulate your emotions, no matter how extreme it is.
2) Help them acknowledge their feeling: When your child is taken over by extreme emotions like anger, help them acknowledge that feeling. Soothe them before there is a meltdown. Ask them why they are angry, guide them to what they can do about it. Provide a protective shield where they are comfortable to speak to you. Example: “Are you upset because you didn’t get your favourite toy? Don’t worry it’s disheartening I know, this is a better toy too/we can get your favourite toy next time”. If your child is angry with other children, try to explain them from their perspective too; Example: “Jay intentionally didn’t break your toy, it was an accident, he is feeling guilty about it, let’s forgive him.”
3)Teach them responsibility: Responsibility makes everyone wiser, so teaching responsibility to children is one of the first and most important step you must take as a parent. When you teach responsibilities to your child, make them interesting and fun. Like arranging their toys or books, taking care of their pet, filling water bottles etc.. Gradually they will understand what their responsibility is.
4)Set ground rules: Yes, there must be ground rules. Before setting them, you need to understand the perspective of your child and wherever possible leniency must be given. Have an open ear before concluding. This way your child will understand the rules are not rational. Example: “I know you are scared, but in order for me to help you, you must tell me the truth entirely”. or “I know you are angry but throwing things won’t help, you need to communicate through words and help us understand”.
5)Always stay connected: To develop the right behaviour in your child, you first need to connect with them before setting rules or giving them any responsibility. We can develop the connection with body language and comforting words. Maintain an eye contact with your child when you speak, this is a proven method practised by many parents; a gentle stroke on the head, a tight hug all come under body language. Neutral voice tone and soothing words will help increase the bond of this relationship. Example: “Are you feeling sad? Will a hug make you feel comfortable?”.
6)Find the underlying need: We all hear different excuses from our children; most of these excuses have underlying emotions like guilt or desire. Finding that need and eliminating it will help develop the behaviour.
Every child is unique and parenting methods should also be diverse. For few the above methods might work within a week, for few it may take months and for few, years. These methods may help in maintaining discipline in your child’s behaviour more effectively and more quickly with positivity.