The key question here is, why do we discipline?
For most of us, discipline is reactive – i.e. it is not planned; and only comes into play when the child misbehaves. While this is a completely valid approach, it is also a narrow-focus method that solves problems one at a time.
Discipline is not punishing. To discipline is to teach, to guide, to instruct. We can thus take a proactive approach to cultivate ideal behaviours in our children.
What we’ve found to be the best approach, is spending more time purposefully guiding and teaching at certain key milestones, to see long-term benefits and have our children make the conscious decision to behave well.
This requires the commitment of time; and effort from both parents and caregivers. Bear in mind that each child is unique – so do adjust and adapt accordingly.
Is Punishment Necessary?
Punish – the root word punir has Latin origins, which means to inflict a penalty, cause pain or sanction someone, as retribution for an offence. The issue with punishment that some child development experts have, is that while it penalises a child, it is not instructive.
However, it is very true that the real world does punish offenders in the real world, for their crimes. Teaching a child that their actions have consequences, is also essential.
As parents who’ve gone through many real-life struggles with our own kids, we feel punishment should be as purposeful as discipline.
Punishment can be demonstrative – e.g. if your child hits others, demonstrate how hurtful it is with a smack helps your child achieve some empathy (which they are unable to fully comprehend until about age 7). However, to be truly useful, punishment must be accompanied by guidance and instruction. Otherwise your child may just reflexively smack himself / herself after hitting someone else because they believe that is the right thing to do.
Punishment can be redemptive – e.g. make your child clean up after his or her mess, to emphasize what inconvenience he or she has caused. Of course, this should be applied reasonably; and appropriately, to suit the child’s physical capabilities.
Punishment can cultivate responsibility – This can be applied to routine, e.g. if the child has a bad habit of throwing the towel on the toilet floor after the bath, put the child in charge of making sure the towels are clean and dry. This makes the child more conscious of where he or she should place the towels; and gives the child a sense of responsibility.
An age-appropriate approach
We’ve grouped our suggestions according to age group, as children at various developmental stages perceive the world differently, have distinct needs and possess different levels of cognitive abilities.
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