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Child discipline

Child discipline
Children are not born knowing how to be well behaved. They need help and guidance from parents and other careers - and as all parents know this isn't always an easy job. Here are some ways and tips suggested on Child discipline.

Know what constitutes 'normal' behavior in children

Opening kitchen cupboards and dragging every saucepan on to the kitchen floor isn't naughty for a two year old child, for instance - it just means he or she wants to find out more about her surroundings. It's also very common for four-year-olds to quarrel with their younger brothers and sisters.

Talking to other parents with children of the same age is one way of finding out what is normal at what age - many parents are often relieved to learn that other children are behaving in much the same way.

Teaching children by way of example

One way children learn is by imitating & copying others. This is why parents need to behave in ways which set good examples. It's important that we, as parents, show respect for children - Naturally, children who are shown respect themselves will show respect to others. Although children need to know they are unique individuals, they also need to know they are part of a group too. This is why we need to teach them to share, to listen to others and to take turns.

Think about what to say and how you speak to your child

Use the same tone of voice with children as you want people to use with you. Talk respectfully to them and about them. It's very tempting to ridicule children in the hope that constantly pointing out bad behavior will make them stop doing it. But this often has the opposite effect. Children soon learn that they get attention by doing things parents don't like.

A better way to encourage good behavior is to remember to praise them as often. This doesn't mean never reprimanding them for doing something wrong. But it's important to criticize the child's behaviour rather than the child as a person. Instead of saying, "You are very naughty", say something like, "I don't like what you're doing", or, "We won't allow that behavior".

Set limits for your child

Let children know what behavior is allowed and what isn't. Setting limits makes them feel secure. Be consistent about what is and what isn't acceptable.

Accept a child's right to say, "No", sometimes - especially about things that affect only the child - such as which clothes he/she wants to wear. Remember that children need to learn that saying, "No", is sometimes a good thing. Saying, "No", to strangers, for instance, may be the safest thing to do.

Always Praise and hug children when they co-operate, as this encourages them to behave well.

Don't expect more from children than they are capable of doing.

Although a five year old can be expected to sit still in a doctor's waiting room, you can't expect a two year old to do the same. Be tolerant and keep the child's age in mind. Develop patience. You will need it!

Avoid smacking / hitting / physical punishment as it only teaches children that violence is the best way of maintain control and it encourages them to hit other children.

Methods of child discipline vary widely between cultures and have in recent times changed considerably in many of them.

Authoritarian perspectives

In western society, there has been much debate in recent years over spanking in particular and corporal punishment for children in general. But many parents and teachers still agree with Machiavelli`s maxim: "It is better to be feared than loved."

The appropriateness of Machiavelli`s ideas on the gaining of power to parenting have been questioned. United Nations human rights standards prohibit all corporal punishment. However, beating children is legal in schools in at least 60 nations. Corporal punishment in schools is legal in 23 states of the United States, except where prohibited by local school boards.

Psychological perspectives

Non-violent child discipline has grown in popularity, but continues to be controversial. It is generally time-intensive, and thus best-suited to parents of small families. Results will vary dramatically according to the child's personality, depending greatly upon the child's desire to please and upon the child's stubbornness. T. Berry Brazelton (1992) and Benjamin Spock (1992) are among the well-known pediatrician/authors who have written books on childrearing that suggest non-violent means of discipline.

Researchers have linked authoritarian childrearing with children who withdraw, lack spontaneity, and have lesser evidence of conscience (Maccoby & Martin, 1983). Hart et al. (2005) state:

Corporal punishment has been found to be consistently related to poor mental health; including depression, unhappiness, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness in children and youth. Corporal punishment is a risk factor for relationship problems, including impairment of parent-child relationships, increased levels of aggression and anti-social behaviour in children, raised thresholds for defining an act as violent, and perpetration of violence as an adult, including abuse of one's family members.

The Taking Children Seriously approach eschews all child discipline as unethical.

Religious perspectives

Earlier in history, Solomon advised:

"Discipline your children and they will give you rest" (Book of Proverbs 29:17)

and similarly warned:

"..A mother is disgraced by a neglected child." (verse 15b).

These parts of the Bible continue to influence conservative Christians and Jews today, notably James Dobson. However in the New Testament Paul wrote:

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

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