“The future depends on what we do in the present!” -Mahatma Gandhi
Punishment or discipline? It’s an age-old debate, isn’t it? However, if dealt with the right attitude, care and consistency this would be an easy task.
The dictionary meaning of discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.” However, the recent trends show a shift from using punishment as a tool to enforce discipline in a child.
Punishment is about dominating a child: Instead of teaching the child the right ways to manage himself/herself, punishment may affect the self-esteem of a child. Mostly, it results in changing the manner a child thinks of himself. A UN agency states that a serious punishment could make a child consider “himself/herself bad", rather than thinking that “he/she has made a bad decision”
Discipline teaches children positive life skills: Discipline teaches children ways to manage their behaviour, solve issues, and cope with uncomfortable emotions like anger and disappointments. It helps them to learn from their mistakes and teaches them ways that are socially acceptable.
It is the building block for the evolution of a child's own self-discipline. As such, inculcating such values in children has proven to be one of the most crucial yet challenging exercises.
Discipling, as opposed to punishing, is all about moulding your child in the best possible shape. It is about guiding, instructing and teaching your child how to BEHAVE rather than punishing them for their MISBEHAVIOR.
Your goal of disciplining your child should never be short-termed, it should be a long term objective!
Let’s try to understand this way. Just imagine a picture of your child 20 years from now. How would you like to describe him/her then? Capable? Self-controlled? Strong? Careful? Helpful? Respectful?
Now, whenever you try out a new method to discipline your child, make sure that the method results in shaping your child like the adjectives you would like to describe him/her as. For example,
Will screaming at your child when he/she doesn’t finish their homework teach him/her to be respectful to others?
Will slapping your child for scoring less in his/her examinations motivate him/her to work hard the next time?
Will your control over all the activities of your child teach him/her to be self-controlled?
Now that you are able to identify what’s best for your child between the two, here’s how you can ensure the effectiveness of discipline in your child’s life:
Help him/her to feel a sense of connection (belonging and significance):
Studies suggest that it is very important for any of the adults in the family to spend at least 10 minutes of the “connect time” with their child every day to make him/her feel secure, connected and adored. For example, you can end your day by sharing with each other what you did/ learned on that day or simply by reading a book together and discussing the basic ideas contained in the book.
Agreement upon some fundamental values should be mutually respectful and encouraging:
The foundation of anything big is respect. Discipline exercised with mutual respect in a gentle yet firm, impartial yet reasonable way is most effective when it comes into play with your child. The discipline that is forcefully dictated often makes it worse for the child to respect and trust you. For example, agree upon some home cleanliness rules using the word “We” instead of “I” or “You”.
See the big picture together with your child:
Consider what your child is thinking, feeling, learning, and deciding, concerning themselves and their world. It is important to be in your child’s journey with them and then assisting him/her to acquire fundamental values that will help him to shape himself/herself in a good human being. For example, listen to your child’s imaginations and aspirations and then show him/her all the possible ways that give his/her imagination a realistic direction.
Always keep the essential social and life skills retained:
Enrooting social skills in your child qualify him/her for the endurance of energy-giving interactions in all walks of life. Social skills such as respect, concern for others, problem-solving, cooperation as well as the skills to contribute to the home, school or larger community are an integral part of acceptable functioning in society. For example, while teaching your child how to manage his/her time, make them realize that it’s always good to take a break and help his/her friend if they ask for it.
Help them in finding their fullest potential:
Sharpening your child's potential is another way of positive reinforcement that will drive them to keep learning. Exposing them to disciplines that will always keep them going, pushing them off the pace, plays a significant role in making your child aware of their fullest potential. For example, if you know that your child is a good speaker however has stage fear, explore ways where he/she can get an opportunity to speak in front of a group and always keep motivating after every attempt.
Punishment results in your child’s suffering for breaking the principles, discipline unfolds the different available ways for him/her to make a better choice for next time. All this while, you need not forget that the goal of teaching your child is the right deed yet with the right approach. This is indeed essential as studies have proved that a child who feels positive about himself is less expected to make poor judgments. Alternatively, they will eventually be moulded into a confident adult who is capable of managing their behaviour wholesomely. “A disciple, the one receiving discipline, is not a prisoner or recipient of punishment, but one who is learning through instruction.”