Can You Discipline Without Punishment?
“Just you wait until your father gets home.”
“You’re grounded. Go to your room NOW!”
“No desserts for a week.”
“Go sit on the naughty step.”
How often have we used punishments like these to get our children to listen to us? We want our children to know that undesirable behavior has consequences, and by punishing them, we believe we are instilling discipline.
However, there’s a world of a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment involves pain and discomfort. It is a deterrent. It may or may not be related to their misbehavior, and is usually given to make them pay for it.
Discipline, on the other hand, trains and instructs a child how to behave in a desirable way. It is a positive method of teaching self-control, confidence and responsibility. Here we focus on what children are allowed to do, we model the appropriate behavior.
The benefit of discipline is that when children are trained to manage themselves, their feelings, their behavior and impulses, they not only develop a sound moral compass, but also feel more secure, self-confident and loved.
So how do we go about instilling discipline without punishment?
1. Be a role model
From a young age, children imitate what they see. So, if we want a respectful child, we ought to respect our children. If we want children to control their impulses, we must demonstrate impulse control ourselves by not acting when we’re upset.
2. Use positive reinforcement
When our children does something good, we should make sure to tell them that. Example: “Did you see how happy you made that child, when you shared your toys?”
3. Set limits and boundaries – but with empathy
Children need limits. They need to know what is acceptable and unacceptable. But when we acknowledge their perspective, they feel understood and are more likely to accept our limits. For example: when a child resists bedtime, we could say, “Yes, I know you’re having a really good time and you don’t want it to end. It’s hard to stop when you’re having fun, so let’s have fun getting ready for bed.”
4. Be consistent
Our children need reminding of the right behavior a few times before they can internalize it. For example: reminding a child to put away toys once he’s done with them. Instead of losing our cool and yelling when it’s not done, we calmly repeat the instructions, stay patient and praise him when the actions are appropriate. This is what reinforces the desired behavior.
5. Be compassionate
The golden rule when it comes to discipline is, ‘How would I want to be treated if I were in my child’s position?’ It’s not easy being a child and have someone else wield all the power over you. So while we instill discipline, we do it with empathy and love, allowing children to maintain their dignity and their connection to us.
Mums, it’s not always easy to be patient and avoid punishments. But if we persist, we will be raising not just well-behaved children but also model citizens.