Child Discipline is helping your child learn how to behave – as well as how not to behave. Discipline doesn’t mean punishment and choosing an approach to discipline is about finding the right balance. Child discipline is built on talking and listening, and they guide children towards:

  • knowing what behaviour is appropriate, whether it’s at home, a friend’s house, at a party or school;
  • managing their own behaviour and developing important skills like the ability to get along well with others;
  • learning to understand, manage and express their feelings.

Do not forget this, children will test your limits, they always do. They’ll throw tantrums or misbehave and you may be tempted to lash out, even if you’re usually cool-headed. Knowing that spanking a child isn’t a safe option, how do you correct or discipline yours when he or she misbehaves?

Let’s look at these six alternative methods for disciplining young children that are effective and healthy at the same time.

1. Establish a positive relationship with your child:

One of the essential components required for effective discipline is a positive, supportive, loving relationship between the parent and the child. Probably the easiest ways to build a closer connection with your child is to be present; show that you are there, whether he or she is right or wrong. Let your child know that he or she can rely on you without feeling guilty or ashamed.

Listen actively and create time for uninterrupted conversation with your child. It works best when you have a warm and loving relationship with your child.  This kind of relationship will build trust and help your child develop a good self-esteem.

2. Use positive reinforcement/positive punishment:

Positive reinforcement means giving something to the child when they perform the desired action so they associate the action with the reward and do it more often. The reward is a reinforcing stimulus. Parents are encouraged to do this often, do not just make empty promises, keep them.

The Yale Parent Management Training program teaches parents to use positive reinforcement and effusive praise to reward children for good behaviour. The goal of positive reinforcement strategies is to help increase desired behaviours in children. If your child does something like completing homework or task, you can inspire the child to keep repeating that behaviour by pinning up his or her name on an “achievement” board or give a special kind of hug. This will increase your child’s self-esteem and motivate him or her to keep behaving well.

Denial of these positive reinforcements can become a good way to send a message that you disapprove of a particular action or behaviour, for example, have the child stay back at home while the others go shopping if he likes window shopping, chances are he won’t repeat this behaviour. On the other hand, you could administer positive punishments, something the child would dislike at the moment but which sends a lasting message. Positive punishment, especially when it is immediate, is one of the ways to decrease undesirable behaviour, for example, imagine your four year-old son, Araoluwa, hit his younger brother Ire. You have Araoluwa write 50 times “I will not hit my brother” and must be written in cursive writing (positive punishment).

3. Discuss consequences and follow-through:

It is not just enough to tell a child this is why I spanked you; a lot of parents forget to tell children the consequences of bad behaviour. Learning how to discipline a child requires teaching him or her how to behave appropriately and laying down pre-set rules and consequences for misbehaving. It’s more effective to discipline your child by explaining rules using clear and age-appropriate terms than by yelling or spanking him or her. Also, ensure that you serve as a good example to the child.

4. Ignore the tantrums:

One effective way of discouraging tantrums is to ignore or avoid reacting to it. For example, if your child is throwing a tantrum, rather than yelling or hitting him or her, you can choose not to engage at that point in time.

As long as he or she is safe, you can wait till he or she calms down, then give a hug (this may be difficult for most parents though). Sternly but calmly remind him or her to use words (not forgetting the magic word like “please”) like “I want,” “I’m tired,” or “I’m hungry, instead of throwing tantrums” etc., if he or she wants to get your attention. Another reason why ignoring bad behaviour can be effective is that when your child continuously misbehaves by tossing his or her toys around, when they break, he or she won’t have anything to play with. That will teach him or her a lesson without you saying anything. Or just deny him his favorite TV show or game instead of spanking and yelling and eventually wearing yourself out.

5. Set boundaries and give clear instructions:

If your child enjoys knocking down things in the kitchen or dining table, you can set boundaries by keeping those things out of reach. Learn to keep things out of reach of children. It will be so unfair to beat a child for gulping drugs you placed on the dinning table, drugs should have kept out of reach of children in the first place.

If you make it clear that an action he or she does can hurt someone else, and offer alternatives, your child starts to learn how to abstain from bad behaviours. Setting boundaries and giving clear instructions (to be repeated over and over, not just once) will teach your child self-control.

6. Prayer:

If you are a person of faith and believe in prayers, it is a proven and potent way to achieve behavioural change in your child. Some behaviours defy all known methods, and require a divine or supernatural intervention. There are proven stories of people whose lives have been changed through the prayers of their parents. The power of a praying parent works wonders.

As many experts have stated previously, physical punishment like spanking tends to suppress bad behaviour without the child learning to act better. It also grooms the child to be more aggressive in the long run. If you always keep in mind that tantrums and misbehaving are normal aspects of growing up, then you can use these alternative methods to eradicate bad behaviours while treating your child with compassion. If you can find the balance between sternness and sympathy, then you’ll have figured out how to discipline your child without spanking.

Dr Elizabeth Ogunshola

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1 Comment

  1. Woooooow thank you so much Dr Elizabeth Ogunshola, although I’m still single but I would really love to read more about this to prepare ahead on parenting my children in God’s way. I got so much value reading this. I grew up in a part of the world where beating a child is as normal as taking a bath.

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