Rules of Discipline
- RECOGNISE THE CHALLENGE
Disciplining you child is one of the challenges of parenthood. Note that not all children can be disciplined in the same way. An approach you read about may work on other children but not on your toddler. Another method may work wonders on your pre-schooler, but fail to produce results on another child. The challenge is to pick a style that works for your family. Factors to consider include your child's temperament, his age and stage of development.
- FOCUS ON KEY ISSUES
It's no point trying to battle your child on every small point. He may insist on drinking only from the blue cup (not the red or the purple), or sulk if you tell him not to wear that Spiderman shirt (yet again!) to a birthday party. Before you get annoyed, ask yourself if these issues are really worth clashing over. There may be more important issues - such as those related to safety or hygiene - for you to stand firm on.
- DISLIKE THE BEHAVIOUR, LOVE THE CHILD
Show your little one you love him. Connect with him and explain that telling lies, hitting someone, and being rude, for instance, are not acceptable behaviours. Whatever way you choose to set boundaries or discipline your child, ensure that the message of love gets through first.
- BE CONSISTENT & CLEAR
Your child is more likely to listen if your instructions and rules are reasonable and clearly defined. "Put on your safety helmet before your ride your bicycle/ tricycle." If this is one of your non-negotiable rules, explain why the helmet is important and ensure there is consistent application of this rule. Don't change or 'forget' the rule just because you are busy, tired or find it too much trouble to implement it. By doing so, your child will be confused about what he is supposed to do.
- WORK WITH YOUR CHILD
Allow your child some autonomy. For example, if bedtime on a school night is 8pm and he has to complete a set of chores before lights out, let him have a say on how he'd like to order his chores. Whether it's keeping toys first then brushing his teeth or vice versa, let him have the freedom to choose. By giving your child a sense of control, he is more likely to stick to your rules and cooperate.
- WORK WITH YOUR SPOUSE
Very often in a household, one parent says no to certain things, but the other parent (knowingly or unknowingly) allows it. This lack of consistency confuses the child; whose instructions should he follow - mummy's or daddy's? In other instances, when parents disagree about discipline matters in front of the child, the result is that one parent's authority could be eroded. Parents should agree on a set of rules and make sure the implementation, as a team, is consistent. By doing so, a child becomes more secure knowing where the parameters of his world lie.
- STAY IN CONTROL
Maybe you've had a bad day at work or maybe your child's behaviour has been exceptionally trying. Whatever the reason, refrain from yelling, screaming, spanking. When you find yourself on the verge of losing your cool, walk away and take a deep breath. When you should or use harsh words, chances are it only escalates the problem. More than that, you are only showing your child that feelings cannot be controlled. One way to remind yourself to keep calm in the face of talk-backs or tantrums is to write yourself a note - a Post-it stuck on the fridge or a digital note to self.
- LET THERE BE CONSEQUENCES
While you don't want to go over the top with your discipline approaches, it is just as undesirable to be too permissive or tolerant. Let your child understand there will be consequences as a result of misbehaving. If the little one breaks a rule, issue a warning. Should he break the rule again, let him face the consequence, like a time-out or withholding of privileges, for instance. If your five-year-old has scribbled on the dining table with crayons even though you specifically told him not to do so, manage this misbehaviour by issuing the consequence: clean up or have your crayons removed for the rest of the day.
- STAND FIRM
No matter how tempted you are, do not give in to whining or tantrums. Impress upon your child that "no" means exactly that/ Be careful, too, about bribing your child. Examples of this include, "Pick up all your toys now and I'll buy you ice cream later." Such bribes are short-term solutions. It may work but your child will probably expect some kind of reward every time you want him to do something.
- THE POWER OF PRAISE
Offer praise when your child keeps to boundaries and rules. Children have an innate desire to please their parents, so your positive reinforcement will boost self-esteem and encourage him to keep up the good behaviour. A pat on the back, high-five or hug should suitably convey your approval. To further track his achievements, you can put up a good-behaviour sticker chart to serve as a visual display of his progress. Once he's collected say, six stickers, he can exchange it for a small reward like a book or a trip to the park.
- BE POSITIVE
Parents usually tell their children, "Don't run!" or "Don't talk so loudly!" Try communicating the message in a more positive way: "Do walk carefully as it's slippery." or "Speak gently as we don't want to disturb others."
- BE A GOOD ROLE MODEL
Have you been nagging your child to stay away from junk food? Make sure you do the same, mum and dad! By setting a good example, your child will find it easier to model his actions after you.
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