Dis­ci­pline from within

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - RUTH LIEW star2@thes­tar.com.my

TWO five-year-olds were chat­ting away, obliv­i­ous to their teacher’s read-aloud for the class. Ev­ery­one else was all ears and eyes on the teacher.

De­spite re­peated re­minders, the two boys per­sisted with their chat­ting. When it got too loud, their teacher asked them to move aside from the group. One of them felt un­easy while the other hap­pily com­plied. Though they obeyed, both chil­dren re­sponded dif­fer­ently.

Chil­dren have their rea­sons for their be­hav­iour. They do not in­ten­tion­ally do things to ir­ri­tate or anger the adults. They need to un­der­stand how things are done and what they can do to take con­trol. They be­have bet­ter when they have the right skills to cope with chal­lenges.

At home, par­ents of­ten find their chil­dren do­ing or say­ing things they should not. How does one dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween de­fi­ance and im­ma­tu­rity? Chil­dren like to ex­plore and ex­per­i­ment. They will make mis­takes.

al­low chil­dren room to grow and de­velop on their own. Learn­ing from these mis­takes, with the adults’ guid­ance, makes them more ma­ture.

At the busy shop­ping mall, your four-yearold breaks free from your grip and runs to the near­est toy shop. When you try to make him leave the shop, he yells “No!” You try to rea­son with him; the more you talk, the more he strug­gles to break free from your con­trol.

The ques­tion is: Do you let him con­tinue this ruckus or al­low him to re­main in the toy shop?

Get your child to calm down be­fore you de­cide on the next step. Choose to do what is right by your child rather than sav­ing your­self from fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment.

Your child needs to learn how to be­have in a shop­ping mall. Talk to him when he is able to lis­ten. Of­fer him a so­lu­tion that is rea­son­able for both par­ent and child.

In­stead of “You can’t go to the toy shop now,” try “We will only spend 15 min­utes here and then we have to do our gro­cery shop­ping.” Of­ten, par­ents tend to tell their kids what they can­not do rather than what they can do.

Let your child know that he can re­quest to visit the toy shop af­ter gro­cery shop­ping is done. Give him lee­way to spend some time at his favourite cor­ner of the shop. In­volve your child in plan­ning an out­ing that both of you can en­joy.

Many par­ents tend to use “Don’t” in their in­struc­tions. They for­get that chil­dren fo­cus more on the words that are ac­tive rather than pas­sive. They hear what they can do rather than what they can­not do. When you are not in con­flict with your child, try to ac­cen­tu­ate the pos­i­tive.

Say to your child “You can help to tidy the room by putting away the toys” or “Be gen­tle with your baby sis­ter. She likes it when you han­dle her gen­tly.” Chil­dren lis­ten to our words and fol­low our ac­tions in­stinc­tively. They can ac­tu­ally act in a prompt and cour­te­ous man­ner when they are ex­pected to do so.

How­ever, when par­ents adopt an au­thor­i­tar­ian style by re­sort­ing to threats, force, bribes and with­drawal of priv­i­leges, chil­dren may re­act dif­fer­ently. In this way, chil­dren obey pas­sively. Dis­ci­pline here is im­posed from with­out rather than within. There is very lit­tle room for chil­dren to learn self-dis­ci­pline.

In­stead of shout­ing sev­eral times at your child to stop his be­hav­iour, you can say to him: “You need to stop kick­ing the ta­ble.” Say it firmly. Your child will sense the se­ri­ous­ness in your voice. Choose to man­age your child’s be­hav­iour with re­spect and con­sis­tency.

Par­ents must only give in­struc­tions they ex­pect the chil­dren to obey. On their part par­ents must lead by ex­am­ple. How you be­have in­flu­ences your child’s be­hav­iour. If you are sit­ting qui­etly and calmly, chances are your child may do like­wise.

Al­low chil­dren room to grow and de­velop on their own with­out you hov­er­ing over them.

When it comes to dis­ci­plin­ing your child, spend time work­ing out the best so­lu­tions for long-range goals rather than opt­ing for short cuts to curb­ing mis­be­haviour. n Ruth Liew is a child de­vel­op­men­tal­ist, Montes­sori trainer and ex­am­iner. A mother of two teenage daugh­ters, she is com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing chil­dren’s rights.

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