Dis­ci­pline traps to avoid

Oh no! Your child has pulled his sis­ter’s pony­tail again, ig­nored your or­der to take a bath or failed to clean up af­ter him­self. What to do to cor­rect this, asks Su­san Sa­muel

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

DO YOU SOUND like one of those moms you hoped never to be­come?

Your child keeps mis­be­hav­ing over and over again and no amount of threat­en­ing or shout­ing brings an end to it? The next morn­ing, like clock­work, the cy­cle starts again, and you’re back at yelling, threat­en­ing and even beg­ging. Yet noth­ing helps – to­mor­row all of this naugh­ti­ness is on re­peat.

What if we told you that’s be­cause the prob­lem doesn’t lie with your child but with how dis­ci­pline is ap­plied?

Some­times, par­ents get into the habit of shout­ing at our child the mo­ment she mis­be­haves or say­ing some­thing we im­me­di­ately re­gret. Yeah, chil­dren have the knack of rub­bing one up the wrong way, but as a par­ent you also know that it can dam­age your child’s self-im­age when you yell at her, speak in a mean way or be­lit­tle her by telling her she’s lazy, stupid or such­like. Even if you apol­o­gise later, these com­ments are never re­ally for­got­ten.

How to han­dle it

In the mo­ment it might feel like the eas­ier route is to scream and shout and get things over and done with, but it’s your re­spon­si­bil­ity to con­trol your­self. You know the signs and what it feels like just be­fore you raise your voice. Re­strain your­self, count to 10, take a walk through the gar­den and calm down. Think about it this way: if yelling re­ally worked, your child would have changed his be­hav­iour al­ready, right? Send your child to the naughty cor­ner while you cool off. You don’t have to think of a fit­ting pun­ish­ment right away, but make it clear there will be neg­a­tive con­se­quences, and calm down be­fore you pun­ish. Come up with a fit­ting pun­ish­ment within your sys­tem of dis­ci­pline – such as for­feit­ing pocket money or priv­i­leges.


Most par­ents grew up in an age when

cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was seen as ac­cept­able. It was not only used in the home but also in schools. If you grew up in a home where cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment was used, it’s quite dif­fi­cult to ex­change it for a method that’s per­haps less fa­mil­iar and seems less ef­fec­tive. Yet dis­ci­pline ex­perts agree that par­ents shouldn’t hit their chil­dren, since it teaches them that hit­ting is okay, as long as you’re big­ger and stronger.

How to han­dle it

You and your part­ner should work this out to­gether. Read about smack­ing and un­der­stand that phys­i­cal vi­o­lence is abu­sive. Un­der­stand at the very least that it’s al­ways un­ac­cept­able to smack your child in anger. Be­sides it be­ing fright­en­ing for your child, you run the risk of do­ing per­ma­nent dam­age to your re­la­tion­ship.

Lots of lit­er­a­ture con­vinc­ingly ar­gues against cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment. Do you like to be hit? What would you do if you were pun­ished with beat­ings at work? You’d sue the as­saulter, right? Do you still re­mem­ber how hu­mil­i­at­ing it was to be hit at school? You do? So stop hit­ting your chil­dren. Re­place it with a method with which you’re com­fort­able, such as a re­ward chart, tak­ing priv­i­leges away or us­ing time-outs.


Ac­cord­ing to the watch­dog or­gan­i­sa­tion the Par­lia­men­tary Mon­i­tor­ing Group, “the Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment has shared the draft Chil­dren’s Third Amend­ment Bill. The Bill pro­poses a num­ber of amend­ments to the Chil­dren’s Act, in­clud­ing amend­ments: • To ad­dress in­con­sis­ten­cies within the Chil­dren’s Act • To in­tro­duce new def­i­ni­tions • To re­move the com­mon law de­fence of rea­son­able chas­tise­ment and pro­hibit cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in the home.” Com­ments and sub­mis­sions were be­ing re­ceived in Septem­ber 2018. There­fore, it could shortly be il­le­gal to use cor­po­ral pun­ish­ment in your home on your chil­dren. Be aware.


Some­times a par­ent out­lines the ter­ri­ble con­se­quences that will come the way of the naughty child in or­der to scare them – but fails to fol­low through on any of them. This is the worst thing you can do! Your child will soon re­alise you don’t mean them, and the be­hav­iour will con­tinue.

How to han­dle it

When you make a rule, stick to it. Us­ing the fewest words pos­si­ble, make it clear what your child did wrong and what will def­i­nitely hap­pen if he trans­gresses this rule again. Make eye con­tact when you ex­plain the con­se­quence, and con­clude your story. Don’t keep on nag­ging. Your child heard you and must now de­cide if he will carry the con­se­quences. If he de­cides not to lis­ten, act there and then. Im­me­di­ately take dis­ci­plinary steps, as per your pre­vi­ous dis­cus­sion, without fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion. No “buts” – and no fur­ther speeches from your side.


Chil­dren be­come ex­tremely frus­trated when par­ents say no without think­ing prop­erly about their re­quest. Some­times, par­ents say no be­fore the child has even fin­ished speak­ing – es­pe­cially with lit­tle ones who speak slowly. You might be able to pre-empt the re­quest, but from your child’s per­spec­tive, you didn’t lis­ten to the full re­quest.

How to han­dle it

Lis­ten. Think about it. Then an­swer your child. If you can’t say yes or no right away, tell your child you need time to think about it or that you want to chat with her about it first. If she in­sists on hav­ing an an­swer, you can make it clear that less time to weigh up the op­tions or a con­stant nag­ging will lead to an im­me­di­ate re­fusal of her re­quest. Most chil­dren are happy to wait for an an­swer.


Your chil­dren ask for a sweetie the mo­ment you walk into the shop. It’s late in the day, and there’s no way they’ll eat their din­ner if they have sweets now. You also know that they could start nag­ging and even make a fuss if you refuse. What do you do? You say “maybe”.

In this way, you buy some ex­tra time dur­ing which you hope to di­vert their at­ten­tion from the re­quest. From your child’s point of view, you didn’t keep to your word, and that is the im­pres­sion they’re left with when they later re­mem­ber that you never loaded the promised sweets into the trol­ley.

How to han­dle it

If you want your kids to stop nag­ging, muster up the en­ergy to say no when you re­ally mean it. Lis­ten to the re­ac­tion

once, and calmly ex­plain the neg­a­tive dis­ci­plinary con­se­quences if they should con­tinue nag­ging and moan­ing – such as for­feit­ing priv­i­leges or fun ac­tiv­i­ties.


Your child won’t switch off the tele­vi­sion and go and take a bath just be­cause you asked nicely. A re­quest gives your child a choice to re­act or not. Be­fore you know it, you’re nag­ging – and she’s the one crack­ing the whip!

How to han­dle it

Stop to think be­fore you speak. It’s im­por­tant to use lan­guage cor­rectly. If you want some­thing done by a cer­tain time, make it clear in your re­quest. Say ex­actly what it is that you want and by when it should be done. Be clear and use sim­ple terms, so that your child knows there is no choice in­volved here. If she doesn’t com­ply with your re­quest, make the con­se­quences clear. Be sure to carry them out – even if you have to stick a re­minder on the fridge or put it on your phone!


Some­times par­ents are a lit­tle vague about the ex­act time cer­tain things need to hap­pen. This could lead to con­flict. Adults un­der­stand that “now” usu­ally means “im­me­di­ately”. But chil­dren don’t want to be dis­turbed when they’re busy with some­thing pleasant, so “now” can mean any­thing but!

Chil­dren will say they were just about to do some­thing, or were just busy pre­par­ing to do it. The truth is that they want to post­pone for as long as pos­si­ble.

How to han­dle it

Get a por­ta­ble dig­i­tal alarm clock or stopwatch, and use it! Kids re­act well to “beat the clock”, and will usu­ally speed up with the help of the clock. They thrive on struc­ture, and an alarm clock is one of the most ef­fi­cient ways to or­der a day. It’s also one of the most fair ways to dis­ci­pline your chil­dren: Say what has to be done, give the time frame, name the con­se­quences when things don’t hap­pen in time and set the clock.


It of­ten hap­pens that the ways in which par­ents pun­ish their chil­dren aren’t re­ally viewed as se­ri­ous by the chil­dren. The pe­riod for which priv­i­leges are with­drawn could be too short, or other treats that weren’t in use can of­ten re­place the priv­i­leges that were re­moved. Mild and in­ef­fec­tive con­se­quences mean that a child doesn’t re­ally care about what might hap­pen to her when she mis­be­haves.

How to han­dle it

Make the con­se­quences count. If they don’t make your child take no­tice, you’re wast­ing your time. Time-out must be made longer, or an im­por­tant pas­time can be for­feited. You know your child and you usu­ally know what she might ex­pe­ri­ence as the worst pun­ish­ment. If your child’s not al­lowed to watch tele­vi­sion for an hour, it doesn’t help pun­ish­ing her in the mid­dle of the day when she can play out­side in­stead. It’s much more ef­fi­cient to plan that hour in a times­lot when her favourite show is on, or when ev­ery­one’s watch­ing to­gether.

Also make re­wards in­ter­est­ing. Make priv­i­leges or pocket money hard to refuse – and bit­ter to for­feit be­cause of bad be­hav­iour. YB


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