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Principles of discipline

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Focus on the Family Singapore Limited is a local charity with Institution of a Public Character (IPC) status dedicated to helping families thrive by being a voice for Family. We partner individuals and organizations to nurture families at different life stages through transformational family life education, trusted resources, content placements and counseling. (Find out more at www.family.org.sg.)

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It is normal for children to misbehave at times. As parents, it is tempting to resort to disciplinary actions when this happens. However, there are certain principles that you should follow.

Firstly, parents should try to agree between themselves when dealing with children. There should be some general agreement on family rules and the consequences if these rules are broken. The rules should be clear as it will help your child to know what is expected. If possible, you should discuss what you would do with your child before the situation arises. Rules should be reviewed and modified periodically so that they are appropriate for your child’s growing needs.

Once the rules are established, you should avoid disagreeing on when and how to enforce these rules in the child’s presence. Consistent enforcement of these rules is important, otherwise your child’s behaviour may become erratic and disciplinary actions become ineffective. Your child may also manipulate the disagreements to his advantage.

When the situation arises, parents should take control and manage their child. Some parents are afraid to do this, especially when they are in a public place. However, the lack of control may give the child opportunities to manipulate them.

Some things to consider

Get the timing right: Discipline should be meted out at the right moment as it strengthens the effect. However, you should avoid taking actions when you are still simmering with anger.

Be specific in pointing out the behaviour that is not acceptable. This will help your child to know what action is unacceptable and its consequences.

Deal with the behaviour, not the child: Avoid giving comments that put the child down (e.g. “Why are you so stupid?”).

Deal with the present situation: Do not constantly bring up your child’s past mistakes as it becomes a form of nagging.

Seek to be reconciled with the child: After disciplining your child, take time to talk with him and let him know that he is loved despite the misbehaviour.

The TRIP approach

Talking: When your child does something wrong, talk to him calmly about the rule he has broken and the consequences of his misbehaviour. Ask him to tell you the correct behaviour expected. If he is unsure, let him know your expectations.

Rewarding: This can take the form of praising, noting positive behaviour and occasional treats and surprises. Doing this reinforces good behaviour. However, avoid letting your child assume that he should be rewarded materially for his good behaviour.

Isolating: This happens when you put the child away for a brief period of time until he agrees to behave. It will also give you time to regain control of the situation. However, the period of isolation should not last too long. Reconciliation should follow to reassure the child.

Penalising: There are two main forms of penalties, either deprivation (withdrawal of privileges, such as no iPad after dinner) or impose responsibilities. The latter works better for older children who can be made to clean up the mess they create or be given extra chores to perform.

Article contributed by Focus On The Family

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