The path to a deeper connection with your child and a more enjoyable way to live!
It is ironic that the word ‘discipline’ stems from the Latin word ‘disciplina’ meaning instruction or knowledge (also found in the Latin word ‘discipulus’, one who learns), yet the modern verb ‘to discipline’ carries such negative connotations, conjuring up the concept of punishment, belittling correction and authoritative conditioning. The fact is that discipline is about learning. Rather than serving as a fear-based response from child to adult as a result of something they did or did not do or used as a way to instil obedience or win a battle, positive discipline empowers and promotes understanding and cooperation.
Throughout Julia Gabriel Education positive discipline is part and parcel of our approach to learning and very much a component of our EduDrama® methodology. It characterises all our programmes and influences how we forge relationships and communicate with one another. And – it is something you can implement at home in order to help your child’s holistic development.
Here are six steps you can take to help you establish positive discipline as a culture for learning at home.
STEP 1. UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD
In order to understand your child fully you need to know their temperament. This is their personality traits; how they react to their environment and everyone in it.
There are nine temperament types:
Activity: What is your child’s usual energy level? Would you say it is high – they are always on the go? Or does your child like to take their time over things in a relaxed way – low? Is your child’s daily schedule, combined with your expectations, suitable to their innate energy level?
Biological Rhythm: What is your child’s natural biological rhythm? Are they regular in their eating and sleeping patterns or irregular, meaning they may find it hard to stick to rigid routines? They may appear to go about things in a haphazard way!
Sociability: Does your child enjoy meeting new people and visiting new places or do they tend to shy away from new people or experiences?
Adaptability: How easily, or not, does your child adjust to changes in their routines or situation? Are they able to move on to something new without much fuss, taking things in their stride, or does having to switch suddenly from one activity to another or a new environment make them uncomfortable? Do they resist?
Intensity: Different children will demonstrate a different intensity of reaction to both positive and negative experiences or situations. The same happy experience might cause one child to leap around excitedly whilst another remains still and simply smiles. Similarly, a child might demonstrate a very strong reaction to not being able to wear their favourite t-shirt because it is in the washing machine whereas another may not seem to care.
Mood: We all have mood swings from time to time but would you describe your child’s mood as being generally positive, with an optimistic outlook, or do they lean more towards the gloomy side of nature? They may feel positive and happy about something inside whilst their demeanour suggests otherwise.
Persistence and attention span: If your child characteristically has high persistence, they will stick with an activity until completed, persisting with a problem or puzzle until they have solved it. They will want to continue riding that bike without stabilisers until they have mastered doing so. If they are low persistence they can be easily distracted, become frustrated quickly or move on to something new when faced with a challenge.
Distractibility: Is it easy for your child to block out distractions and remain focused on a task or do external stimuli make it hard for them to concentrate?
Sensitivity: If your child tends to be bothered by loud noises, bright lights, sudden movement or certain textures they possess a high sensitivity trait. Children with low sensitivity traits tend not to react to external stimuli. This doesn’t mean they do not feel things, they just don’t show it.
It is important to emphasise that there are no good or bad traits. It is not that high is better than low or vice versa. Every child is an individual born with their particular traits. We are all influenced however by our upbringing and experiences and as a result, this may cause our traits to change. Children are born with certain characteristics but they develop their unique personality as they grow. When parents understand the temperament types of their child, they will be in a much stronger position to support them in positive and appropriate ways as they develop and grow.
STEP 2. UNDERSTAND YOURSELF
Nobody said that parenting is easy! And hand-in-hand with understanding your child, it is equally important to be honest with yourself about your parenting style and your own patterns of behaviour.
In the 1960s, clinical and developmental psychologist Diane Baumrind identified four main parenting styles which remain the reference point for psychologists and educators today. Each style determines the way a parent uses disciplinary strategies, how they communicate with their child, if and how they demonstrate warmth and nurture and their expectations of maturity and self-control.
Which parenting style best reflects your approach?
1. Authoritarian: Parents set strict rules they expect children to follow. Obedience is paramount. Parents focus on ‘training’ child to comply, often expecting them to be ‘seen and not heard’. Parents will often respond to queries with “because I said so”.
Impact on child: Children are likely to be obedient and proficient but will lack self-esteem, demonstrate poorly developed social skills and rank lower in happiness indexes.
2. Authoritative: This style of parenting is similar to Authoritarian in that parents seek to establish clear rules and guidelines but they are much more responsive to the children questioning their authority. They are more nurturing than Authoritarian parents when children fail to meet expectations and are assertive but not intrusive or restrictive.
Impact on child: Generally, children are happy, capable and successful.
3. Permissive: A more non-traditional and lenient parenting style. Generally, parents have a relatively low expectation of their child’s maturity and self-control. Permissive parents nurture and communicate with their children, often behaving more like a friend than a parent.
Impact on child: Children tend to rank lower in happiness and self-control, largely because they lack clear boundaries and guidelines. They are also more likely to have difficulty with authority and this can affect performance in school.
4. Uninvolved: This style of parenting is characterised by very little communication with and low expectations of the child. Parents may be very detached from their child’s life.
Impact on child: Children raised in this kind of environment unfortunately rank lower in all areas – happiness, self control, self-esteem, social awareness and academic competence.
STEP 3. UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POSITIVE DISCIPLINE AND PUNISHMENT
The effects of both positive discipline and punishment are long-lasting and far-reaching but one has a much more positive effect than the other! At Julia Gabriel Education we do not condone hitting, beating, spanking, poking or inflicting humiliation or corporal punishment on a child.
|Over-controlling and harsh||Kind and firm|
|“The more you suffer, the better you learn”
(The focus is on suffering)
|“The more you learn, the less you suffer”
(The focus is on learning)
|Misbehaviour is a crime and children are bad||Misbehaviour is a poor choice even good children make|
|Parents responsible for controlling children||Parents responsible for teaching children self-control and holding children accountable for their actions|
|Uses condescending lectures and blame||Is respectful and focuses on solutions|
|Respects only parents’ rights||Respects parents’ and children’s rights|
|Arbitrary; based on parents’ whims and anger||Logically related to misbehaviour|
|Reminds child of past mistakes “I told you so”||Allows quick return to normal routine|
|Decreases self-esteem||Maintains self-esteem|
|Children become immune, developing an “I don’t care attitude” as severity of punishment escalates||Children care about behaving well and correcting mistakes|
|Resentment builds, rebellion increases||Respect and responsibility grows, self-control and self-discipline increases|
STEP 4. AIM FOR COOPERATION RATHER THAN OBEDIENCE
Parents naturally want their children to be happy, positive, loved and feel good about themselves. We want them to grow up to be capable and happy adults. We understand that parenting is not easy. What parent hasn’t lost their rag occasionally because they are tired of a battle and just want their child to listen and do as they say, even if that is not normally their style! But when we offer children choices, within reasonable limits, we enable them to cooperate and make their own decisions. Children raised with rigid limits, and few or no choices, are unable to think for themselves. Rather than ordering your child to bed, you might ask, “Would you like to hear one more story or play with your dinosaurs before bedtime?” The response values the child’s developing right to choose.
When children obey out of blind fear, it may work in the short term, but it will build lasting resentment and rebellion over time. Positive cooperation on the other hand almost always works and promotes team work, self-responsibility and mutual respect.
STEP 5. DEVELOP A TOOL BOX FOR POSITIVE DISCIPLINE
Prevention is always better than cure! And in the case of children’s behaviour, it is always a good idea to establish ground rules for them to follow in the form of tools of prevention that can ideally be employed before misbehaviour!
Tips for tools during and after an incident:
- Practise what you preach by being a role model of positive behaviour yourself.
- Understand and appreciate your child’s temperament.
- Encourage the behaviour you want to see by pointing out how well your child is doing when you see them behaving well.
- Be interested in your child’s activities and enjoy their company.
- Be aware of your child’s underlying needs and feelings.
- Give clear, specific instructions.
- Establish routines and follow them, such as meal times, bath and bed times…
- Preempt potentially challenging transitions by planning for them. Moving house, changing schools, graduating from preschool and moving from one activity to another can all be difficult for children to handle.
- Acknowledge and encourage rather than praise.
- Love unconditionally and never threaten abandonment.
If you feel your child is behaving unacceptably, where possible, deal with that situation as it happens:
- Offer choices within limits of acceptable alternatives, such as, “Would you like to change into your pyjamas or brush your teeth first?”
- Communicate your own feelings, “I’m am so annoyed and frustrated right now.”
- Validate your child’s feelings too, “I can see that you are really angry.”
- Demonstrate appropriate behaviour yourself so young children learn what to do.
- Use positive language, “Yes” rather than “No” for example. “Yes, you can go out to play, after you have put the toys away.” “Making your bed would be very helpful.”
- Provide your child with information that helps them understand their actions, “Littering means that somebody else will have to pick it up for you!”
- Support your child to carry out potentially difficult tasks, such as apologising to someone! “I think we should say sorry to Emily.”
- Physically remove or restrain your child from a highly challenging situation if necessary, especially if it is potentially harmful to anyone involved.
Use these tools of consequence as a guide to help children learn what to do after a challenging incident:
- Role model how to make amends if your child is too young to do it alone.
- Expect restitution if rules have been broken e.g. Make sure the toy is returned or replaced; the wall washed; the room tidied, etc.
- Take action yourself i.e. say sorry if you have broken a rule or hurt someone’s feelings.
- Allow natural consequences. For example, if your child has forgotten to take their PE kit to kindergarten, let them be reminded by their teacher.
- Set and apply reasonable restrictions like grounding or removal of privileges when necessary.
- Use self-control time-out. For example, “You can join in as soon as you are ready to play without snatching” (Useful website – zerotothree.org for information on time out).
- Use logical consequences to help your child understand that their choice means conditions apply.
STEP 6. TAKE ACTION!
It takes a great deal of awareness, pre-planning and collaboration between parents and children to establish a culture of positive discipline. Once in place however it enables children, and adults, to form positive relationships at home, at work and at play, and to be responsible for their jobs, emotions, bodies and behaviour. Positive discipline is a more rewarding, healthy and enjoyable way to live – and it starts with YOU!