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discipline
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Discipline - What Is It Really?
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One of the most contested areas of parenting is the subject of how to discipline our children. We can receive advice on this subject from everyone from child psychology "experts" to Great-Aunt Emma (who didn't actually have any children of her own, but still considers herself an expert). Experts and non-experts alike continuously debate topics such: to spank or not to spank; whether to comfort a crying baby or let him "cry it out"; expecting strict obedience vs. giving choices; etc. etc. All of this conflicting advice can leave the new parent very confused, and can sometimes lead to a lack of self-confidence in his or her own parenting skills.

To alleviate some of this confusion, let's get down to basics: what exactly is "discipline"? I did a little research on the word itself. The Latin of "discipline" is "discipulus", which means "pupil, disciple". A pupil is a student of a teacher; a disciple is a follower of a teacher or leader. Clearly, the word discipline is strongly related to teaching and leading - not punishment for children as some would believe.

So, when we discipline our children, the goal should be to teach them something. Realizing this can take a great deal of confusion out of the whole issue. Focusing on what we want to teach our children regarding behavior can help a great deal in deciding what type of "discipline" to use. What exactly do we want to teach our children - and how will this teaching be accomplished?

We'll take one question at a time.

What do we want to teach our children? Ultimately, we want to teach our children the skills they will need to function well as adults. We want them to be able to relate easily to others, be successful in their chosen careers, to have healthy family relationships.We need to take the time to think about the character traits we would like to see our children develop. This is called intentional parenting, and this will answer the question of what we want to teach our children.

How will this teaching be accomplished? Actually, this will happen in many ways - and some of them may be unexpected. One of the most surprising experiences of new parents is the way toddlers mimic their parents' behavior. ( I remember being unpleasantly reminded of some of my own bad habits when my small children mirrored them back to me.) Once we realize how much power we have to mold our children's behavior simply by modeling "good" behavior, we can use that truth to teach them every time we are with them.

We can also teach our children to have desirable behavior through verbal praise and correction. Giving positive feedback on "good" behavior ("great job picking up your blocks") and negative feedback on undesirable behavior ("we don't hit our friends") can be more effective than many people realize. Do be sure, however, to comment on the behavior, not the child himself. There are no "good" or "bad" children; there is only good or bad behavior.

Sometimes we need to back up verbal correction with some sort of action, especially for a repeated offense, or for an especially defiant child. For small children, "time-out" works well. Being removed from play, and having to sit and think about one's behavior, is a good deterrent to repeating that undesirable behavior. (Come to think of it, isn't that what is done in the adult game of hockey?) The rule of thumb is: one minute of time-out for each year of the child's age. (Two minutes of sitting is as long as should be expected for a two-year-old, for example.) Again, the goal here is teaching, so I always discuss with the child why he was in time-out, to make sure he understands what the undesirable behavior was and that he is not to repeat it.

I've discussed briefly here some positive parenting techniques; I will discuss each of them in further detail in future articles. The main thing I hope any parent gets from this article is the concept of intentional parenting - thinking about exactly what it is we wish to teach our children in terms of life skills, and planning ahead of time how we will deal with behavior issues before we are confronted with them. In this way, we will truly be "disciplining" (teaching) instead of just reacting.

As a mom of six, who's worked with children of all ages for over 30 years in various settings, I figured I might know a thing or two I could share with new parents. Check out my blog: www.kreativekidsspot.blogspot.com

Looking for a parenting program you can use right now? Check out: The Happy Child Guide


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