Discipline means teaching the child appropriate and desired behaviors, making a habit and educating the child to comply with the rules.
Discipline is often equated with punishment and is therefore overlooked, especially in modern families. However, discipline is not a punishment, it is a set of rules. The first and safest place to learn the rules is in the family. If the child has not learned to obey the rule at home, the place where he will learn it is the school environment. The school environment may not always be loving. This can damage the child’s self-confidence development and cause them to exhibit negative behaviors.
Discipline works when combined with unconditional love. A child who knows that he is loved and accepted by his parents under all circumstances, no matter what he does, does not react to discipline methods. The child who cannot see unconditional love, on the other hand, constantly rebels against the authority and does the opposite of what is said.
The rules should not be applied only when the child exhibits inappropriate behavior and does not obey, but should be applied in all circumstances. The rules should belong to the behavior, not the person who made the rule. If the mother has set a rule that chocolate can be eaten after the meal is over, this rule should be applied not only when the child is with the mother, but also when the child is with other people (such as father, grandfather, aunt).
How Should Rules Be Determined?
When determining the rules, the age, skills and personality characteristics of the child should be taken into consideration. Not every child has the same skills at the same age. First of all, the skills of the age period of the child should be examined and compared with the skills that the child has. While supporting the skills that he has difficulty in doing, what he can do can be made a rule. For example, for a child who has difficulty in folding his clothes, making this behavior a rule and waiting for him to comply will not be beneficial and will damage the child’s self-confidence. Instead, while the ability to fold his clothes with support is developed, on the other hand, if he can make his bed, this behavior can be made a rule and expected to comply.
The fact that the rules are concrete makes it easier for the child to show the expected behavior. For example, instead of waiting for the child to be organized, it will be more useful to embody the concept of orderliness and put it into behaviors (such as making his bed, hanging his clothes on a hanger).
In order for the rules to become a habit and for the child not to forget what he has to do, parents can make a list of the behaviors they expect from the child and hang them on the wall of their room. For example, when you wake up in the morning, wash your hands, make your bed, brush your teeth, collect your toys, hang your clothes, and pack your bag before going to bed. In this way, the child can follow the work to be done every day from the list.
How should the rules be explained to the child?
The parents should determine the rules together and explain them to the child together. If the child can read and write, the rules can be written down and the whole family can talk about the rules together. It would be unfair to explain all the rules to younger children and then expect them to follow them. Because young children can forget most of what is said.
Immediately after an undesirable behavior is observed in the child, the parents should confront the child without getting angry and shout and tell the child in a calm but determined voice that his behavior is not appropriate and that he should not do it again. The same method should be applied each time the child repeats this behavior. The child, who sees that his parents are determined on this issue, puts an end to the unwanted behavior after a few tries. For example, when hitting behavior is observed in a child, parents may say:
“…., hitting is very wrong. Nobody gets hit. We don’t want you to do that again.”
Explaining the rules in a positive way is also one of the factors that make it easier to comply with the rule. Saying the behaviors to be done with a command sentence may cause the child to exhibit contradictory behaviors. Saying “you can’t play with the computer if you don’t do your homework” has the same meaning as saying “you can play with the computer when you finish your homework”, but a punishment is felt in the first sentence while a reward is felt in the second sentence. Positive expression not only facilitates compliance with the rule, but also supports child-parent communication.
Parents sometimes start to make explanations about why a behavior should not be done. Of course, it should be explained why it should not be done. However, disclosures must be age-appropriate. It is enough to increase the explanation as the age gets older, and to say that the behavior is wrong at younger ages.
When to Start Ruling?
As the child starts to crawl, the need to set rules arises. The toddler starts to rummage through the cupboards, empty the drawers, and engage in behaviors that may put him in danger. In this case, the most common method parents use is to say “don’t do it” or even to shout and get angry. Instead, it is necessary to say “No, it cannot be done” for young children and to take necessary precautions (such as hanging locks on cabinet doors, putting things that could endanger the child’s life out of reach), and reminding the child of the rules as they get older.
Prize or punish? :
One of the important factors that lead to behavior change is punishment. However, punishment leads to the accumulation of anger in the child instead of encouraging the child to learn from his mistakes and take lessons. The punished child thinks “I am bad”. However, when he is allowed to experience the natural consequences of his mistake, he receives the message that his behavior is not appropriate, not his personality.
The most effective way to learn and teach appropriate behavior is rewarding. With the idea of ”appropriate behavior is the behavior that should be done”, parents do not say anything to the child in the face of his positive behavior. Just like the mother who cooks every night is often not given feedback on the food she cooks. However, rewarded behavior is repeated and reinforced.
However, when the child exhibits inappropriate behavior, the attention of the parents is immediately turned on the child. It is important for children to attract the attention of their parents. It doesn’t matter how it happens. If the child realizes that his parents are paying attention to him at the end of his inappropriate behavior, he will continue to behave inappropriately in order to continue this.
Punishment dictates what should not be done rather than showing appropriate behavior. Parents may think that the child who learns what not to do will understand what to do. However, there are different appropriate behaviors and children learn these behaviors under the guidance of their parents. With the reward, the desired behaviors are settled more easily. As the age increases, the sanction power of the punishment decreases. Moreover, there may be problems in the form of rebelling, doing the opposite of what is said, and constantly behaving negatively. For this reason, it is important to reward the child’s desired/appropriate behaviors.
The reward method can be used at any age level. While more tangible rewards (such as candy, wafers) are used at younger ages, it is effective to use fun activities (such as going to the movies, a game, playing games together) as rewards as the age gets older.
It is important that the prize to be used while determining the prizes is valuable for the child and cannot be easily obtained. At this point, the rewards can be determined together with the child. Thus, it is easier to motivate the child to follow the rule. When the reward to be used is determined as an activity that the child will do together with his parents, both the child and the parents enjoy it. Thus, the concept of “discipline” ceases to express authority and punishment, and ensures that family members lead a harmonious and enjoyable life with each other.
Another point to note is that the reward is for concrete behaviors. The child should clearly know what the expected behavior is and what he will achieve as a result so that he can do that behavior. Just like a salesperson who knows how much bonus he will receive after making a sale, clings to his job more tightly, children adapt to that rule more easily when they know that they will win as a result of their behavior.
Dos and Don’ts of Parents
While establishing discipline, the duty of the parents is not to be the authority, but to guide the child.
Parents should also implement the behaviors they expect from their children.
If the child is expected to brush their teeth, the parents should set an example for the child by brushing their teeth.
What behaviors are expected of the child should be clearly stated.
Behaviors expected from the child should be appropriate to his/her age and personality traits.
The parents should set the rules together and tell the child together.
Positive expressions should be used when describing the expected behaviors from the child.
Except for very special situations (death, leaving the house of one of the parents, serious illness, etc.), the rules should be fixed, and the child should understand that his parents are determined and consistent in this regard.
Rewarding method should be used to make it easier and permanent to comply with the rule.
It is not appropriate to get angry, shout, beg or even beg the child to comply with the rule. Instead, parents should simply remind the child of the rule. It should be the child’s choice whether to follow the rule or not. However, he should be rewarded when he obeys the rule, and he should experience the consequences when he does not.