What does the word discipline mean to you? Does it mean punishment? Spanking? Time outs or grounding? Many people associate discipline with punishment. The word discipline derives from the word disciple which means “to teach”. To me, the two words are not synonymous. Let’s break it down a little more.
Discipline for a child should begin when the child is in diapers and continue every day until they are into their late teens and showing signs of becoming an adult. Every day you must find opportunities to teach your little ones how to be a good human. Children are little sponges that soak up everything around them. There is a goldmine of learning opportunities all around you daily if you just look for them.
When you stop to look for traffic while holding your toddler’s hand, take the time to explain how dangerous the road is, and how we should always look both ways twice to make sure there is no traffic in your immediate danger zone. When you are cooking and your baby crawls into the kitchen, pick him up and take him to another room to distract him while you are explaining that the kitchen is a dangerous place while mommy is cooking. He won’t understand every word at first, but if you are consistent and explain this every time, he will understand before you know it and your two year old will happily play with his toys in the playroom while you are cooking dinner. It will become second nature to him because discipline was utilized to make the point ingrained in his little head.
Communication is the key. Talk to your child, as if you are speaking to an adult. Baby talk hinders her speech and her understanding of what you are attempting to convey. Kids need to be taught even the simplest things. They don’t have the experience that adults have to call upon to know what to do in certain situations. A lot of talking on the part of the parents will teach the child faster and make life easier for both parent and child. If you were hired for a job and not told what you were supposed to do and given no instructions as to your job duties, you would not perform very well would you? A child is no different. EVERYTHING in this big world is new and they have no knowledge of how to perform. That’s your job as their parent, to teach them, lovingly and with patience. Depending on their age, they most likely will need to be told often. But know that your message will eventually be learned.
One of Webster’s definitions for discipline is “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character”. If you remember this definition, and strive to do this each and every day with your child, your job as a parent will be easier and your child will “listen” and behave a lot better.
The other part of this post has to do with punishment. If you discipline your child daily, punishment should occur extremely rarely. And by rarely I mean less than what you can count on one hand in their entire childhood. Punishment, to be effective has to be rare. Parents who punish their child often have little to no positive results. We’ll discuss punishment more in future blog posts but for now, try to have more patience, explain everything to your child and teach them with a calm, loving voice.