It’s exciting times! Did you know that new legislation passed in October makes spanking your child illegal? This is a win for children’s rights in our country, where rates of child violence are some of the highest in the world. Wessel Van der Berg (child rights and positive parenting portfolio manager) for the NGO Sonke Gender Justice, reminds us that “A large body of research shows that there’s a strong association between men’s use of violence and their exposure to harsh physical punishment as children.” One study carried out over five decades, involving over 160,000 children, found that the more children are spanked, “the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased antisocial behaviour, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.”
So what how can we as parents to manage our kids effectively?
Disciplining in the 21stcentury is less about a “method” and more about what you say and your relationship with your child. I like to call it disciplining with heart. How we discipline affects what our kids learn about controlling feelings, handling arguments and difficult situations. So it’s really worthwhile to take a moment to calm down first and to think about what we’d like to them to learn when we discipline them.
If Joe keeps leaving his shoes on the floor, our discipline comment could teach (remind) him that “shoes aren’t for the floor, shoes are for wearing or keeping in the cupboard”. If we shout, threaten or become overly demanding, getting his co-operation is less likely. Remember too, that we can’t expect children to learn without teaching them the consequences of their behaviour. So as we discipline, following through with consequences that are logical, fair and purposeful teaches them to become responsible.
Top tips for disciplining with heart
- breathe – always try to calm yourself before reacting out of anger
- talk to them at their eye-level– kids feel respected and ‘heard’ when we’re at their level, it gains co-operation
- think about what you’re wanting them to learn – and explain this to them (it’s about teaching and guiding, not forcing)
- repeat what’s expected – children learn through repetition, so tell them how you’re wanting them to behave
- use questions rather than commands – by questioning them about their behaviour it helps develop their problem solving skills (e.g. “what do you think will happen if you do that?” “what is dinnertime for?”)
- explain and follow through with consequences – they learn and co-operate best when they understand what’s expected and consistently experience the results of their choices (consequences)
- comment on the positives – when you notice and comment on good behaviour, it activates the centers in the brain responsible for motivation, so they’re highly likely to keep behaving this way (e.g. “nice listening”, “great sharing”
With a just few adjustments to our behaviour, we’ll soon be amazed at how effective disciplining this way can be. That’s why I called my second book ParentMagic – raising kids positively – because by using easy methods, parenting becomes magical.