Monday, Dec. 17, 2018

Disciplining the Child

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June 6, 2018


Our children are growing up in an age of plenty. The parents meet their demands as if it is an order from the Lord Almighty. In these circumstances disciplining the children is a huge issue but good discipline is the need of the hour for a better society. Disciplining the children requires skills of determination, logical thinking and persuasion from parents.

Good Discipline includes guiding kids towards internalizing survival skills (like not touching sharp things or not to share personal information with strangers) that they will need throughout life. I believe the two best discipline techniques are giving children time outs – having them sit silently for a preordained period of time (usually for as many minutes as their current age) – and showing them that there are consequences for their mis-guided actions, such as depriving them of their favourite outing or denying them their TV or play time. Which approach – or combination of approaches – you as parents take depends on your own values and circumstances.

For discipline to be effective however, you have to apply your preferred method. If you are teaching a tiny tot not to touch the lamp, but sometimes you remove his hand when he tries and at others you run for the camera he looks so cute with the lamp hoisted over his head, the ‘warning’ message is not going to get through (if you’re having trouble being consistent about something like that, save everyone a lot of trouble and just remove the lamp altogether). Likewise, if sometimes you tell him not to grab the glass out of your hand and other times you let him take it, he/she is going to have a much harder time learning not to grab.

Perhaps nowhere does this rule apply more than to taming tantrums. If you give in sometimes but not others, it is no different than if you always give in. A child figures it is worth the sea of tears and sore larynx in the hope that this will be one of the times screaming his head off works. The more strict and hard you are about these rules the more readily the child will internalize good behavior. But life being what it is there will be times when you will want to make an exception. It is probably beneficial for the child to know that adults are not completely rigid. So feel free to be inconsistent on occasion as long as you:

1. Don’t break a rule until it has been strictly enforced for a while. It is much harder for a child to learn a rule if it’s only in effect on occasion.

2. Tell the child you are making an exception and explain why. Make it clear that usually he can’t drink juice in bed, but since he’s sick you are bending the rule only for one time.

3. Be exceptionally tough minded next time around, since your child will inevitably test the limits of this concept of ‘exception’.

Try not to make exceptions a regular habit. Be consistent. The more consistent you are the easier it will be for the child to learn what you expect of him and what he should expect of himself. At first being consistent can be a trial since the child may constantly challenge the rule hoping that this time you will let him get away with it. But if you are very tough at first you won’t have to be so later. As the child internalizes your rules he will challenge them less and less. At first you may need to deliver a series of mini lectures each time your child puts his bare foot atop the dinner table. Eventually, just raising your eyebrow will stop him before he starts.

Dr Shayama Chona, is the former Principal of Delhi Public School, R K Puram, New Delhi; Founder President of Tamana (NGO for physically & mentally handicapped children); Founder of Anubhav Shiksha Kendra (a school for the under-privileged); she has been a member of 96 Advisory Boards and Committees; she has been nominated to Managing Committees of 46 schools and other educational institutions; she has been named in the Limca Book of Records 2007. She has been awarded the State Award for Services in Education 1993, National Award for Services as a Teacher of Outstanding Merit 1994, National Award for Outstanding Performance for Welfare of People with Disabilities 1997, Padma Shri 1999, Padma Bhushan 2008, and 49 other awards. She lives at C10/8, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi-110057. Email:,

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