arenting and discipline are words often used in tandem with each other where parents are expected to ensure discipline in their children. But the reality is not so black and white. The easiest way to achieve discipline is by helping children understand the need for discipline and guiding them to inculcate it within themselves.
So what are the five ways in which you build discipline in children?
1. Know that your child is predisposed to be disciplined. It is intrinsic and inherent. The external deviations to this discipline come from the people who surround the child. The first step for parents to take is to model the discipline we wish to see in our child. We want her to wake up early, we wake up early. We want her to eat fruit, we eat fruit. A child below six years will absorb any and all behavior that surrounds her, and hence the onus lies on parents to model the best behavior.
2. Know that discipline begins at a very young age. Humans all are born with a sense of order that is strong even in a toddler. When the activities or engagements of the child satisfy this sense of order, the child cannot help but be disciplined. Hence it is very important that we understand the needs of our child at each age and cater to them.
A toddler needs to touch and feel everything because he is getting to know his new world; he wants to crawl and explore. But instead, we pick him up and keep things out of his reach. He becomes irritable and rakes up a fuss- beginnings of indiscipline.
A six-year-old is developing an intellectual and reasoning mind for which he needs to ask questions and find answers, but we cannot find the patience to answer everything and we ask him not to bother us. The child becomes mute in front of guests, doesn’t do what he is asked to because he has understood that not all interactions have to be mutually productive.
A teenager will want you to give her space and not pester about academics when she is struggling to cope up as an emotionally fragile young adult who is caught in the middle of two worlds- her secure childhood and unseen adulthood. But this is the time we put the most pressure on the children to study. And we call the indiscipline arising out of this as troubled teens.
3. No should always mean a no. Always, always think before saying no to a child. If we think back on the latest instances when we have said no to our child one of these scenarios would have played out- we said no said just out of instinct; or because we know it is yet another hair-brained scheme that will not work or because we don’t have time to hear the child out fully- or was it genuinely because we felt the child was not ready for something.
Either way, once we have said no, it is best to stick to it and try not to overcompensate immediately. A no has to be the last word and so it has to be used and received with the respect it deserves.
4. Raising voice/hand only leads to indiscipline. If raising our voice would help children listen better or follow the rules better, we would have had opera singers for school teachers everywhere. But it doesn’t quite work that way. The only thing any of us prove by raising a voice on a child is that we have little self-control and a disproportionately loud voice. Every child understands logic. We need to trust our children to understand and empathize with what is being said to them. Give them the benefit of the doubt that when we get down to their level, hug and explain, children are more likely to co-operate.
5. Encourage self-discipline. Every child is capable of self-discipline and this needs to be encouraged. Appreciate when they show restraint; when they exhibit appropriate behavior. Trust them to emulate ideal behavior modeled by the adults. Set up routines at a very young age so these actions become second nature to children- like cleaning up after themselves, winding up after playing a game; speaking softly. These form the basis for the discipline they will inculcate as they grow.
One of the stepping stones for building discipline in a child is giving the child freedom. When a child is given the freedom to choose her work, the discipline to complete it and with utmost care and finesse comes naturally.
A prime example of it is this Timetable of work prepared by a six-year-old from our school Blue Blocks. The timetable covers a gamut of activities from academics to art for her to accomplish during vacation. Being organized like this has given her a sense of order and purpose that is paramount to building discipline in children.