DISCIPLINE by definition is the practice of training people to obey rules and orders and punishing them if they do not. We find discipline in all spheres of life – from work places, religious groupings, schools and homes – everywhere. For all intents and purposes, rules are meant to keep orderliness and compliancy to expected behaviors and attitudes. Without rules at home, school or workplace, nothing can be managed.

In homes parents set up rules for children to follow and if they fail parents or guardians may discipline them. Discipline is dispensed in different forms and of a different nature. It also depends on the age of the childwho is at fault and also the gravity of the offence. Some parents shout at children to make them realize their mistake, while others may deny them certain privileges, and still others may use a rod or whip to shape them up.

Apparently, even the Bible approves using a rod to discipline children. It says in Proverbs 13v24, ‘He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.’ If a child has to be chastised then let him/her know what it is for. And in doing so, remember mercy. Caution should be taken here as continued use of corporal punishment to chastise a child could make them ‘hardened’ and sometimes the child may even get used to beatings.

The purpose of discipline, however, is not to inflict harm or cause emotional pain, but rather to train children to obey you and follow the rules you set for them. While you set rulesforchildren, you yourself as a parent or guardian should lead by example. Conduct yourself in the manner others can emulate. Relate to your spouse in the way you would want your children relate to their future spouses.

Children need not only be corrected when they err, but also appreciated when they do right.This is positive reinforcement. We can say there’s corrective discipline and formative discipline. The former aims at realigning an erring child, while the latter is intended to ‘form’ or teach a child good manners.We may call this positive reinforcement as well. Parents need to show appreciation to children when they perform well at school or when they make improvement in one area.

Ways of correcting Children:

Every child will make a mistake one time or another, but using a whip every time to correct them is not the best of options. If a child for example comes home late, the parent in this case need to sit down with the child and make them realize that coming home after say, 20.00hrs may put him at risk of attack or abuse by some people. Make them appreciate that her/his safety depends on themselves and none other. A child who’s hanging out with bad company or abusing drugs need to be told the dangers involved and show him examples of people who have ruined their lives because of the same. Similarly, tell them about people who have succeeded by being obedient to rules. If a child is not performing well at school, ask them the challenges they are facing and how you can help.

Lastly a parent can use a rod or whip to correct a child. Whipping a child should be the last resort and be of a bare minimum. If physical discipline becomes too much, the child may be hardened and would not reform as per your expectations. Being a role model, good communication and a close relationship with children are some of the virtues parents can employ to keep children in check.

Ways of forming children

Formative discipline is disciplining a child by teaching them to change or do what you want them to know or do. Teaching is best expressed by demonstration and you as a parent need to be the best example. Doing house chores with children or going out together helps to impute your values in them. Attending church together or doing family devotion at home goes a long way in forming children.

Learn to listen to children and give them the chance to express themselves. Providing the essential needs for the family is another way of educating young ones. Ensure that children don’t become desperate as to go and ask for money from other people. This also is discipline.

Take advantage of any and every opportunity to teach children. For example, a news item on TV about defilement or child sexual abuse gives you a chance to know how much your children know about these vices. A biology homework assignment from school is another chance you may have to teach children about sex and sexuality. Thus you have a wide array of opportunities to form your children in the way you want them to be. Aim to ensure that children are able to make their own healthy choices based on the values you have given them. A token of appreciation in form of a snack or a favorite toy for improved school results will positively motivate a child to do better next time.

In conclusion, discipline and positive reinforcement are two important elements in raising children and as parents we need to put much emphasis on training children to do what is right even when we are not around.

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