We all want our children to grow up with good manners, and a strong sense of what is right and wrong. Discipline is important, and 99.9% of parents would agree with that statement. But how do we go about instilling good values and morals in our children?
The most common form of disciplining children is the ‘punishment and reward’ technique. It’s not even really a ‘technique’, as such; it’s what most of us know from our own childhoods. You do something ‘bad’, you get a privilege/toy/sweet snack taken away. You behave well, and you are rewarded with any of the above, or by a sticker on a chart fashioned by your parents. You may have also been punished by being put into a “time-out”, or being made to sit somewhere quiet and reflect on whatever it is you did wrong.
There’s no doubt that children do learn about appropriate behaviour using these reward/punishment techniques. In a later article, we will even go into the benefits and drawbacks of the most common discipline techniques. But are they learning about consequences? On the surface, yes they are. They are learning that certain behaviour makes certain things happen. But are the lessons learned ones that will help them in later life?
Loving guidance is different. It places respect, empathy and love at the centre of their learning. It’s about respecting them in the same way as you would an adult, and allowing them to grow and flourish. It’s about encouraging self-discipline by setting examples and modelling good behaviour, rather than trying to tear their own natural curiosity and wonder down.
It may sound to some like “letting the kids get away with it”, but nothing could be further from the truth. Setting boundaries is important; you would not be respecting your child if you let them go through their childhoods thinking they can do and say whatever they want. That won’t help them in later life.
Children “misbehave” for many reasons. Usually, it is because a need of theirs is not being met. Loving guidance is all about looking for the reasons why your child is doing what they are doing, and trying to find a solution that suits everybody. For example; if your child is hitting another child at a playgroup or playdate, loving guidance would see you gently intervening, explaining to the toddler that it is not okay to hit other people. You would then provide something that they could hit instead, such as a saucepan and wooden spoon, so that they can continue to release frustration.
Loving guidance requires creativity, kindness, and patience. It is not easy, and it’s certainly more difficult than more traditional methods of discipline. However, you will be rewarded with a strong relationship with your child and with the joy of watching your little person turn into an empathetic, creative, loving individual. Loving guidance will help you and your child feel like you are ‘in this together’, rather than working against each other all of the time.