There are fewer things that separate parents than the way one chooses to discipline their child. Countless experts flood the book and media market every year with advice on a sometimes controversial topic, yet after discussing this subject with many of my fellow parents few seem to be any the wiser. Whilst embarking on my own parental journey I was given one baby book before my little girl was born, Jo Frost’s (a.k.a. The Supernanny) Confident Baby Care. The book was a very useful tool and I liked her approach enough to purchase her follow-on Confident Toddler Care. I found myself scouring the discipline chapter as this was quickly becoming my most challenging obstacle.
Tantrums and rebellious behavior can start as early as one and a half and I realised quickly the advice given for this age group is underwhelming, to say the least. I am now in the midst of guiding my youngest girl who is a huge proponent of testing and for the most part, I’m seeking inventive ways to distract her out of a tantrum.Techniques recommended by Jo Frost have long been celebrated by some and debated by others. Her methods have been analysed thoroughly, mainly because of her high profile and wide presence on television. Certain strategies such as the ‘naughty step’ or ‘one strike and you’re out’ have been cited to me by many people, and even those who don’t have children of their own.
Aside from the basic needs we provide for our children such as food and shelter, discipline holds a special reverence, largely seen as the most essential tool to help set up your child for their future. It can indisputably shape their character, build their confidence, promote self-discipline and prepare them in the best way for life as an independent adult, yet, I haven’t failed to notice it is the one area that other parents choose to speak about the least.
I think there is an instinct in all of us to focus on our children’s strengths and on the highs of parenting. Why would anyone want to zero in on the hardships anyway? I do think, however, the topic of discipline is different and brings about a unique range of emotions culminating in one very large fact – people don’t want to feel judged. As parents I’m sure we can agree there are a multitude of straightforward issues, such as figuring out the healthiest food for your child or the most suitable clothing to survive the cold days of winter, but with discipline comes a large gray area. We certainly can agree on what the don’ts are, but when it comes to how best we shape our youth, I suspect we are all putting the emphasis on different things.
There are parents who believe building confidence and any techniques that promote this notion is the most important idea to focus on. There are those who believe self-discipline is something vital to hone in on from a young age. And then there are most of us that desperately don’t want our child to be the disruptive one, the bratty one or the consummate hell-raiser. For me, it’s definitely a healthy blend of all three.
As much as I think disciplining is a serious business I do believe instilling good behaviour in our children can offer a really valid time for self-reflection. Every one of us has been triggered by our young ones at one time or another. Frustrations can mount to the point where some days can be a real test. This in itself gives us a great opportunity, if we are willing to take it, to figure out our own complexities.
Then there are other doubts. Some people lack confidence in making the proper disciplining decisions. Ultimately we need to realise that it is all right to change our minds. The reality is that there are techniques that work better on some children than others. No matter what your style of discipline is there is one very important thing to remember – always follow through, whether it is taking the treat away after dinner or taking television privileges away at night.
Only recently, my three-year-old was acting up and I explained that she wasn’t going to get a treat when she went to her gagi (grandmother) unless she helped me clean up her toys. Several moments passed of us staring back at forth, her sizing me up to see if I was up to the challenge, but when she knew I was serious and that she was at real risk of losing her ice-cream treat, the Lego was in the box before I knew it. One can never underestimate the power of a sweet treat.