Discipline is a positive method of correcting behaviour. Discipline encourages good behaviour by teaching self-control, confidence, and responsibility. Punishment, on the other hand, is all about inflicting pain and practically has nothing to encourage nor teach but focuses on past misbehaviour. Why then punish?
Well, correcting a child takes a lot of patience, empathy, creativity and of course, consistency.
Following up on, “Discipline Punishment and the Child’s Brain”, In this article, I will try to point out key age-appropriate disciplinary measures.
Just as in a child’s development, where certain behaviours are termed “normal for the age”, there are also factors to consider when correcting a child.
1. Babies (0-12 months; Teething breastfeeding babies): Her gums are itchy, and so she’ll try to use the nipple at times to bring some relief to the uncomfortable feeling she experiences in her gum. She may drag or bite the nipple. That can be painful.
What to do – Eye contact! And yes! It really works! Speak to her in a tone different enough from what she knows so she understands she should stop! At times she may just be testing or exploring to know her boundaries. At this point, she doesn’t need strong disciplinary measures.
2. One-Year-Olds: At this stage, they may still be trying to really understand if you really mean “No” or if it was a kind of play. They don’t understand that certain actions could hurt them or someone else.
What To Do – In expecting, be reasonable. Model appropriate behaviours. Use more facial expressions. Put more effort into ensuring the home or class is child-friendly to avoid preventable accidents. Use more of distractions to divert attention.
3. Two-Year-Olds: Ever heard the phrase “Terrible Two”? Now, this is the “understanding my feelings” stage. They are trying to fathom their emotions. This will cause frequent uprisings. You could see this here.
What To Do – As much as possible, avoid power struggles. Be calm and explicit in stating your expectations. Offer choices. Explain in clear terms what wrong actions could do, Example – “That hurts!”. Ensure not to give in to some tantrums.
4. Three-Year-Olds: The child wants to take charge of how he/she feels. She wants to carry out tasks without help.
What To Do – Assist with tasks! Be consistent in explaining the effect of good behaviour and consequence of wrong behaviour. Provide choices!
5. Four-Year-Olds: He/She is trying to balance feelings with that of others. The “me, myself and I” characteristic is beginning to wear off. A sense of focus is becoming stronger resulting in some kind of difficulty in changing tasks especially when the previous task caught ALL his attention.
What To Do – Stay calm and be patient. Give notice ahead of time or more like rules of the game. For example, getting into an ice cream shop, you could say, “We will just get a scoop each of ice cream and no more. Any misbehavior and we won’t come back here again”. There should be an agreement oh! Ignore whining. Handle misbehaviours like cheating or lying, in a calm way as they still do not understand the gravity of such behaviours yet. Take out time to explain the consequences.
6. Five-Year-Olds: Better understands consequences. Building Empathy. Can follow rules and regulations and take on responsibilities.
What To Do – Correct calmly but strictly too. Use limits to emphasize self-control.
7. Six to SevenYear Olds: Learning to handle social and academic pressures. Can practice self-control. Works best with reinforcement.
What To Do – Encourage independent problem-solving skills. Teach prevention strategies. Teach morals and values (very important from age 2).
8. Eight to Ten-Year-Olds – Trying to figure out where they fit in- Identity. Wants to defend every action. Understands right and wrong. Very sensitive to comments.
What To Do – Try not to give undue attention to already discussed misbehavior, just administer the agreed consequence. Provide lists of consequences and give the opportunity for choices to be made.
Find below tips for correcting a child without punishing him/her as Culled from Creative Correction by Lisa Whelchel
- If time-outs don’t work, try a “time-in.” This can be accomplished by sending your child to a designated spot where he must complete a task that has a definite beginning and end. This could be putting together a small puzzle, stringing 50 beads on a piece of yarn, or tracing the alphabet. A time-in diverts his energies and encourages him to focus on something positive.
- The same goes for throwing fits. Tell your child to go to her room to continue her fit. She isn’t allowed to come out and she has to keep crying for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is an awfully long time, and it’s no fun if your parents tell you to cry.
- If you have younger children who are messy, try this: Put their toys in a “rainy day” box to bring out later. This has the added benefit of making an old toy seem new again. Or set the toy somewhere out of reach but within sight for a predetermined number of days. This increases the impact of the correction by keeping the forbidden toy fresh in their minds. Or put it in jail and have your child has to do a chore to get it out.
- If your little one gets too hyper, come up with a code word to remind him to stop the action without embarrassing him. Whenever my daughter starts getting too demanding, I would say, “Hey Sandy!”. At that point she would be calm since she wouldn’t want Sandy anywhere close.
- You’ve heard the reprimand “Hold your tongue!” Make your child do it—literally. Have her stick out her tongue and hold it between two fingers. This is an especially effective correction for public outbursts.
- Another way to handle temper tantrums is to simply say, “That is too disruptive for this house. You may continue your fit in the backyard. When you’re finished, you are welcome to come back inside.” When there isn’t an audience, the thrill of throwing a temper tantrum is gone.
- Timers set definite boundaries. For example, with a timer, you can say, “I’m setting the timer. I want your room cleaned (or your shoes on, or the dishes unloaded) in 15 minutes. If you haven’t finished by then, your correction is….” This method not only spurs on easily distracted children, but it also leaves little room for arguing about a job that isn’t finished and whether the correction is warranted.
- Adjust bedtimes according to your children’s behavior that day. For each infraction, they must go to bed five minutes earlier, but if they’ve been good, they can earn the right to stay up an extra five minutes.
- If your children are constantly turning in sloppy schoolwork, get a few photocopied pages of printed exercises. Then ask your haphazard child this: “What takes longer: a report done neatly in 15 minutes or one you’ve sped through in 10 that must be redone and warrants a page of handwriting practice?”
- My friend, Becki, tried a variation of this idea in the car. If things got too raucous or there was too much fussing between siblings, she would cry, “Noses on knees!” Her children then had to immediately touch their noses to their knees until she determined that they had learned their lesson.
- If your child likes to stomp off to his room or stomp around in anger, you could send him outside and tell him to stomp his feet for one minute. He’ll be ready to quit after about 15 seconds, but make him stomp even harder.
- If a job is not done diligently, have your child practice doing it. She’ll learn to be more thorough if she’s made to sweep the floor three or four times because her first effort wasn’t good enough.
- Does your child slam the door when she’s angry? You might tell her, “It’s obvious that you don’t know how to close a door properly. To learn, you will open and close this door, calmly and completely, 10 times.”
- Next time your child “forgets” to put something away, like video games or sports equipment, put it away for him. When he asks where it is, tell him that he’ll just have to look for it. Believe me, he will learn that it’s a lot more trouble to find something that Mom has hidden than it is to put it away in the first place.
- I heard from a mom who had tired of her three sons’ ceaseless noises and sound effects—so she got creative. If her boys did not take their commotion outside, she would make them sit down and listen to the “Barney” theme song cassette for 10 minutes. For adolescent boys, it’s torture!