Thursday, May 29, 2008

Discipline is what it's all about!

Children are constantly discovering, exploring and learning. Often the focus is on cognitive skills such as those needed for reading. While it is important to provide our children with opportunities to learn and explore the world around them, the most important lessons that they will learn are related to behavior. Life is pretty difficult for a child, and for those around the child, when he or she has not learned the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It becomes even more difficult as the child gets older! Children are born with many things but knowing how to behave appropriately is not one of them. That task lies with those who care for and love the child. Discipline is a wonderful gift we can give to children. A child who is taught the difference between right and wrong, what is acceptable and what is not, and how to respect and care for others, is a child who is well on his way to becoming a confident adult who can control impulses and manage the stresses that come with everyday life.

It is important that we recognize the difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is a positive and nurturing learning experience with a goal of self control and self direction as well as a concern and care for others. Punishment on the other hand applies something negative to the child to eliminate a certain behavior. Discipline is proactive, taking steps to prevent misbehavior whereas punishment is strictly reactive.

A positive relationship between child and parent is essential for discipline. The child must know he is loved and supported by the parent. Parents need to have a plan and a vision for the qualities and traits they want to see in the adult that their child will become as well as a plan to handle misbehavior when it occurs. Discipline does take time and effort on the part of a parent but ask yourself this, “Why is it that we find the patience to teach children to ride a bike and tie their shoes but when it comes to teaching appropriate behavior we often find our patience gone?” We understand that learning to ride a bike and tie a shoe do not occur overnight. Learning to behave appropriately is just as difficult for a child. Yet we often get discouraged and tired of having to remind children what is okay and what is not. We can’t assume that children understand what it is to share, or what it is to behave appropriately. These are learned behaviors. How many times have we seen two children arguing over something? Typically they are told to “be nice and share!” Just what does that mean to a child? Probably not much unless that child has had sharing modeled for them. Take the time to model sharing, sit beside the children and give them the language they need to smooth out the problems. When an adult has modeled appropriate behavior often, the child soon learns to behave appropriately without being prompted. It is important that we invest our time in children when they are young. The future payoff is well worth it for the child, for us and for our society.

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