Parenting is one tough job. It is possibly the toughest job on earth because there aren’t any hard and fast rules to parenting. With every advice there is a rider to use it judiciously because no two situations are alike. Just as each child is different, each situation is different and what works for one need not work for every situation or every child.
Feeding, bathing and playing with children are easy enough. We all have traditional models to fall back on as it is essentially the parents’ role is to nurture and nourish their young. Nurturing also means teaching the child socially acceptable behavior and this is one area where you have to tread with caution because there is a whole range of options available.
The Respectful Parent
This is the latest trend in parenting so I’ll take it up first. According to psychologists, infants are innately smart and if spoken to in a respectful way, will respond to any disciplinary action. Thus if a child is looking to touch something that he shouldn’t touch, don’t bark a cursory “NO”. That startles the child. Instead, gently pull his hand away (or better still distract him) while you tell him respectfully that he should not be touching such things.
Respectful parenting not only means talking politely to a child but it means respecting his own sense of self and self worth and treating him like an adult – using logic and persuasion. But does this always work?
This kind of parenting is the easiest. Parents get away with their sheer size and place in the social order with this kind of disciplining. A child is given only two options – either do it else face the consequences which aren’t always pleasant. More often than not, non-compliance is dealt with a ‘timeout’ ( if the parent is against corporal punishment) or a ‘gentle slap on the bottom’ if the parent is more inclined to be physical.
The even more violent parent will happily indulge in a ‘real tight slap’ ( I often wonder what that means!) or a good hard whack. Oftentimes physical punishment is not really meted out but is a threat that is liable to be carried out. In fact, my own personal advice is do not make threats you can’t carry out. This dilutes the purpose of disciplining the child. If you intend on hitting the child, do so, but don’t threaten to slap/hit/cane/whack and then back out.
The Emotional Blackmailer
This is particularly popular with mothers who love being dramatic and resort to this form of discipline very easily. Here the mother tells the child that if he or she doesn’t listen, she will die or some such dire threat that will leave the poor child motherless. This not only makes the child listen but also instills a fear that if he/she is not ‘good’, something will happen to its mother. This kind of discipline also ensures that whenever the mother is unwell, the child begins to wonder what he/she did wrong.
The Cold & Silent Disapprover
This parent is a corollary to the emotional blackmailer. Instead of discussing the issue, the mother gives the child the cold shoulder. Every child immediately wonders what brought on a sudden sullen silence and this kind of punishment is even worse than a hard whack. It leaves the child confused and confounded and makes him worry as to what he did wrong. I think is the worst kind of punishment you could give a child.
The Parent Who Tars & Feathers
In this form of punishment, the child is shamed in front of his peers. For instance a little one who accidentally wets his/her pants is allowed to roam around the whole day with a wet patch so that the whole world knows what has happened. Apparently the child (especially an older child) is so ashamed that he stops this kind of behaviour.
So what is the answer?
I firmly believe that sparing the rod does spoil the child. Unacceptable behavior that goes unpunished slowly becomes definitely leads to deviant behavior. It can also possibly lead to delinquency. Punishment and reward not only helps discipline a child but also instills values of right and wrong.
But parents should understand that their form of punishment can have more effects than just pointing out the difference between right and wrong. I personally feel that counseling works best. Respectful parenting may not be appropriate for a one year old but it should definitely be a better option to be considered over the rest when dealing with older children.
So the next time your child needs to be pulled up for some misdemeanour, ask yourself what kind of a disciplinarian are you?