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Values & Education

Disciplining My Son

My mum was a school teacher. Discipline just came easy for her. But I am not. Why do I think this is essential in my child’s life?


Discipline isn’t about fear

Discipline reminds many of a foot-ruler toting teacher, waving it front of a class full of noisy unruly kids – who just have settled down for fear of being spanked. For many, discipline is a longer word for fear. Many of us think that discipline automatically means punishment. And children, if disciplined it doesn’t allow them to explore their childhood to the maximum.

A lot of people will also frown on why is discipline so early in the life of my 20 month old toddler. To them I say I started routine and discipline ever since my son was 1 month old and I get looks of disbelief.

Why I think discipline is necessary?

I am a strong believer that a life without discipline is a life of chaos. Not that my life has military-level discipline and I am no robot.

My mum was a thorough disciplinarian and I am not even close to her standards but I get why I need discipline in my life. Discipline is a reason why we could eat our dinners properly – we were not allowed to eat snacks one hour before dinner. It allowed us to get a good night’s sleep – we had to be in bed by 10 pm – no late night TV. It allowed us to have good eyesight – no sleeping and reading, no reading in a moving bus or train.

Discipline is the reason why I will sit up and write an article even though it costs me nothing not to write it. Discipline is the reason why I would get up at 5 am to complete my homework – it makes be conscientious of my responsibilities. It helped me practice my mathematics over and over again so I could excel in school (I hated maths by the way).

Discipline allows you to take a step back and reassess the issue you are facing, re-applying other methods to solve the problem at hand.

Discipline allowed me to take up a vast subject as LifeSciences as my graduation subject – to learn more than was outlined in my curriculum – to extend my boundaries of learning. Discipline allowed me to work as a freelancer on my own terms – I don’t really need a boss to rate my capabilities. It allows you to develop as a person to face the world and get up again every time you get knocked down.

It takes discipline to only buy things you need and to eat only how much you want. It takes discipline to avoid mountains of debt and to live as per your means.

To have a disciplined child, be a disciplined parent

The biggest rule that disciplining parents need to remember is to not feel sorry for your kids and make excuses for them. Of course we love our children and sometimes their tantrums or sad faces make us give in. However, giving in now might have long term effects on the way they view us. We are not disciplined and stand by our words; they are not going to respect our word for it moving forward.

Children also watch and learn. If you stick to a schedule, if you don’t give up easily – your kids won’t either. Encourage kids to try harder and the best way to do it is to try harder yourself. Urge them to double their effort if they don’t succeed at first and don’t do their work for them so they will grow up to be adults who are more resilient and who never give up.

It takes us parents to discipline ourselves – to watch our child try and fail – and suggest without wincing that he tries harder still. We need to stop ourselves from doing the hard task for our kids and let our children take action.

Look at discipline in a positive light

The way to view discipline needs to change first before we actually get our hands dirty. Several parents think discipline is about restrictions and boundaries. I would differ from this view and say that discipline is about giving your children choices.

Discipline is the ability to decide what is required to be done no matter what the circumstances are. This allows you to let your children act and think like adults before they turn adult, so they are more conditioned to function better in the grownup world.

Think of discipline as a form of teaching and not as a punishment and you have half your personal battle won.

How to: some general rules on discipline

1. Being consistent: If my phone and laptop isn’t a toy for my son today, it remains off-limits for him tomorrow too and forever. Never fret about repeating yourself. Sometimes a toddler requires hearing things a 100 times for him to register the message

2. Being firm: A firm ‘no’ helps when the toddler is just about 2 or so. An explanation after a firm ‘no’ works when he grows older. Direct the toddler (usually with a fairly low attention span) to another activity as soon as the ‘no’ happens. Believe me ‘no’ is probably the one word every toddler understands.

3. Time-outs: Work well when the kids are over 3 years of age. But with kids less than 3 years, a smaller time-out limit or staying with him till he calms down may work.

4. Hitting the child: No matter how angry you are never spank or slap your child. This might lead them to fear you. When I am very angry with my son, I take a timeout and go to another room, calm down and come handle him better.

5. Notice and praise: Notice your child being good and praise him. That way he will know that he need not misbehave to get attention

6. Never push your child to misbehave: Tired and hungry children generally misbehave. Or if you keep things which he isn’t supposed to touch in his vicinity he might misbehave – like if you keep your phone lying around he will think it is ok for him to play with it. Reducing the chances of him getting into trouble will reduce the times he will misbehave.

My early experience with discipline

How I did it?

With Aiden it has been pretty much breeze. Aiden had a fixed eating time, garden time and sleeping time ever since he was 3 months old. He is not allowed to touch mobile phones and laptops – we simply don’t give either the laptop or the phone too much of our attention when he is around. He isn’t allowed to touch or fidget with remote controls. TV time is limited for an hour in the evenings. Yes, there is music all day and there is relaxation of some rules on the weekend and believe me he figures that weekends are different from weekdays.

I am working on getting him to not step on the books he reads. A firm ‘no’ usually works. Also toddlers of his age exhibit anger and dissatisfaction by slapping and throwing a tantrum. I haven’t done a timeout yet with him but I do let him calm down in another room before comforting him.

How is it helping me now?

The schedule and routine set in the early months gives me some amount of ‘me’ time. Aiden sleeps off by 9 pm and is an early riser. I could finish a lot of my personal work, watch a few TV shows by the time I am ready to hit the bed – and that hasn’t changed for the last 1.5 year for me. I don’t have to hide my phones, I know that even if my work laptop is on the floor Aiden will not touch it because it is mummy’s and it is out of limits.

Janice is a communications professional, a social media enthusiast and a mother of two boys (one deceased). A keen follower of parenting trends, she dotes on her son while photographing him and anything that catches her fancy. An ardent foodie, she cooks traditional and modern recipes – compiling all of it on her blog – Working with startups and entrepreneurs on their communications strategies with her partner during the day, she has just enough time in the day to read, write and tweet @janoella.