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Being a parent is not easy, especially in this day and age, when one has to balance the need to put on a show of firmness and discipline, while also being consistently caring and sensitive to the child’s need. While previous generations of parents were raised themselves on a diet of firm no-nonsense thinking, there are more progressive schools of thought that defend the need for more holistic parenting, In fact, contemporary research has found that ‘regressive’ methods can end harm the child. Therefore, striking a balancing act when disciplining children is critical.

1. Understanding what ‘timeouts’ should be
What should a ‘time-out’ be in the context of parenting? Is it pushing a child away into seclusion when he makes a mistake? Such a treatment is simply teaching them that they can be excluded from a relationship upon making a mistake. As parents, we may feel that we’re giving children a moment to rethink their behaviour and actions, but we may achieve exactly the opposite. Time outs, and other disciplinary actions should not communicate to children that they have to blindly follow their parents lest they are threatened to be excluded. Without this understanding, we teach our children that our love and care is conditional. Instead, it is viable to build in them a trust of your judgement and concern, so they can one day appreciate your intentions and values.

2. Violence is not the answer for disciplining children
Violence, even under the guise of ‘firm discipline’ is not the correct response to educating your children. Discipline, by its very nature must be restrictive, and sometimes involve some level of punishment. Yet, it must be measured and sensibly administered, instead of being brutal, so that they can independently consider reforming their ways. It also requires some level of frank and open discussion. Terrifying them into submission is merely killing their ability to be curious and explore their world – because they understand that any time they can be hurt for it.

3 Stop ‘rewarding’ all good behaviour
Children, with their simple minds, do not understand the difference between a treat and a bribe for good behaviour. If you create a physical reward for all compliance with your values, you are not only undermining their trust, but also halting their independent curiosity. It’s a different matters to participate in enjoyable experiences together and to buy them things they love, but to always link them to behaviour is not a good idea. A verbal affirmation and discussion is a much better reinforcement of good behaviour.

4. Stop demanding apologies
One of the most disappointing things a parent can do is to enforce mandatory apologies from their children even before they’ve understood what they’ve done wrong. This impairs the ability of children to develop their own conscience of what is right and wrong. This not only instills in them a personal moral compass, but also enables them to feel empathy if they’ve wronged someone else. Empathy in their personal relationships is an essential life skills and emotional capability that they must have, and is critical for their development.

5. Establish clear boundaries
If you don’t show your children what ‘wrong behaviour’ looks like, they will be confused and conflicted about how to act in many situations. Instead of making mistakes and learning, they will not be able to even act with honesty. They will also be fearful, or rebellious. You need to give children a specific structure to adhere to and internalise, so it can over time form the basis of their lifelong values.

Children who have loving and concerned parents invested in learning such great disciplinary techniques are indeed lucky. Tens of thousands of children call India’s streets their home, and have no parent figures in their lives. For many who have only child labour to feed them, their abusive and exploitative masters are their own source of knowledge. Give donation if you feel concerned by their plight. When you support an NGO in the field of child rights, you are ensuring that the children of today and tomorrow can find some semblance of holistic care and hope.

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