Discipline: Correction or Punishment?
According to Oxford, the definition of “discipline” can branch out two ways – one is imparting a knowledge or a discipline is the foundation of a growing child’s ‘self-discipline’ development. Almost every culture embraces discipline in a magnitude of form and factor.
For the Babemba Tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he/she is placed in the center of the village, alone and unfettered and every men, women and child gathers in a large circle, and talk out loud to the accused, one at a time, about all the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths and kindness are recited carefully, and at length.
This tribal ceremony often lasts several days and does not cease until everyone is drained of every positive comment he/she can muster about the person in question. At the end of the ceremony, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically welcome back into the tribe.
To instill self-discipline in a child is one the most important and difficult responsibilities of parenting and there are no short-cuts, no ready to use methods or guaranteed to work approach. Every child is unique, as does the approach when it comes to methods of discipline. Harsh, or soft approach? To console with love, or to threaten harsh punishment? To use the cane or incentive with a treat? Observe how every other parent have their own methods when it comes to discipline because parenting is guided by two things: past experiences and emotions.
No one said that parenting will be a piece of cake especially when you have to remove objects from your child’s grip with a firm “No” and then watch them turn red and teary-eyed. But that is the thing – we understand that these disciplinary interventions are foundation steps to instill self-discipline because eventually, the child must learn to think independently, and not over-reliant on parents.
President of the Association of Early Childhood Educators (Singapore), Dr. Christine Chen says “Punishment is imposed on the child. The adult has the power to punish and intimidate the child into submission. The child feels powerless.” Now, when you put discipline into that perspective, it doesn’t sound too nice and especially when you think of it long-term consequences, relating them to your own past experiences.
It seems that the best way to correct bad behaviours in your child is for you as the parent to make the change first.
Children are like mirrors, reflecting images of everything and everyone around them. The human brain does 80% of its growing and developing in the first three years of life. Notice how your child spouts phrases that you use? Or how they mimic some of your movements and activities? It might be more effective in getting them to model positive behaviour as compared to against physical punishment.
When a young child is growing up, it is inevitable that they test the limits to assert independence. It’s totally normal. When the child’s frustration persists when they’re unable to accomplish what they want, tantrum outbursts may happen. Time-out can be used if the child loses control. Contrary to what we may believe or have seen from others, children learn more from what you do than what you say. But venting your frustration on them doesn’t help the situation because your child is still not fully able to understand why their behaviour and ways of expressions are wrong, which is why every child psychologist and early childhood experts agree on one common approach for parents – keep your emotions in check before you decide on the appropriate course of action.
The ingenious people from the Babemba Tribe in South Africa embrace the positive approach when it comes to discipline, inherently there’s an abundance of goodness in everyone, and we just need a little encouragement to find it in ourselves. When your child does what you asked or show good behaviour, tell them how proud you are. Approval, recognition, and praise can be powerful motivators for good behaviour.
Children are more prone to throwing tantrums when they are tired or hungry. So, when you’re looking for the right form of discipline for your child, be patient. Discipline can go many ways and take on many different forms, depending on what you believe in. But effective discipline is key and the road to finding the perfect balance is crucial because it will affect your relationship with your child.
Raising children is tough and a lot of work, that’s why they say it takes an entire village to raise a child. The next time you reach out for the cane in a fit of anger, think about the Babemba Tribe story.