Often our approach to discipline in India, involves a carrot and stick approach. We reward good behaviour and punish bad behaviour. There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. One of the disadvantages is that children may learn that bad behaviour is OK as long as they don't get "caught and punished". They merely learn to adapt to the expected reaction from grownups around them. Sometimes a different approach may help - A different approach that may teach them the control and judgement required to exercise discipline by themselves. Here are some tips that can help.
Get your children involved in making decisions about what they want. Let them pick what game to play, what book to read, what DVD to watch, what food to eat etc., Of course, as we have written before, in some of these cases like food, give them a fixed set of choices. Children feel more important when they have to make a decision. You can also help them in their decision making (without trying to influence it) by listing down various factors they can consider.
These small acts of decision making will train them to think the next time they encounter a situation where they have to make a choice, even if you are not around.
Give children responsibilities that they can take care of themselves. For example, if you are cooking, help them measure out the rice you need or count the number of cashews you ask them for. You can also give them regular responsbilities like putting away the newspaper at the end of each day, walking the dog, watering the plants etc., Having a responsibility and doing it, gives children confidence that they can get things done right. They also learn how what they do helps others and it makes them feel good and important.
If you make a mistake, talk openly about it and apologize. Explain to them what you did and why you did it, and also explain to them what you should have done. Tell them also how you fixed your mistake. Why is this important? Your open discussion tells children that everyone makes mistakes. But more importantly, it teaches them that there is no need to hide a mistake. It also teaches them that learning from a mistake is important and it is even more important not to repeat mistakes.
You can set up a token system that children can use for certain activities. For example, you can give them tokens for candy or for books they can buy or for junk food servings etc., Giving them a fixed quantity of tokens and asking them to manage it over a period, say a week or a month teaches them self-control. They may use them all up quickly sometimes and then crave for more, but stand firm and do not give in. Over time, this system can teach them how to think before taking any action.
Extra-curricular activities like karate, music lessons etc., can help children learn to control their body and mind also. These activities require children to focus, practice diligently and control various parts of their body.
Parents who use some or all of these techniques will find that over time, children learn to self-regulate and think before they act, thus resulting in what we refer to as "good behaviour". These tips will produce results only over the long term and can be used in addition to other positive disciplining techniques you choose to use.
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