Several episodes in recent months have raised the alert that our discipline methods might be ineffective. Late last year, a Sunday School teacher remarked that she’s ‘easily distracted, likes to do her own things’ and urged us to spend time interceding for her. Early this year, I received a call from her form teacher informing me that Dana was ‘displeased’ that she wasn’t picked the ‘STAR’ (model pupil) of the month. We were also told that Dana tends to be ‘overly zealous’ to share her knowledge and as a result, it ‘deprives other students a chance to participate’. Last Sunday, in Church (again), she was chastised by another teacher for shoving a boy even though he had apparently pushed her first.
We have always taught Dana to respect authority, be it at home, at play, in school or church. She is brought up to be well-mannered, cooperative, attentive and helpful. Note we did not say she must be smart or intelligent. To us, the heart is more important than the head. Hearing such negative comments disheartens me. We are grateful for these feedback and we always act promptly on them. We spanked, instilled time out, removed privileges, used rewards, counselled and prayed, hugged and reconciled, each time with her promising us and God that she will change and behave better.
Today, I took some time off to pick Dana up from her enrichment class and I casually asked the teacher how was she. I could tell the teacher was hesitant as she searched for a constructive and politically correct reply. She muttered feebly, ‘she likes to walk around during lessons (i.e. disruptive)….’ then hurriedly turned and walked away, abruptly ending our conversation. The words hit me like a brick.
Even though I was very disappointed with her, I turned to timely reminders in this article from Huffpost Parents to restrain myself from disciplining out of anger.
Here’s a snippet:
“Children do not need to cry, to be hurt, or shamed in order to learn the lesson you are trying to impart. The discipline (from the Latin root word which means learning or teaching) that is needed should be just that — the lesson that teaches not to do that again. It is a lesson that cultivates self-discipline.
The child needs to learn; she doesn’t need to be hurt or humiliated. In fact, a child in those heightened emotional states will not learn. Rather, she will be focused on her anger at you, what a mean, bad Mommy you are, not even thinking about what she has done.
Here are some tips for what to do when you feel like spanking:
Get a grip on your own anger. Grit your teeth and admit that you feel like walloping your kid. Then commit not to do it.
Remind yourself that this is an opportunity for you teach and for your child to learn. Often children have to do the wrong thing on their way to doing the right thing. And yes, for that, there is a consequence.
Say as little as possible. “There is no throwing balls in the living room!” using your low, slow, icy voice. Mean business.
Remove and isolate your child to a safe place away from you and the scene. No words. The key is to DISENGAGE. Do not give your attention of any kind, negative or positive. Nothing. When you have both come back to planet Earth, even as long as an hour later depending upon the age of the child (the younger the child, the shorter the time), do your revisit.
Have a short, direct conversation (and it may be one-sided) about what happened and what will happen as a result.
For children 7 years old and younger, have your logical consequence ready to impose. (Logical consequences are directly related to the misbehavior.) You showed me that you do not know how to use balls responsibly, so you will not be able to use balls of any kind for the rest of the week.
For children older than 7, in addition to the logical consequence, there might be a removal of privileges. *we have already started using this technique on Dana even before she turned 6 as we know she’s mature enough to feel the pinch.
Know that it takes time for the lesson to take hold. Much like microwave cooking, it needs a standing time to begin to sink in. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Your response must be crafted to the particular child and the infraction.
Remember, parenting by imposing fear is neither healthy nor effective.
You and your child need to be on the same team. You are both trying to get her to the same place, the place of making thoughtful, good choices for herself. And the very first chance you get, catch her doing the right thing. Praise works better than punishment…and a whole lot better than spanking.”
Source: Betsy Brown Braun, Child development specialist. Author of ‘You’re Not The Boss Of Me’.
I’m not saying I have gained nirvana on how to discipline my daughter and overcome these behavioral issues simply by reading these tips. Every child is different and as a friend rightly pointed out, it’s not easy for a 6 year old to navigate this confusing world. She also gave me a very valuable piece of advice as a fellow Mom…She urged me to let Dana know and feel that no matter what, we (Daddy & Mommy) are on her side. And everything we do is out of love for her….Another friend chipped in with good counsel. She reminded me that we can discipline, but we should not make our child feel that our love for them is conditional. Especially for girls – they should not feel that they need to earn someone’s love or do anything in order to be loved. Yet another reminded me that above all, my the relationship with my child should always come first…above any judgment, punishment or discipline.
I thank God for this small handful of girl friends who love Dana and I enough to speak these words in truth. I realised I have indeed fallen short but we will not be giving up on our daughter because God has given us the sacred responsibility of parenting her and until we have exhausted all means, we owe it to God, to ourselves and to our little girl that we will continue to discipline her with love.