Were you ever spanked as a child? Did you follow rules only because you were afraid of what your parents (or other authority figures, like teachers) would do or say?
This type of discipline is based on fear and submission: do this, or else. However, many child development experts advocate a more effective approach called positive parenting.
Positive parenting is based on the principle that instead of punishing bad behavior, we should encourage good behavior—by setting clear rules, rewarding good actions, improving communication, and developing self-esteem.
First, let’s talk about discipline. What is our goal? To raise our children to do the right thing, and be the best that they can be. So we set up rules (like ‘study everyday’ or ‘don’t hit your playmates’) which guide their actions and shape their character. For example, studying everyday doesn’t just get high grades: it teaches work ethic and responsibility. And learning how to play fair is just the start of getting along with other people, respecting others, and expressing anger and frustration in healthy and non-violent ways.
So that’s the big picture of discipline…and that’s when we see spanking is often counterproductive. It’ll get them to study but they’ll also hate school. It’ll get them to ‘behave’ at a playgroup but sends mixed signals: ‘if I can’t hit other people, why is Mom hitting me?’
Positive parenting, on the other hand, motivates children by setting clear rules and expectations, and then praising kids when they do well. But what about the times they don’t? Firmly, but gently correct them, and enforce a clear and logical consequence. Low grades means no TV time, hitting other kids means confiscating the toy until he’s learned how to share it. At the same time, parents are encouraged to build their self-esteem, because studies show that bad behavior is often a bid for attention or a cry for help. For example, kids who don’t do well in school are often insecure. Or they hit other kids because of bottled up anger and frustration.
But by creating good habits, making them feel loved, and nurturing their confidence, parents teach kids what to do, and most of all, gives them that inner strength and conviction to do the right thing. ‘I will treat others well because I was treated well. I will respect rules because I was respected. I will do well because I believe I can.’
Photo from heartofthematteronline.com