When I became a parent, I was faced with the baffling situation, how to inculcate discipline in my child, without acting like a tyrant, strict mom.
Though I wished for her to follow my instructions, I yearned for a definite plan that wouldn’t aim at obscuring her inner voice.
I’d like to confess, that I have made many mistakes in disciplining my child despite having a vision of what I wanted to achieve.
From defying positive attention (being in the same room but doing my own thing while listening to what my child had to say ) to not letting my child make choices of her own (making simple decisions about what to do in her free time to what gift she would like on Diwali).
With time, I have mended my ways, fine-tuned my parenting style countless times keeping one goal in mind.
I am not hoping to use discipline as a means to raise an obedient child.
Instead, I discipline in a way to raise a kid who is self-reliant and confident enough to know what to do in life (even if it means making mistakes) even when I’m not around.
Though I’m not quite there yet, however, every milestone is an encouragement that I am hopefully getting closer to my goal.
To assist me in staying focused, I have outlined a strategy:
1. Choose your battles wisely:
I am well aware that the way we discipline our child, our actions, and our tone eventually becomes the inner voice of the child.
Frequent rebuking for the choices made instils self-doubt; being yelled at every mistake makes the child react the same way when someone else makes a mistake and worse still smacking a child teaches her that it is the way of tackling disagreement.
In the bigger picture of life, I am now clear that if I want to raise a happy, kind, open-minded child, I need to practice the same myself while disciplining her.
2. Set enforceable limits:
The whole idea here is to put into action the one principle that seems to work for everyone, adults and children alike.
The more perceived control a person has over the situation, the more likely he or she is to cooperate and listen.
The trick to use when applying it to discipline children is instead of always telling Pari what to do, I try telling her what I will do instead.
I’ll read you a bedtime story if you will sit quietly.
I’ll let you play with your new toy as soon as you finish your homework.
This works only when you patiently wait until the kids are actually doing what you asked before you do your part of the equation.
3. Attention and time are precious and should be spent thoughtfully:
Everyone craves for the attention of their near and dear ones. Kids are no different. Being a SAHM juggling work with my daughter around gets tough when she constantly complains about me not paying enough attention to her. This is why we now have designated work and play hours for her and myself.
When I work, she finishes her homework. When I’m free I invest my undivided attention free from gadgets, playing, reading and even dancing with her.
Recommended Reading: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk
4. We work together as a team:
Conveying how much I love and cherish my daughter through words and actions has been a major shift for an introvert me.
Earlier when I used to ask my daughter to help me clean up the room, putting the toys and books back in place she would act lazy, keep watching me but wouldn’t move a finger. Once I was done and dusted, she’d insist I spend time with her playing making my hard-work go undone.
Now I ask my daughter to have our little chit-chat while we are arranging the room and she is showing me where we place what, her points of view so that she feels involved. This trick works because she loves the position where she is making the decisions, with mamma paying attention to her preferences.
She enjoys seeing how her choices resulted in the look of her room and also how she can improve it over time.
5. Pragmatism about success and failure:
Discipline has mostly been about training individuals to be successful in life. However, along the way, the need to accept shortcomings with equal grace often raises its head.
Earlier, I used to micro-manage my child, preventing her from making mistakes. Though this attitude didn’t bear any startling results, I always ended up with a cranky, whining child.
Lately, my daughter and I have adopted singing the ‘Que sera, sera’ song as we go on with life. Accepting what comes our way (despite our best efforts) with equal grace and a smiling face.
The ‘it’s all part of the game’ approach on my part has surprisingly helped my child accept life events like standing second in a recitation competition or not being given the largest piece of chocolate better than before.
6. Voicing our thoughts is as important as expressing our concerns:
Nagging or yelling to control my kid’s rude behaviour, whining or crying has never worked. It took me a while to figure out that these antics were nothing but a child seeking attention and expressing their wound up emotions.
To get the situation in control, I’ve learnt that keeping calm and telling what’s disturbing you (“I don’t like it when you scream, can you ask nicely?”) work better. Sometimes, I step out of the room leaving my child with her thoughts.
Given a moment to reflect, with a clear idea of what mama likes, helps my daughter feel in control. She gives up the tantrum sooner and approaches me in a more peaceful way.
7. Use the child’s imagination to keep them entertained:
This year during the school holidays I was running out of ideas to keep my daughter from getting bored just two days into vacations. Everything I’d suggest would make my child whine or not follow for long. This was making it impossible for me to work.
That’s when a friend of mine suggested how she lets her son be guided by his imagination. She lets her son draw, colour, paint and at times even get messy (unless it is a matter of health or safety) and it is satisfying to watch the child be happy, creative, expending energy doing what she enjoys.
A mess isn’t always a bad thing.
Making these positive changes, battling my own fears and changing the way I raise my child from the kind of upbringing I have had has helped me communicate better.
I now pair my disciplining with kindness, compassion and love. I’ve been working hard at letting Pari grow up as an individual while nurturing her will.
And the best part is the newfound peace in the family with due care of tending to my child’s spirit.
The song on my mind: Hum Na Samjhe They ~ Gardish
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