Discipline Is Not a Dirty Word Essay

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For many people the word “discipline” is associated with authoritarianism —the stern parent glaring down at you, admonishing and threatening, ready to hand out a fitting punishment for your “crime.” It was this type of Dickensian thinking that led many parents in the 1960s and 70s to reject entirely any notion about saying “no” to their children, as they felt it would in some way harm their child’s development. Yet “no” is one of the first words children learn, and if they don’t learn the meaning of it they can often be at risk for developing behavior difficulties. Many parents today remain confused about disciplining their children. They understand that smacking can cause problems if used in anger and that ultimately it models aggression. But when a single alternative such as ‘time out’ is tried instead, this sometimes doesn’t appear to do any good either. One particular couple I know of handled the parenting of their four- year-old son without incident but ran into trouble when their second son reached the age of two and started throwing repeated tantrums. Their mother had read numerous popular child-rearing books and even studied childhood development as part of her professional training. She tried calmly talking and reasoning with the child, and when that didn’t help resorted to a firm smack on his bottom. Eventually she found herself hitting her child a number of times and having angry shouting matches with both her two- year-old and four-year-old as the household fell into a state of near anarchy. So what was she to do? Was she disciplining her children too much, or not enough? The answer is neither of these alternatives. Discipline isn’t about whether you smack or not. It is about helping children learn that there are consistent consequences for their actions that will be enforced within a predictable, nurturing, and loving environment.

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