Often, it seems ‘discipline’ is a naughty word for parents. It sounds as though we’re being unkind to our children, upsetting them and depriving them in some way. In reality, it’s an essential part of growing up – it sets the foundations for good behaviour in the future and helps them become responsible adults. Here’s why disciplining your child will only benefit them in the long run.
1They will learn about consequences
If a child runs into the road after his or her football when you’ve told them not to, you might ban them from playing with the ball for a while. This is an opportunity for them to learn from their mistakes. They aren’t allowed to run into the road because there are lots of cars and it is unsafe; they didn’t follow the rules, so they lost their privileges. You’ll need to explain this reasoning clearly as it’s important children understand the difference between consequences and punishments. They need to know the former are a result of their actions and the choices they make – it’s not their parents being mean for the sake of it.
2Discipline teaches a child to make good choices and builds problem-solving skills
If the ball is in the road and the child wants to continue playing, but knows they can’t retrieve it themselves, how can he or she get the ball back without breaking the rules? Encourage them to think around the problem and work out how to achieve the outcome they want.
3Discipline can help kids deal with anxiety
You may find this hard to believe, especially if your child is strong-willed, but most kids don’t want to be in charge. They like to test their boundaries, sure – but it’s a way of finding out where the limits are, of making sure that there are limits. Studies have shown that children with permissive parents often have anxiety issues. They are aware they lack the experience to make adult decisions and they feel unsettled at the absence of any guidance or leadership.
4They will learn to manage their emotions
Children act on impulse – for example, lashing out when a sibling or friend takes their toy. They need to understand this is not acceptable behaviour in life and find an alternative method of dealing with such frustrations. A good way is to impose a time-out from the immediate situation, giving them space to calm down, and then talk about the behaviour together later. Teach your child the importance of being able to step away from a heated situation – effectively placing him or herself in a time-out – before it develops.
5It will help keep them safe
Remember the ball rolling into the busy road? Explain to your child why they are not allowed to go after it: “If you run into the road, you might get hit by a car because the driver won’t expect you to be there. I don’t want you to get hurt.” By understanding the reason behind a rule, your child is more likely to follow it in future when you might not be there to remind them.
6It teaches acceptable conduct
It can be difficult to do, but by refusing to give in to your child’s temper-tantrums or whining and ignoring them instead, you are demonstrating to them that bad behaviour won’t get them what they want. It also means they lose your attention. You need to demonstrate that acting out doesn’t achieve anything.
7They will be happier
Discipline gives children guidelines they can follow. They know what is expected, what is appropriate, and they will learn in time to stick to the rules. Studies have shown that a strong sense of self-control is more likely to result in a person having lower stress levels and being more content in life.
8They will be more successful
A person who is self-disciplined is better equipped to focus on their studies, set and achieve personal goals, and ignore distractions. They are less likely to give into impulses that might tempt them towards anti-social or even criminal behaviour, as they exercise what experts call ‘effortful inhibition’ – using the self-control they have developed to consciously avoid dangerous or unacceptable actions.