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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Parents need to know when discipline is needed

9th November 2011

In a world where children seem to be growing up faster and acting so precocious, it's easy to want to rail against the trend and set down more rules. Children need rules, after all, and learning to respect rules and boundaries is a critical part of a child's development.

However, as is true for any goal, it is important to keep the reverence for rules in proper perspective. Remember that you should be more interested in the spirit of the law than with the rule of law. You need to know when discipline is needed and when it's OK to let things slide.

Today I will focus on some simple tips for keeping your strictness in check. You need to choose your battles. Determine which things matter and ease up on things that don't. Do not make an issue out of everything that happens.

Let’s face it. If you say "no" to everything, your child is going to get pretty crabby. So instead, try to come up with a new way of phrasing that "No." Instead of "no hitting," why not try "we don't hit in this house?"

Find new ways to say "no:" So instead of saying "No TV," why not say "Let's watch TV after dinner." Rather than "Don't jump on the bed," try saying "We don't jump on the bed in this house."

Negotiate a few firm rules (no hitting, no running in the street) and adapt them as your child matures.

Review your expectations with your child. Consider dropping less important rules in exchange for firm adherence to a few that you consider vital, remember consistency is very important. Explain to your child why these rules are important to you and be firm about upholding them. Be aware these rules may eventually need to be adapted.

One day you tell your child he can't watch TV after school and the next day you change your mind and let him veg in front of the tube for hours on end. This type of inconsistency isn't fair. As a parent, you need to be as consistent as possible so that your kid knows what to expect.

When you do punish your child make sure the punishment fits the crime. Don't go overboard on small infractions!

Most of all don’t hit! Research shows that spanking isn't effective and only teaches your kid that it's OK to hit people. Not a good lesson!

When at all possible, try and distract your child. It's so much easier to redirect a child than to punish him. Distract your child. You'd be amazed how easy it is to distract a young child. Their attention span is so short that they soon forget what they were so intent on only a moment earlier. Try pointing out something interesting going on outside your window to distract her from those lollipops she can't stop thinking about.

As you child gets older, trying using time outs (1 minute per age) and the 1,2,3 Magic technique (count to 3 to give the child the chance to shape up before you implement consequences).

If you tell your kid he's not allowed to play with your new iPhone and he does it anyway, set a (reasonable and fair) consequence. If you don't follow through with your threats, your child 'll figure out that you're just bluffing when you say "No" and learn to ignore you.

Try to stay calm and not raise your voice. Children respond better when you're cool, calm and collected. children can drive parents crazy. It's only natural to get a little bent out of shape sometimes. You're not a saint, after all! But keep in mind that children tend to respond better when you talk to them calmly rather than yelling.

Sometimes it’s ok to let the child set the rules. It's fine to give your child choices, but don't treat him like a grown-up and give him the (false) impression that he has as much say in setting rules as you do!

Last but not least you should make use of positive discipline. Rather than punishing for negative behaviour, try praising good behavior.

Create sticker charts and reward systems to create incentives for good behavior. Everyone likes to be told how fabulous they are, even 2-year-olds!

Finally, with any methods of child discipline, the idea is to be firm and consistent so your children understand the consequences of their actions. Remember that children thrive on routine and structure. So do your best to set limits and stick to them so they know what to expect.

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