Sat Oct 22 20:08:56 SAST 2016

Disciplining your children

By unknown | Mar 17, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Do you see, feel and/or hear yourself or someone you know in these exclamations, mostly directed at children: "Don't touch that," "No hitting," or "Stop whining".

Do you see, feel and/or hear yourself or someone you know in these exclamations, mostly directed at children: "Don't touch that," "No hitting," or "Stop whining".

Often it can seem like your day is filled with endless reprimands for your children. While there is no one right method to deal with whining, back talk, or bad behaviour, the approach you take can shape a child in subtle ways.

There are three main styles of discipline parents practise - authoritarian, authoritative and permissive, and experts say each can have far-reaching effect, even after childhood is a distant memory.

In an authoritarian parenting style, the parent is the boss. A child is meant to listen without questioning, simply because the parent is the authority. If a parent tells a child to pick up her toys and the child asks why, an authoritarian parent would say something along the lines of: "Because I'm the grown-up and I make the rules".

The repercussion could be a fear of the parent from an early age. And in turn, a fear of other authority figures.

According to Patty Wipfler, founding director of Hand in Hand Parenting, a nonprofit organisation focused on improving parent-child relationships, it's up to the parent to decide which discipline style gels with their personality, but "a sense of connectedness between the parent and child is what parents should be focusing on".

Wipfler says authoritarian pare-nting may yield obedient children, but it also may yield kids who are aggressive, have difficulty building healthy peer relationships, or become withdrawn from activities if they have the possibility of bringing rejection.

The second discipline style sounds a lot like the first. But although the names are similar, the approaches are quite different. An authoritative parent sets limits and makes rules, but not without explaining why they exist. Then when the rules are enforced, the child has a basis for understanding why his actions led to any disciplinary result.

For example, if a child hits, an authoritative parent may say, "Hitting is not okay", but then, once they'd laid down the law, they'd explain that "hitting hurts others ... when you hit him you made him cry". This allows a child to see the consequences of his actions. The parent might then have their child apologise if he's old enough to understand that concept.

Wipfler, an advocate of the authoritative style, says she likes it because "parents listen and create some modified version of democracy, and the child's viewpoints are heard".

Permissive parents are the polar opposites of authoritarian ones, believing that a child should have the right to find his own way in the world. Permissive parents let children set their own limits. Some refer to this as "laid-back" parenting. Too much leniency early on can actually create a child unable to trust grown-ups later.

Whether you are clearly one style of disciplinarian or another, or a little bit of each, find a way to discipline that works for you, and for your child as well. Wipfler says: "If a child's needs are met, you'll have a child who knows themselves, is confident, and turns to you during his hardest times." - For more informative parenting tips, visit


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