Here’s a quote from Carl Zuckmayer that might be worth passing on to your children. It carries a lot of truth:
One half of life is luck; the other half is discipline – and that’s the important half, for without discipline, you will not know what to do with your luck.
Sometimes people misunderstand the difference between discipline and punishment, believing them to have the same meaning. Not so. Discipline refers to the training adults give to youngsters to bring about self-control. Consistent, gentle discipline causes life-long changes in the mind and character of children. Punishment is meant to cause pain or discomfort for breaking rules. Typically children are verbally scolded, sent into time out, relieved of toys or special privileges (e.g. TV time) or even given physical hidings or smacks.
Punishment can, of course, form part of disciplining but it should never be the only way that parents use to correct wrongdoing.
Here are some ways of disciplining children
- Ignore unacceptable behaviour.This can be useful and effective for many problem behaviours such as sulking, whining, interrupting, begging for treats, or insulting authority figures (parents/teachers). There are situations where you cannot ignore the child, such as when they are physically hurt. Don’t try to ignore behaviour if you are truly angry inside because children will pick up on your fury and know their behaviour has had the desired result. When you ignore, you should try to avoid paying attention to behaviours that you have clearly explained as being unacceptable.
- Setting boundaries. Children should have set limits that are strictly enforced with patience and firmness.
- Give simple orders. Keep your instructions simple, clear and brief. Children are confused if too much detail is given.Also try to give instructions one at a time rather than a whole list of them. When you speak to your children, look at them and don’t call out orders from a distance. If you have any doubt as to whether a child has understood your instructions, ask them to repeat them to you.
- Spend time with your children.Emotional development depends on the love and attention of parents. This means interacting with your children on their level. Reading the newspaper or watching TV doesn’t count as ‘quality time.’
- Give choices within limits. Children want and need to feel some control.Having some positive control helps them be independent and confident. Rather than always giving orders, set limits instead. Parents can also involve children in determining the disciplinary process and setting consequences (punishments). This helps development of independence and cooperation.
- Help children understand consequences, which are the results of choices the children make.There are two kinds of consequences: natural and logical. Natural consequences just happen. For example, if children do not eat, they get hungry. Logical consequences is created by parents, so a child who purposely hits his sister with his new toy will have to give it up.
- Be consistent.Always treat the same behaviour the same way, no matter the place or time. The more consistent you are, the more effective disciplining will be. Parents need especially to stay consistent in public, which is usually the most difficult and unpleasant. Don’t worry about what others are thinking but simply persist in maintaining the limits that are important to you. For example, if a child misbehaves in a restaurant, the child should be taken outside for a while. She can return after a while but don’t keep food for her. Although unpleasant, missing her food treat helps to teach her the limits.
- Notice good behaviour.Be sure to catch your child being good and obeying limits. Let them know you approve by positive words and actions.
The source of this information was based on the book ‘Help your child to cope’ by Dr Cai Yiming & Dr Daniel Fung.
There’s no doubt that children who enjoy reading have an advantage at school. Good reading skills simply make learning that much easier. Enjoyment of reading, however, is difficult to achieve – especially in this day of high amounts of visual input from media devices. Some children may resist reading instruction and consequently fall behind.
In addition, the Education Department is compelling schools to start the teaching of reading at Grade R level, which might be a little young for some children.
The result may be the development of reading anxiety, leading to less than competent reading skills. This in turn may lead to underachievement.
Dr Sylvia Rimm is an internationally respected psychologist who specialises in underachievement. She shared tips to reduce reading anxiety in her book entitled ‘Why bright kids get poor grades: and what you can do about it’. The following summarises her work:
- Children shouldn’t be forced to read aloud to their parents at home. This is because some parents are anxious about their child’s reading and may pass this on to the child. When children read poorly, most parents feel tense.Obviously a child who enjoys reading aloud may do so if he or she choose to do so.
- Parents should continue to read aloud to their children way past the age when they can read for themselves.Sharing the enjoyment of books is important, and there is no reason to stop reading together – even up to Grade 8.
- Children should be allowed to stay up half an hour later at night if they’re in their beds reading to themselves.They won’t miss out on sleep because they’ll most likely fall asleep with the books on their chests. Certainly the reading time allowed will be beneficial.
- Encourage children to read whatever they like during that half hour before sleep.Don’t insist they read school prescribed or grade-level material. Comics, cartoons, sports magazines, easy material and books already read numerous times are all good for reading enjoyment. The important thing is that they learn to love reading. Interest in broadening their reading repertoire will happen as their reading improves.
- Encourage children to read stories while listening to tapes of the stories. Don’t be too concerned if it seems they are not actually reading: they will eventually.
- Model reading by having books on hand that children see you are enjoying. Newspapers and magazine count as well.
- Encourage children to read to their younger siblings – as long as the younger children are not better readers than they are! Try to leave the children alone while they are reading/listening. Don’t hover around them.
- Visit and browse through bookshops and libraries when out shopping.Make sure you have enough time for these visits rather than simply rushing in to exchange books or buy a book. Obviously it’s important that children belong to a library, where they can spend valuable time.
Stress is an inevitable part of our modern life and it is a myth that children are immune or in some way protected from stress.
When adults are stressed, they turn to others for comfort, attend stress management seminars or simply try to work it off at the gym. When children are stressed, they have fewer avenues they can turn to for relief and help. Sometimes their cries for help are misunderstood or ignored, but stressed children always need the help of adults who can help them cope.
The word ‘stress’ is from the Latin ‘stringere’ which means ‘to draw tightly or bind.’ In the physical sciences, the term is used to define a physical force which can modify the form of a system. For example, a stick may bend when force is applied to it. Stressors in human life are psychological and social forces in the form of events or situations that exert a distorting effect on a person’s equilibrium.
Defined broadly, stress is an adverse event that causes a response from an individual. In childhood, these events include:
- Parental divorce
- Poor parent-child relationship
- Poor teacher-child relationship
- Frequent change of teachers
- Homework overload
- Lack of care and loving discipline
- Death in the family
- A new baby in the family
- Failing a test
- Struggling at school; having learning difficulties
- Having to move from one classroom to the next during the school day
- A birthday party
- High expectations from family or school
- Bullying and teasing
- Rejection from the peer group
- Intense competition with classmates
The physiological reaction to stress is known as the ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response. This helps us survive in the face of an immediate threat to our safety. But children find it difficult to fight or flee the difficulties they face. They can’t recognise that they are under stress so they send out distress signals, including:
- Confused behaviour, associated with loss of memory or lack of focus
- Freezing – becoming quiet and withdraw
- Thoughts of suicide
Stress related physical problems appear, such as headaches, tummy aches, asthma, forgetfulness, temper tantrums, fatigue, tearfulness, fearfulness, sleep difficulties and many others. Continued stress impairs the immune system’s functioning so children’s immunity to disease and illnesses drops. They pick up infections easily and become continually tired and lethargic, despite plenty of rest.
How can stressed children be helped?
- Recognise distress signals children send out
- Realise distress signals can be misinterpreted and avoid labelling children wrongly
- Remove the source of stress from children if possible
- Be available to speak to the child about the stressor(s) and allow plenty of opportunity for the child to express fears, disquiets, anger
- Reassure children that they are not naughty or stupid or bad to feel as they do
- Help children re-learn or acquire new coping skills
- Make sure the parent-child relationship is as positive as possible
- Try to strengthen the teacher-child relationship
- Help the child cultivate friendships in and out of school
- Make sure the child has the chance to relax after school and have fun
- Seek professional help if no improvement is seen
This article was sourced from the book ‘Help your child to cope’, written by Dr Cai Yiming and Dr Daniel Fung.