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.
It’s quite common that primary school learners show uneven development when it comes to fine motor skills. The small muscle coordination needed for printing and writing seems to develop more slowly than other abilities. This is more often seen in boys than girls. The boys, however, seem to be better able to manipulate small objects like Lego, computer mouses, and screwdrivers than pencils, so their skill with these objects doesn’t reflect their struggles to control a pencil.
Many of them may, as a result, develop some anxiety related to written work. They may be fluent speakers and communicate brilliant ideas or relate experiences with gusto, but come to a halt when asked to write it down. Children typically equate ‘fast’ with ‘smart’ so when they cannot produce good written work quickly, they stop trying, work too fast and carelessly and make excuses about written work being ‘too boring.’ This develops into them disliking writing and developing anxieties about written tasks.
Last week, I shared Dr Sylvia Rimm’s tips for reducing reading anxiety. This week, I’m summarising the suggestions she gives for helping children overcome ‘pencil anxiety’. The source is her book ‘Why bright kids get poor grades: and what you can do about it.’
- Encourage the child’s use of a computer or other keyboard for all drafts when asked to write a story or complete other written tasks.The schools are more open to this these days and may even allow the child to hand in the printed work rather than struggle to write it out.
- Allow your child to use fine line markers instead of pencils as their fibre tips run more easily over the paper. Ask the school to give permission for their use in the classroom as well.
- Make comments that will help to change expectations. Tell the child that intelligence and speed are not the same. Some examples are:
- Although some smart children finish work quickly, others, just as smart, are slow workers
- Quality is more important than quantity
- Authors always write may drafts before they feel satisfied
- Try this ‘speeding’ exercise. It’s a personal self-competition model. They can copy written material or write out maths facts. You’ll need a stopwatch and multiple sheets of the same maths facts or written material to copy. Have them first copy the material and set a baseline time to record on a calendar.The next day they can write the same material and mark the time. The goal is to beat their own time. Writing the same material every day may get boring, but they’ll soon fine they can write much faster. They’ll become much more relaxed about times tests if timing becomes a daily habit and they can see their improvement.
Of course, some children need help to strengthen the small muscles responsible for pencil control. Usually help can be given by an Occupational Therapist and schools are quick to refer to these professionals.
If you don’t have access to an OT, here are two strengthening exercises that you can do at home:
- The child squeezes and releases a stress ball in one hand several times, then changes hands. Encourage the habit of using the stress ball during times of relaxation, such as watching TV or driving in the car. The hand does get tired as the muscles feel the work-out so don’t overdo it.Doing the exercise regularly is more important than the length of time spent on it.
- Take a length of toilet paper (start with about 1 metre).The child holds one end in his hand and crumples the length into a ball in the palm of his hand. When he’s finished, straighten the paper and let the other hand have a turn. Even though we want to strengthen the muscles of the writing (dominant) hand, we want to work on both hands. This activity can also be done while watching TV or driving in a car. As the hands get stronger, lengthen the strip of paper.
In last week’s post I wrote about the potential dangers to children’s developing brains of air pollution and listed the towns in South Africa with the highest levels of measured pollution.
Most of us lack the freedom to live and work according to our choice. More often we find ourselves in towns and cities because of the nature of our work and the availability of jobs. If we are forced to stay in an area said to be heavily air polluted, are there ways of reducing the risk that pollution carries to our family’s health – especially our vulnerable children?
Here are some suggestions:
First and foremost, you need to become an activist in supporting efforts to improve our air quality because you won’t be able to change the situation by yourself.
Improving air quality means replacing fossil fuel combustion (i.e. burning fuel, such as coal, wood and so on) with cleaner sources of energy, including solar and wind. Support organisations fighting for this. On a note closer to home, be careful of fires (heating or braai) that are used in areas not well ventilated. Our increasing use of indoor braai rooms may add to the poor quality of air in our homes.
Green areas, such as parks and trees within towns and cities can improve air quality, so encourage your local municipality to develop green belts and recreation spots. Wherever possible, plant trees and shrubs in your own garden. Our easy-growing plant, the ‘Spekboom’ is a natural supplier of oxygen – every garden should have a few!
Encourage recycling. Waste that is burned in the proximity of living areas releases toxic chemicals that can reach children’s lungs. Although lead in the air has been reduced since its removal from petrol, if car and cell phone batteries are burned, lead can be released into the air. Use the battery disposal units set up in some of our supermarkets.
Try to reduce children’s exposure to air pollution. Wherever possible, avoid travelling at times where roads are congested. If your home or child’s school is in an area of severe pollution, strenuous activity outdoors should be avoided. In spite of the importance of sport and play, exercise in harmful air should be minimal – especially if your child has a medical condition such as asthma or another respiratory ailment. Make sure your child’s school or daycare centre has a well-greened play area with trees and plants.
The quality of air inside school buildings and other community structures can be improved by ventilation and air filtration systems. Mention this at your school and help work towards implementation of such methods.
Other indoor air pollutants should be avoided too. The bad effects of second-hand cigarette smoke on children’s health is well-documented so homes and cars should be smoke-free zones. Other common sources of potentially harmful inhalants include certain cleaning materials. Use products that are manufactured to be harmless to our bodies and brains.
Lastly, but by no means the least important, strive to maintain optimal levels of health in your children. Healthy diets and lifestyles build resistant immune systems and bodies that can help reduce the overall impact of air pollution. The healthier a child is, the less likely that he or she will develop health complications due to the exposure to air pollution. This is partly why Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) continually encourages healthy eating patterns and other tried and tested ways of living that contribute to optimal brain development and function.