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Disciplining children - Do we need to discipline our children?

Updated on September 11, 2011

Is the lack of discipline the malaise that is plaguing our children today?

Bringing up children is not the easiest of tasks and the subject of disciplining children has had more than its share of controversy. The other day, as I opened the newspaper, the first article that grabbed my attention was that of a sixteen year old girl, who had committed suicide because she had got low grades and flunked her exams. This is neither new or rare news; we hear it all the time. I wonder where we are going wrong. Are we putting too much pressure on our children or are we turning them into delicate darlings who cannot take any pressure? Is something wrong with the way we bring up our children? Is this a problem of disciplining children among other things?

Is disciplining children bad?

I remember the time when everyone used to beat their children with a little switch when they needed to discipline them. Gone are those times when our parents would tell us that we were wrong and correct us with a little physical punishment. Today, schools are forbidden from meeting out corporate punishment, but the worst part is the teachers are not even in a position to correct wrong or bad behaviour. It is difficult to discipline children because you cannot use harsh words or say anything negative about them. I met a teacher recently who told me that she hated to work in a school anymore. She was talking about a student who was behaving in an unacceptable manner with his classmates of the other gender, and when she raised her voice and told him to behave decently she was very plainly asked by the student if she would like to be taken to the press for pressurizing and stressing out her student. Is disciplining a child so bad?

Does disciplining children amount to abuse?

Disciplining children and abuse are different issues. Punishment is not to hurt or harm the child but it is a method of training the child to act in ways that are more advantageous to the child. When a child is trained from a young age to be disciplined, the child learns to handle the pressure of living within the set limits. Discipline calls for consistent and continuous correction. Continuous correction from all elders’ makes it clear to the young child that certain behaviors are not acceptable to all; but correcting intermittently teaches a child to learn to find routes of escape and sends the message that a certain behavior can pass off without being noticed. It may also cause confusion among young children.

Disciplining children whose responsibility?

Schools are afraid of being dragged into lawsuits and so, to keep the peace, they refrain from disciplining the children. The teachers need to bear the brunt of it all. They need to teach a class, show excellent results and maintain discipline without any support from the school administration. Parents are quick to point fingers at teachers and support their children in their battle against teachers. Where are we heading? Are we bringing up a race of hooligans and badly behaved individuals who cannot hold their anger or behave decently in public, who follow no rules and hate any form of discipline? I wonder if we are getting back to the dark ages.

Is lack of discipline is love - can over indulgence amount to love?

Parents work hard to cater to all the needs of the children and go a step further to indulge them with all the material things that they need. Some times, they work so hard that they hardly see their own children. Children today are brought up by soap operas and TV channels and they have little or no parental guidance. Those days of parents teaching their children about values and lessons in life, hardly seem to be the priority any more. (I am not saying everyone is doing this but we seem to be getting there in general)

Parents neither have the time nor the energy to discipline their children. Giving in to the demands of children and pampering them or bribing them even to do their own chores seems to be the order of the day. The fact that children cannot be pressurized to contribute to the functioning of the home by doing their own chores and contributing to the upkeep of the home says a lot about the way in which we bring up our children. They seemed to be so used to a life of ease that they are not able to face even a little pressure. They seem to wither, bend and break under pressure or just rebel against it. Disciplining children should start at a very early age. You do not have to use corporal punishment at all, but no punishment would mean discipline cannot be enforced always.

How to discipline children ?

Even though discipline does seem hard at that time, it always works well in teaching children to live within certain codes and respecting them. Just as adults live by the laws of the land, children need to live by certain values and conform to certain behaviors. Disciplining children is applying a certain amount of pressure on them to mould them into a certain way of living. When they are trained this way, they find it easier to adapt to pressure and live within rules and norms of a school or college or home or later on in work life. Parental indulgence, lack of guidance and looking the other way when the child does what is wrong seems to encourage wrong behaviors in the child.

Having a disciplined life teaches a child principles of time management, social living, being able to cope with pressure, make good use of available resources and yet be able to functioning adequately well within restricted limits and resources. It is when children face more pressure and live a life of ease that they have so much difficulty in handling the stress and strain of adult life. They seem to find it difficult to be in control of their emotions and behavior even in community living because they have never been trained to handle themselves and their emotion adequately. Even a little pressure causes them to break down emotionally, giving in to maladaptive behaviors like substance abuse, suicide and psychological problems like anxiety and depressive disorders or obsessive compulsive behavior.

Questions that needs to be asked on disciplining children

It is worth while to ask ourselves – are we bringing up our children in the right way?Where are making the mistakes? Do we need to discipline our children? How much discipline? There are no hard and fast rules we need to choose what is best and do what is right for our children. Working with teenagers so closely, constantly brings up these questions to the forefront that I thought I will share this with you.

P.S. Written from the perspective of Indian Children and discipline at home and school.


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