Saturday, April 19, 2014

The murky waters of discipline

Discipline is a mass of conjecture at the best of times. Every parent has their own views and ideals on discipline. But what happens when you throw disciplining someone else’s child into the mix?

I blogged a while ago about two boys who hit my daughter and their mother did nothing. I was too stunned to react at the time, but thought I would delve a bit deeper into the murky depths of discipline...

Disciplining children can take many forms, both appropriate and inappropriate. Forms of inappropriate discipline include physical and emotional punishment.  Emotional discipline can take the forms of ridiculing children or making them feel ashamed. Physical punishment is easier to see while emotional punishment can be more difficult to detect, however, is no less traumatic for the child involved.

Mother of two and my friend, Leah recently dealt with a close friend who was emotionally disciplining her ten year old daughter with a mixture of stern sarcasm and ridicule. Leah says, “I didn’t do anything at the time. I felt I was too emotionally charged.”

It was a difficult situation for Leah and her daughter was reacting badly, often back-chatting to cover up how hurt she was. She would cry to her mum about the incidents, “She even told me that she thought my friend hated her".

Leah composed herself before speaking to her friend, “I chose a quiet moment on a separate day to subtly say that my daughter doesn’t understand sarcasm. I don’t use it as a form of discipline. It had to be said. It was awkward by I stood up for my child.” She said.

Leah is happy that since talking with her friend the sarcasm and ridicule and therefore the emotional disciplining has stopped and the relationship with her daughter improved. She uses what is classed as appropriate discipline with both her daughters.

For discipline to be appropriate and effective, it needs to be given by an adult with an affective bond to the child, consistent, developmentally and temperamentally appropriate and self-enhancing.

Maria Walsh, B.Ed. Hons (Early Childhood Education), has worked with children for 30 years and has run her own child care centre for 20 years. When it comes to appropriately disciplining children they follow the National Quality Framework and the Child Development Theories and Personal/Service Philosophy.
At her centre, when there is a need to discipline a child, Maria says, “We believe that it is the child’s behaviour which is not acceptable. The child is always included and accepted.”

As part of the centre’s philosophies, they try to understand the child’s point of view, be clear as to why the behaviour is unacceptable, provide the child with more appropriate ways to behave and support them in their efforts to behave more appropriately.

When discussing the reactions of parents to the centre’s discipline philosophies, Maria says, “Occasionally some parents may be concerned about an interaction. It is good when they are comfortable to express their concerns. The context may be explained to the parent’s satisfaction or educators may be reminded to implement our service guidelines.”

She says it is very rare that a parent wants to address the parenting approaches of other parents or tries to discipline another child. If these events do arise, she says, “This needs to be managed diplomatically. Generally, I have to discern the range of sometimes different values or expectations that different parents have and balance this with my own professional values and general community values or standards.”

Do you have any discipline stories you would like to share?

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