It is a parent’s right and privilege to discipline their own child. The truth is nobody, not even your own folks have the right to tell you how to raise your own children.
The first thing you need to understand is the goal. Discipline is not for you, it is for the child. Managing a child with self-discipline is rewarding for the parent, but what’s truly important is your children have the drive to clean up after themselves when you are not looking.
So, how can you discipline your child?
Discipline and tough love
Your child will grow up someday, and you will no longer be able to control their decision-making process. You have one chance to make sure your child makes the right choice all the time.
The moment they fall under the influence of their peers, your moral lessons become less and less important. Unless it is deeply embedded in their personality and subconscious, your child is vulnerable to more dangerous forms of influence.
Peer pressure is powerful and can undermine an entire decade of parental discipline.
A lot of parents are under denial that their children will never fall to peer pressure. They act surprised when their children end up dead from a drug overdose, suicide, or shootouts with the police. They claim that their child will never do those things, but in the end, all their speculations, drama, and delusions will not change the fact that their child is dead.
If you don’t want to experience this, make sure your child doesn’t even start down that road.
What can you do to discipline your child
The examples given above are extreme worst-case scenarios, and hopefully, it won’t happen to you.
But those are not the only negative impact on a child or young adult if they lack discipline. They can do poorly in school and end up working dead-end jobs for the rest of their lives.
Entrepreneurship is also a path to success, but it’s twice as hard and requires 10 times more discipline than working a 9-5 job.
There are things to consider when you are disciplining your child. It should be a balance between doting on your child and teaching them discipline.
Doing too much in either direction will have undesirable results. Giving in to their wants too much and you will raise a spoiled brat that hates you and disciplining them too much will raise a monster that also hates you.
There is no “perfect age” to start teaching kids discipline, it depends on their cognitive development.
According to the Piaget Child Development Theory, a child learns how to reason, logic processes, and distinguish between reality and make-believe in the third concrete stage. Children are able to step into this stage as early as four years old or as late as seven.
Here is a list of requirements before disciplining a child.
- Able to communicate clearly
- Understands instructions
- Differentiate real and play
- No learning abnormalities
- Recognizes authorities (Parent, Relatives, Teacher)
The point of disciplinary action is to teach the child the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of doing the wrong thing. Therefore, it is necessary for the child to first have the faculties in understanding that concept before any effective discipline is possible.
It is very important to press the lesson why the child needs discipline in the first place, so they would remember it, and not repeat their mistakes. If the child is too young to understand the lesson, they would just develop a subconscious fear without taking the lesson to heart. If the child is too old, and already developed their own morality, then they will just hate authority.
Both of these will manifest in all the wrong ways during their teenage years.
What you can do to discipline your child during their behavioral development years will dictate their moral foundation and mindset for the rest of their lives.
Operant conditioning in child discipline
According to renowned Psychologists Ivan Pavlov and BF Skinner, behaviors can be learned through classical and operant conditioning. They provide a roadmap on how to discipline your child.
- Classical conditioning refers to a learned response to different stimuli. Example some people salivate when they see a hot pizza or they feel anxious at the sight of a firearm.
- Operant conditioning is the concept of positive and negative reinforcement or to put it simply, rewards and punishment.
The entire point why you need to discipline your child is to develop a “learned behavior” on mistakes and other punishable offense. We want them to understand that by performing certain actions (or inactions) will invite punishment or rewards.
Do not use parental authority to lash out on a child.
They have an internal “cruelty” meter that after a certain point, negative reinforcement becomes ineffective, and they will only harbor angst and hatred against you. So make sure to use absolute discretion before you discipline your child.
Learned behaviors through classical and operant conditioning during the right point of their cognitive development will hardwire their brain in the concept of right or wrong.
Do not be afraid to teach your child the concept of pain. After all, you need pain for a healthy lifestyle, athletic achievement, and performance arts. So, be creative with your punishments, if they fear physical pain, and associate it only with the concept of punishment.
School bullies will teach them a lesson you don’t want them to learn.
There are plenty of ways to punish a child and teach them about the consequences of their actions (or inactions), but making them fear pain (per se) without understanding the concept of rewards and punishment will only teach them the Freudian pleasure principle of avoiding pain and seeking pleasure. If that is the take away from disciplining your child, they will grow up as weak individuals (physically and emotionally) with no motivation for difficult challenges.
How do you discipline your child without finding fault in them
It is a question that frequently pops up.
A lot of parents want to teach their children the concept of right or wrong before the situation presents itself. The answer is simple. You don’t discipline them.
The moment they understand the concept of punishment, talk to them about your moral guidelines that will help them make the right choice. Then discipline your child after the fact, with a fair amount of lectures and warnings.