In my childhood days, children approached most house chores with a lot of anxiety. We just had to get it right at all times! Most times, I would not just be able to place my finger on why I would not achieve the perfect obedience to parental instructions the way I would desire them. The standards of expectation were quite high though. One house chore that gave us such an anxiety was the washing of breakable utensils.
What generated the anxiety was that the utensils kept breaking during washing. Each time it occurred, my heart would fall deep into my stomach in extreme fear and I would be overwhelmed with guilt. I struggled over the years with the accusation of carelessness I got each time it occurred. The punishment I would eventually get on such occasions would usually not produce the extent of guilt I usually felt immediately it occurred. This went on and on for several years until I became a teenager, when the incidences substantially reduced. It almost stopped occurring completely in my late teenage years.
When this scenario emerged in my relationship with my children, I approached it empathically. I was just sure that it was needless flogging a child for several years to achieve improvement. It was obviously certain that improvement would definitely be achieved with maturity! My assumption was not that the child was careless, but that she lacked the wisdom to figure out properly how to clean up the glass utensils properly while avoiding breakage. So, when I arrived at one of such scenes, I instructed my daughter to walk out carefully to avoid being pricked by the glass pieces. I then inquired where the plate fell from. When she pointed at the edge of the sink, I told her that she did a wrong thing by keeping a glass plate at the edge of the sink. She then understood why the plate fell and broke. The following guidelines I provided helped to make her wiser in performing this function.
- Breakable utensils should be separated from the plastic ones, washed and kept away before the non-breakable ones.
- They should be kept well inside the sink, never at the edges during washing.
- They should be rinsed immediately after washing so that they will not slip off the hands.
On my own side, I made minimal use of glass utensils until my children were matured enough to cope with it. Through this approach, breaking of glass utensils during washing was not allowed to become an issue that would generate undue anger, anxiety, irritability and build up of negative sentiments in my relationship with my children.
- Discipline is enhanced when instructions and guidelines are clearly explained with love.
- Expectations from children should match their stage of development and mental capability.
- Necessary adjustment could be made to accommodate the issues that cause anger, anxiety and resentment while the child gradually matures to handle them better.
- Parents should not approach discipline with the mindset that the child is unwilling to obey, but rather with the mindset of assisting someone who lacks the ability to perform a task.
A mother arrived at the children’s church on the Sunday after I gave a parenting talk in a women’s fellowship requesting to see me. She was looking harassed and unhappy. Her confession was that the message on that evening was for her because her parenting approach was exactly the one I condemned.
“If you see where I flog them, you will not believe that they are my biological children.” she said. Her children were then between two and ten years.
“Why do you flog them that way?” I asked rhetorically.
“I flog them to wash the plates, sweep the house and perform other house chores” she responded.
She further explained that she flogged them that way every day. I then asked her whether she would still need to flog them if they were made to comply with her instructions willingly. She concurred that the flogging would then not be necessary if they obeyed her. I could imagine the tense and illusory disciplinary environment she was struggling with in her home. Without asking further questions, I told her to withdraw threats, shouting in despair when giving instructions, flogging and all the pollutants I could remember. She said she rarely laughed with them. So I also asked her to increase her smiles. She was also reminded of the other parenting skills that were discussed. I told her to try out the new approach for a month and give me her feedback.
She came back a month later with a lot of smiles and excitement. Her testimony was that her children were more willing to obey her instructions. She said that they would happily await her return from work daily, perform those chores without coercion and were always willing to share their experiences during the day with her excitedly. She said that she was definitely going to continue with the new approach because it brought peace to her home.
Good parenting skills are worth giving a try. The results are really great!
Many years ago, my daughter could not contain the euphoria of her newfound ability to walk around the house. She was in a hurry to explore everything in the house. I was practically engaged full time, watching over her as long as she was awake! Thanks to ‘baby discs’ which provided a reliable distraction to contain her hyperactivity. It was not long, we noticed her great fascination and attraction for one particular item. Alas, and much to her frustration, she was never allowed to touch it. That was the kerosene lantern.
Communication on its dangers was pretty difficult as one can imagine with the child who was just a little over one year old! We simply made efforts, as parents, to protect her from the lantern when it was hot so that she would not experience a burn and also when it was cold so that she would not get black stains from the soot. Over a period of time we employed various strategies to prevent her from touching the lantern, including keeping the lantern up where her hands would not reach it, employing distraction, and blockage. All these seemed to feed her curiosity and she would always attempt to utilise any available opportunity to reach out for the lantern. Of course the situation almost generated a lot of anxiety on our part as parents because of the potential hazards.
Then one day the “rod of correction” was allowed to provide the discipline we desired in that situation. After the lantern was lit, the temperature was monitored for a few minutes. When the lantern was fairly hot, just enough to achieve the desired purpose, the child was given the freedom to touch it, under parental supervision. She did not get a burn when she touched it because the temperature of the lantern was not that hot, but she was immediately repelled and never wanted to have anything to do with the lantern for a long time!
- In the right disciplinary atmosphere, children would naturally learn from the results of their actions.
- Parents are usually advised to take protective measures to ensure that the health and safety of their children are not compromised, even on those occasions when it may be necessary to allow some learning experiences.
- Parents who spend enough time with their children would have the opportunity of providing the necessary guidance as children learn from their daily experiences in right atmosphere of love.
- It is not necessary to pollute the right atmosphere of discipline with the cane, whip, corporal punishment and the other pollutants that were highlighted in our reflection post of 7th Jan, 2016.
Teacher, please help me. My son is very stubborn. I hope you people flog very well in this school. In fact, John requires triple dose of the flogging other children receive.” This was a desperate plea by a parent who was obviously overwhelmed by her son’s behaviour. It is a familiar scene in the schools in my environment. Some teachers actually see such developments as opportunities to brutalise the children without any restraint.
A resourceful and skilled teacher will not resort to corporal punishment no matter the pressure from parents. Whatever “disciplinary” atmosphere it creates is illusory and transient. There is always the tendency for students to get used to the severity of any form of punishment a teacher may come up with. The teacher therefore will keep thinking of more severe and cruel things to do to coerce the students into obedience. This cycle may never really end. Many students have ended up in the grave and teachers in the prison.
I underestimated how much burdensome this request has been to teachers until the issue came again for discussion at the end of a seminar I held with some teachers about two weeks ago on the issue of the proper disciplinary approach. It is really a pathetic situation. The pressure from parents has pushed many teachers to abandon the reliable principles of motivational techniques of teaching.
In the course of my career as a teacher, it was really a difficult task to convince parents with such requests that there was need for change in their parenting approach. Many of the parents I counseled were appreciative of the parenting skills I communicated. It is therefore imperative that schools should extend a helping hand of partnership to the parents of their children on this issue. Really discipline in schools will be greatly enhanced if parents are trained to acquire the right parenting skills. The ways of achieving this includes the following:
- The organization of workshops and seminars on parenting.
- Pep talks on different aspects of proper parenting during PTA meetings.
- The production of periodic newsletters and magazines that are dedicated to parenting topics.
- The establishment of counseling units in schools.
The plea by that old widow for money to buy her drugs when I was driving out of my compound in the village on that day got me confused. Initially, I convinced myself that it was an one-off event, but then how could I explain her frail and malnourished look? If the high-rising buildings in her compound were built by her children, why was she so wretched? The explanation I received from someone who had more knowledge about her family got me even more confused. I was told that her children refused to provide for her needs because they had a deep-rooted hatred for her from their childhood days.
As usual, an array of questions flashed through my mind. What kind of parenting relationship did she have with her children that resulted in such deep-rooted resentment? Was God a part of that parenting process? Was it that she did not love her children or that she loved them, but was not properly guided in her parenting approach to communicate love effectively?
- Every parent should take the issue of building a healthy parenting relationship seriously.
- A parenting relationship that is replete with built-up negative emotions by the child is unhealthy.
- The resentment formed in an unhealthy parenting relationship may endure throughout the child’s life.
- That is why a parenting method that achieves discipline with the proper skill and firmness in an atmosphere of love is always preferred to the one which relies on violence and persistent show of anger.
There are many parenting practices that greatly negate the efforts at achieving discipline in children. Some of them are listed below. They are not part of any healthy parenting relationship.
- Using a child to achieve revenge or perpetrate evil for whatever reason.
- Making threats of punishment each time instructions are given. This is like adding noise into a sweet music.
- Giving a child a name as a result of a wrong past behavior. This actually makes the wrong action stick to the child’s personality.
- Calling some children angels as a constant reminder to others who are branded as devils. The reality is that human beings are hardly always right or always wrong.
- Unrealistic expectations beyond the developmental maturity or ability of the child. For instance, expecting toddlers to obey the instruction of sitting down quietly without talking or being involved in an engaging activity for a long period of time.
- Indefinite reference to a past misdeed. This works against the purpose of achieving discipline.
- Giving instructions upside down with the intention of achieving emphasis. For instance, “Make sure you pour the oil on the floor!” instead of saying “Be careful so that the oil will not pour on the floor.”
- Cursing a child with the intention of correcting a wrong behavior.
- Frustrating a child’s effort to seek clarification on an instruction.
- Frustrating a child’s effort to communicate an offence or seek redress.
- Making wrong negative assumptions on the child’s intentions when a child’s behavior is contrary to expectations. It is safe to assume that the child failed because he was not wise enough. It is wrong when parents and teachers are quick to describe children as stubborn or wicked.
- Making a child to bear the consequence of an action he is innocent of. It is better for the guilty to go unpunished than to punish the innocent. This usually occurs with group punishment.
- Making negative reference to the child’s biological parents by foster parents and teachers. It is offensive to tell a child “I don’t blame you. Can your parents afford it?”
- Working with children with a mindset that they are stubborn or uncooperative. Even a delinquent child will be happy to get an adult who will work with him with the expectation of good behavior.
- Relating with a child in a way that totally disregards his or her unique personality.
- Threatening to disown a child. Parents are ‘the brace of endless love’ in a child’s life.
- Corporal punishment.
Happy new year to our readers! Thanks for availing yourselves of our posts. We are quite encouraged! Even though our stay was brief last year, we are confident that your passion in parenting has increased and that you have made progress in establishing healthy parenting relationships with your kids.
Our belief is that a healthy parenting relationship is one in which the parent is sufficiently close to continuously provide support towards the physical, mental, spiritual and social development of the child in an atmosphere of love, until the child is released into a disciplined adult life. In situations where parenting is effectively done, the foundation of this relationship is so strong that it is never severed even in the child’s adult life. It manifests deeper love and maturity as the child gets older. This should be the desire of every parent!
If the health of any parenting relationship is put on a scale we will find a stretch of values from negative to positive. On the positive extreme is the lovely, happy, firm, righteous relationship where the child is raised with discipline as a way of life right from infancy. Here, parenting is done with so much proficiency that a child will willingly choose to live a disciplined life where the whip, cane and all forms of corporal punishment do not find a place. On the negative extreme are parenting relationships that would break up completely with the child living on the streets without any form of parental guide.
Those that read all our posts in the year 2015 would have fully understood the parenting principles we packaged. However, our devotional post of 12th December 2015 titled, ‘Getting it Right with Discipline in Children: The Proper Approach’ encapsulates all our efforts at improving the parenting skills of our readers.
We hope that you will continue to read our posts and adopt the proper principles. Also note that any posts you find interesting and beneficial will be available to your loved ones on facebook if you click on ‘share’ after reading. We are always encouraged by your likes. Your comments are necessary because they may also add pungency to the message contents of the posts.
Finally, readers that have parenting experiences to share should send their stories for publication to firstname.lastname@example.org. The stories should not be more than 750 words.
Thanks very much for being part of this great vision.