My husband and I are blessed with two wonderful daughters. They may have gotten their genes from the same parents, are being raised in the same home and given the same parental support and guidance but they are turning out to be totally different individuals.
Our eldest lived her first two years with the influence of her paternal grandmother who is quite a spoiler. She got used to having her way at the slightest whimper. Thankfully, her bratty tendencies were nipped in the bud when we finally lived on our own. Now, she listens to reason and tries to understand why things do not always have to go her way.
Our younger child is getting to be so strong-willed. The “pasaway” signs showed early in infanthood. At around six months, she learned the close-open hand routine but did it only when she felt like it. If she did not like the person cooing at her, she just gave “the stare” as if to say, “ano ako, utu-uto? (Am I nuts?)” Now, at age three, she has levelled up, totally ignoring us when she does not feel like being obedient, walking away when she does not want to hear what we say, and insisting on what she wants despite knowing the consequences. She really stands her ground.
This is something my husband and I have to deal with. As a writer and mother, I have squeezed all creative juices for different approaches to discipline, consulted other parents and learned from experts. We are fine-tuning along the way but found some methods rather effective.
START THEM YOUNG. Kids are smarter than we think. They may not be fully aware of their convincing powers but they are very capable of emotional blackmail to get what they want. Parents must realize this and start discipline, believe it or not, in infanthood. Say “yes” when you mean yes and “no” when you mean no. No ifs, no buts.
David Peach, author of How to Discipline Children: 7 Tips for Christian Parents, avers: “Babies can quickly become great manipulators of their parents. The way you respond to your child’s manipulation as a baby sets the tone for the rest of your life together. If you wait until your child is five years old to start instilling discipline in them, then you have waited too long.”
By the time children reach five, they are quite set on having their parents at their beck and call; so be wary.
Kevin Leman, author of The Stuffing Standoff warns: “Every child has a predictable strategy. He plays a daily trial-and-error game that’s designed to get the best of you. He wins when he gets you to do anything he wants. That means if he tries something, and it works, he’ll try it again. But he’ll ramp up his efforts a little. Instead of simply crying when he doesn’t get his treat, he’ll add a little kicking, too.”
KNOW AND RESPECT YOUR CHILD. Children are unique individuals despite common roots. It is best to try different disciplinary styles to suit each one.
David Peach confirms: “You cannot expect your children to respond the same way to correction; whether it is discipline by spanking or positive reinforcement. Realize they are different and correct them in a way that is appropriate to them. They still need discipline, but you may find they work better with a different form than your other children.”
Respecting your child does not only mean accepting who they are and adapting appropriate disciplinary measures. This also means acknowledging their negative emotions.
Baby and Childcare guru of the ’60s Dr. Benjamin Spock shares: “Let the child know that his angry feelings are normal… it helps a child to realize that his parents know he has angry feelings and his parents are not enraged at him or alienated from him on account of them. This realization helps him get over his anger and keeps him from feeling too guilty or frightened because of it. Making this distinction between hostile feelings and hostile actions works out well in actual practice.”
It is easy to react to our kids’ anger and frustration by being harsh and trying to suppress the outburst with threats. Understand that this may be an indication of a deeper issue.
Jaziel has matured significantly at four years old but still throws tantrums once in a while. Once, she was getting difficult the whole day and my patience was wearing thin. Knowing that raising my voice would scare her, I remembered Daddy’s gentle approach coupled with some hugs. I prodded her and asked, “What’s the matter? What’s bothering you? You have been quite difficult to deal with since this morning.”
The warm embrace and soft tone calmed her down and made her open up, “I don’t like you going to the office. I miss you.” Now, that doused off whatever fuming anger I had inside. It turned out that the fits of temper was her way of venting out her helplessness to stop me from working because she misses Mommy.
I acknowledged her frustration and explained I had to report to work every day so we could buy their needs. I assured her that I miss her, too, everytime I leave them behind and assured her of my love. She smiled and put on her best behavior for the rest of the day.
WALK THE TALK. If respect takes primacy in building your relationship with your children, it is best to adapt the Golden Rule. No, it is not “He who has the gold makes the rule.” It is “doing unto others what you want others do unto you.”
Kevin Leman further says: “You don’t embarrass the child on purpose; you correct the behavior. You keep the tennis ball of responsibility in his court, not yours. There is no harassing, no threatening, no warning. There are no put-downs, because if you have the right to put him down, then turnabout is fair play. No one wins in such a situation. Your relationship breaks down. But as you work together on attitude, behavior and character, you can build a relationship that’s mutually satisfying.”
BE CONSISTENT. House rules help establish order at home. Being consistent in imposing them gives a sense of stability. Rules help establish a compass for youngsters to know if their behavior is within bounds.
One of our very own home-made decrees is you mess up, you clean up. Even if my kids draw up all sorts of excuses to avoid tasks, I do not argue with them. I let it rest for a while but make sure they are reminded of their duty before moving on to another activity. “Keep your toys first before starting with your coloring books.” Being constant on this matter now makes it automatic for them to tidy up. Eventually, this will train them to own up to their own actions in the future.
FOLLOW THE ROD. I used to be ambivalent about spanking but this Christian teaching proves to be right especially when kids’ behaviour go over-bounds. Children will never realize how bad an act is if they do not actually experience the consequence.
Motivational speaker Jojo Baldo even went to the extent of purchasing a paddle meant for spanking and hangs it on the wall as a reminder for his children to strive to be good. If the situation asks for it, he patiently explains the erring little one why he got a whack on the butt. His children has grown to be well-mannered knowing that a misbehavior entails punishment.
But David Peach cautions: “You should not spank your child when you are angry. You should spank them because it is right and necessary.”
Rinnah can really be hard-headed but we strive to distinguish if the good old slipper is necessary or not. If it is just a matter of choice like preferring two braids over one, then she gets her way. If she stubbornly insists on something that would get her into trouble like staying in front of the fan which may lead to sickness, she either gets the one-minute solitary confinement or a good spanking. But we try to avoid directly using the hand. Hands are meant to be used for expressing affection not hurting.
BE THE AUTHORITY. Many parents have doubts about being strict with their children and put more weight on making them happy. Some fathers and mothers are scared of their own kids especially when tantrums get out of hand. They follow their demands just to shut them up. Before they know it, they are at the beck and call of the little rascals.
There is also the guilt to deal with. Parents get bothered about the possibility of hurting kids psychologically or scarring them for life if punishment gets too harsh. While it is wise to ponder if the line is crossed too far, not straightening them up totally is another story.
Parents are here primarily for loving guidance. Guidance entails discipline. Discipline need not be harsh all the time. It is a tricky balance between positive affirmation, kindness and firmness. Failing to realize this sensibility may lead to raising selfish, self-centered brats.
Baby and Childcare guru of the ’60s Dr. Benjamin Spock points out that parents can be firm and friendly at the same time. “A child needs to feel that his mother and father, however agreeable, have their own rights, know how to be firm, won’t let him be unreasonable or rude. He likes them better this way. It trains him in the beginning to get along reasonably with other people.”
David Peach reminds parents, “it is your responsibility from God; therefore you should take the role of leader and authority with confidence knowing that it is God-ordained that you do so.”
Discipline can really be a hard task and heart-wrenching at times but sometimes tough love is the way to go to equip our children to face the real world and most of all, build godly character. They may hate us for a while but they would realize the wisdom behind discipline when the right time comes. As Lolanidora says: “Sa tamang panahon.”
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