Discipline for Children – How Much Is Too Much and Why?

The concept of discipline for children has acquired something of a bad name in recent times because of its associations with authoritarianism and punishment. Also since discipline can vary as per religious beliefs, cultural practices, customs and values and as per a child’s temperament, methods of discipline can vary very much.


Discipline for children – what does it entail?

Simply put, discipline is way to make a child aware of the difference between right and wrong, about limits and rules. Discipline involves reinforcement or reward for good behavior and conversely punishment or unpleasant consequences for bad behavior.

However, what we understand as punishment is not always about negatively. In modern times, punishment is understood in less harsh terms. Punishment as part of discipline for children could be the consequences for one’s actions, a loss of privileges or withdrawal of approval among other things.

Effective methods of discipline help a child understand about the rights of others, an important socializing factor, about self-reliance, about safety and good behavior. Discipline helps parents circumvent problems of a disrespectful child (ignoring the parent’s instructions) or a defiant child (deliberate disobedience or willful bad behavior).

Types of discipline

The ways in child parents choose to discipline their child can differ greatly.

The authoritarian parent believes in enforcing the letter of the law so to speak. There is little space for compassion, affection and input from the child. With this type of discipline for children, explanations are not deemed necessary; nor are the child permitted to feel that he or she is entitled to one.

According to the American Mental Health Association, this form of parenting is less effective than many other styles that use greater compassion and kindness. It could be that authoritarian styles of discipline erode a child’s sense of self-worth and confidence in their own abilities. It could also cause a child to feel resentment and hostility towards the parent, resulting in a deterioration of the parent-child bond.

There is the authoritative parent who lays down clear rules and expectations of their child. There is affection and flexibility in this style of parenting, but there is consistency in dealing with bad behavior. In other words, the child is not allowed to “get away” with breaking rules or behaving badly. Here the child feels loved and secure, but it is the adult who is clearly in charge.

Since this form of discipline for children helps a child understand that there are negative consequences to negative behavior, it teaches responsibility, and self-reliance as well as a keen respect for others and their rights.

Then there is the permissive style of parental discipline, where there are few curbs placed on a child and their behavior, and fewer consequence of bad behavior. There is a lot of affection shown to the child, which is good for self-esteem and confidence. However, being too permissive with a child is also thought of as a less effective form of parenting.

Permissiveness in discipline for children may give a child an unrealistic impression of how to behave with others and less of an idea about how not to impinge on the rights of others. This may leave the child ill prepared for the ‘real world’ in a sense.


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