*As a side note this will be the last article I post from a guest writer from an unrelated site*
Finding a firm, balanced, and equitable style of discipline for your children is not an easy task. Children cultivate, as part of their natural development, an unparalleled ability to test their parents' patience and maturity, and over a long enough timeline, this perpetual resistance can become deeply frustrating. Resorting to physical discipline is more and more attractive as your child's behavior seems only to worsen—you may wonder how your little apple fell so far from the tree, and how it got to be so rotten.
As tempting as it can be, however, to tell your child to go pick a switch from the backyard—that was always a favorite of my parents'—physical discipline is almost always more damaging than constructive, positive discipline and often pushes your children further from you than other kinds of consequences ever could.
Discipline should be two things above all else: positive and consistent. Its purpose is ultimately to internalize a system of right and wrong in children that they will carry with them and uphold throughout their lives and interactions with others.
A violent or abusive method of discipline not only has emotional consequences for children, it also has social ramifications as well, such as aggression, fear, and antisocial tendencies. It is more difficult for children who are regularly spanked, hit, or even verbally accosted to adjust to the outside world, because they are more likely to exaggeratedly fear consequences, show no regard or respect for rules, and be apathetic toward the pain and troubles of others. Similarly, combative parenting that pits parent against child, even if there is no physical punishment, has negative effects on a child's development.
Worst of all, though, is that physical discipline can come between you and your child, and as a behavior gets further out of hand, parents often hit harder, and more frequently, than they mean to. Hitting your child can also teach her that it is acceptable to hurt those you love.
What it is important to remember when disciplining your child is that you as a parent are a role model. You set the example and standard for good and appropriate behavior for your child, even when you are disciplining her.
Especially when your child's tantrums have gotten on your last nerve, it can be nearly impossible to control your own behavior, much less take the time to consider the consequences of your response—but every time you respond in a measured, firm, and fair manner, you also teach your child how to be measured, firm, and fair.
On paper (or online) this is all easier said than done, I know. However, there are some concrete steps you can take as a parent toward a balanced, constructive style of discipline.
· Make sure to respond to a behavior immediately. The longer you wait to address something, the more your child will believe that behavior was acceptable.
· Be consistent! This more than anything else will promote a rigid sense of right and wrong in your child. When you decide on a response, follow through with it—don't capitulate to your child, and don't change the rules halfway through. Consistency will teach your child what to expect, and establish a sense of order and logic in your child's world.
· Be fair. Devise your responses so that they fit the crimes, so to speak. If you take away all privileges from your child because they broke a toy, or send them to the corner all afternoon, it might distort your child's sense of scale and correctness. It is a delicate balance, but, like anything, will come with time and patience.
· Lastly, and most importantly: Be willing to revise your understanding of "discipline." Try to conceive of your relationship with your child as a mentor/pupil dynamic, in which you are positively and consistently encouraging growth and learning, instead of emphasizing punishments, commands, and consequences.
No matter your specific methods, love your child, even when disciplining her. Remember that disobedience and defiance are natural, and that modifying the behavior doesn't mean reforming your child—literally or figuratively. Compromise, cooperation, and understanding, in equal measure with a firm and logical discipline style, will help grow your child into a responsible and caring adult, and will also preserve your relationship with her, even when you're the "bad guy," as all parents occasionally are.