A central responsibility of parenthood is discipline. To discipline a child involves a combination of correction, punishment, and instruction that is often a struggle to balance. The pressure on parents as they work through the various challenges of their children to their authority can be extremely stressful and push them to the brink. How can parents properly discipline their children without being too harsh?
Discipline is a choice to work for the best for another person. When parents make the choice to discipline their children, they are choosing to love them and make the effort to help their children grow into mature, accountable adults. This commitment carries with it an intense desire to see young people grow and develop. But it also brings with it frustration that can tempt a parent to be overly strict. When discipline moves over the edge into being too harsh, children will feel smothered and they will react negatively. Good discipline involves directing and leading. Even punishment and correction should be done with a purpose of helping children to make better decisions in the future. A child should never be punished or corrected when a parent is angry or out of control.
Proper temperament is critical when correcting or punishing a child. A response is too harsh when it is unnecessarily severe or unpleasant. A harsh response is generally a reactionary response that is more focused on the feelings of the parent than on the well-being of the child. When a child acts inappropriately, the response of the parent must be measured and reasonable according to the action. Parents must take the time to differentiate between a poor choice that is a result of immaturity and an act of defiance that challenges parental authority. Discipline is only useful and productive when it matches the offense and works to the benefit of the child.
Disciplining a child is never pleasant for the parent or the child. The process is necessarily uncomfortable and will produce uncomfortable feelings. As a result, parental requirements and the resulting cost of flaunting them should be as clear as possible for both the parents and the children. Discipline should not be a haphazard affair that is made up in the heat of the moment. Just as laws in society are clearly displayed and the price to be paid is indicated in advance, a similar system should be in place between parents and children. The more immature the child, the more defined the rules need to be. As a child grows and matures, these regulations can become more flexible as appropriate. Good communication is a strong foundation for good discipline that keeps it from becoming harsh and affect the child in a negative manner.
Harshness can be avoided when parents work as a unit. Usually one parent will tend to be stricter than the other and a good compromise will result in a disciplinary environment that is reasonable, but not overly harsh. It is often when one parent feels frustrated or disrespected that a decision will be made to impose correction or discipline that is harsh and inappropriate. Even single parents should have another adult who is involved in the lives of the children and can act as a sounding board. Making decisions in isolation is generally an approach that leads to inappropriate conclusions. Having at least two adults who are invested in the lives of the children will help to match the appropriate discipline and correction to the offense. Including teachers, coaches, and other important adults in the lives of the children is another way to gather all the relevant facts and to ensure that the correction process is directly connected to the incorrect action and that it will encourage the child to do better in the future.
The greatest danger of harsh discipline is that it will discourage the child from trying at all. When a child feels that no matter what he or she does that it will result in hard words and severe punishment, that child will lose the will to attempt new things or to make any decisions at all. In addition, harsh punishment will create a distance in the relationship with the parent that may not be able to be healed. A frustrated child is more likely to make inappropriate choices since he or she will tend not to care as much about consequences. Proper discipline is tied to sincere care from parents and that should always be communicated in the process of correction. Parents should take the time to explain why certain discipline is being applied and how it can be avoided in the process. Negative treatment should never be done in a manner that indicates that the parent is enjoying what is being done. The child should always be encouraged that he or she is valued and that the correction is designed to promote better things in the future.
Raising children is difficult and the pressure of trying to keep a child on the right path can be intense. The immaturity of children will lead them at times to act in ways that seem completely without any sense. Harsh reactions to the actions of a child may seem to be appropriate in the heat of the moment, but will be seen as out of line over time. Creating good communication, having a plan for discipline, and having at least two adults involved in the correction process will help to ensure that the process of disciplining a child is appropriate and not overly harsh. The more that discipline is matched to the offense and encourages future positive action, the more likely that the relationship between child and parent will be maintained and the child will grow up with the confidence to take appropriate risks and the knowledge that he or she has parents who are committed to showing love and care for a lifetime.