Child Discipline

Child discipline is the methods used to prevent future behavioral problems in children. The word discipline is defined as imparting skill and knowledge, in other words, to teach. In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple and means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct.

Discipline is used by parents to teach their children about principles, guidelines, and expectations. Children need to be given regular discipline to be maintained safe and to be taught right from wrong. Child discipline can involve punishments and rewards to teach self-control, decrease undesirable behaviors and increase desirable behaviors. While the purpose of child discipline is to entrench and develop desirable social habits in children, the ultimate goal is to foster sound judgment and morals so the child develops and maintains self-discipline throughout the rest of their life.

Because the cultures, education, beliefs, customs and values of people vary so widely, along with the temperament and age of the child, methods of child discipline vary widely. Child discipline is a topic that draws from a wide range of interested fields, such as parenting, social work, various religious perspectives, the professional practice of behavior analysis and developmental psychology.

In our society, there has been a debate in recent years over the use of corporal punishment for children in general and increased attention to the concept of “positive parenting” where good behavior is rewarded and encouraged.

Parenting styles

There are different parenting styles which parents use to discipline their children. Five types have been identified:

Authoritative parents are parents who use rational, warmth and firm control, issue-oriented discipline, in which emphasis is placed on the development of self-direction. They place a high value on the development of self-direction and autonomy but assume the ultimate responsibility for their child’s behavior.

Authoritarian parents are parents who use absolute, punitive, and forceful discipline, and who place a premium on conformity and obedience. If parents exhibit good emotional control and understanding, children also learn to manage their own emotions and learn to understand others as well. These parents believe that their children have no right to tell the parent how best to do this and it is their responsibility to provide for their children.

Indulgent parents are parents who are characterized by low demandingness but responsiveness, and who are mainly concerned with the child’s happiness. They behave in a benign, accepting, and somewhat more passive way in matters of discipline.

Indifferent parents are parents who are characterized by low levels of both demandingness and responsiveness. They try to do whatever is necessary to minimize energy and the time they must devote to interacting with their child. From their children, they ask very little and they tend to be relatively uninvolved in their children’s lives. It’s not that they don’t love their children, but they believe that their children should live their own lives, as free of parental control as possible.

Connected parents are parents who want to improve the way in which they connect with their children using an empathetic approach to challenging or even tumultuous relationships. This parents recognize the importance of empathy and aspire to build capacity in their children in hopes of them becoming confident and emotionally resilient.

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