June 19, 2012

How and when to discipline

Category: Being Parents

Since writing the post on “Disciplining other people’s kids”,I have been quite curious on what is the general take on this, and so, I began trawling the internet for the “word out there”.

It does not surprise me that with most topics like crying it out vs no crying or feeding on demand or baby-led feeding, this topic too, has two distinct camp. One article, an opinion piece by a certain developmental psychologist, even stated the following, “Two basic rules to live by when it comes to other people’s kids: Never tell another parent how she should raise her child, and never discipline a child who’s not your own. Parents have their own way of addressing their child’s behavior, and though you may wish wholeheartedly that the other parent would rein in her child more firmly, it’s not your call” (Source: Babycentre.com)
Do I agree with that? Well, to a certain extent – for I don’t think it is my place to tell anyone how they should raise their child. However, as I mentioned before, if the need arises, I have no problems letting the kid know that they have crossed the line. 
I then stumbled upon another blog post from a parent on how he would handle it and I found myself agreeing whole-heartedly with his techniques. Given his flawless writing and the fact that I I would actually emulate the same technique as he described, I have shamelessly do a cut and paste a portion of his post below: 
Strike One.  You just saw some kid attack your child – or maybe your kid came to you crying and saying something happened, but you’re not 100% sure what really went down.  OK, fine.  Comfort your kid and tell him that the offending behavior is wrong.  Leave it at that.  Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, because everyone’s kids misbehave sometimes.  But from that moment on, watch the other kid closely.
Strike Two.  Now you know exactly what happened, because you had your eye on the bad kid, and you saw him do it.  Now, your focus shifts to his caregiver.  Make sure she or he knows what’s going on without confronting them directly.  Again, give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they didn’t see it happen and they just need your cue to step in and discipline the kid.
Here’s what you do: comfort your kid again, but do it louder.  First, validate your own kid: “Yes, he pushed you.  I saw it.  That was not acceptable.”  Make sure the bad kid and his guardian hear you.  Give the guardian a chance discipline her kid, and if she’s any kind of parent, she’ll be embarrassed and she’ll apologize profusely.
Now you’re watching the kid and the guardian very closely.

Strike Three.  By now, either the guardian has reprimanded the kid appropriately or he hasn’t.  But the kid did it again.  This is where you address the kid directly.  Act as if he were your child.  Be firm, but don’t shout.  “Don’t hit!  Do you understand?  Say you’re sorry.”  The kid will probably be shocked, because no one’s ever talked to him that way before.  You may even make him cry.  (Good!  That’s a sign that he never hears “no”, and you got to be the one to introduce him.  Bravo.)

At this point, don’t make any excuses for the other parent.  Maybe they weren’t paying attention and missed the behavior yet again.  Well, too bad.  They know there’s an issue, so they should be watching their kid closely.  If they’re not, you have every right to handle the situation yourself.

Strike Four.  Tell the other parent to leave.  Their kid is out of control and needs to be removed from the situation.  If you’re at a place of business like an indoor playroom, speak to the manager.

If the other parent refuses to leave and the manager does nothing, then you leave.  Tell your children clearly, “I’m sorry we have to go.  You haven’t done anything wrong, but that other kid is out of control, and I don’t want you around him.”  Don’t wait for a strike five.
I know in baseball, you only get three strikes, but what can I say?  I’m nice.
Does that sound harsh?  It shouldn’t, because here’s how I think you should handle it if your kid is the aggressor:
Strike One.  Let’s say that you didn’t witness the action first-hand, but your kid is standing over some other kid who’s crying and all evidence suggests your kid just did something bad.  Ask your kid what happened, and whether they confess or not, remind them, without directly accusing them, “It’s not OK to hit or push.”  Then, keep your eye on your kid.
Strike Two.  Now you know what your kid is up to, because you were watching your kid closely.  It’s your job to take control of the situation.  Pull your kid away.  Tell him you saw what he did, and it was wrong.  Make him apologize to the other kid.  Then, apologize to the other parent yourself.  Don’t make excuses, don’t assure them that your kid never does that sort of thing.  Everybody’s kid does bad things sometimes.  Your actions at this point will do a lot more to vouch for your parenting than your excuses.
Strike Three.  Repeat step two, but more firmly.  Remove your kid from the area for a serious talk.  If he seems contrite, let him know he only has one more chance.  If he can’t behave himself, you’re going to leave.  (If your kid is uncooperative, don’t even give him another chance.  Just leave.  You know when your kid is out of control, so react appropriately.)
Strike Four.  Leave.  Make sure you apologize to the other parent(s) on the way out.  Let your child know that he’s behaving inappropriately and that’s why you have to go.
His original piece can be found here.Certainly worth a read, in my opinion. (And I do think he has a really cool blog content)
Granted, kids misbehave and as parents, I believe it is our duty to tell them (or chide when necessary) on what  is an acceptable behaviour and what is not.This should also transcend beyond the “face saving ethics” so widely practiced within the Asian culture. Disciplining should not be about the grace of “saving face” (i.e. because if you do so, you will embarass me), rather it should be about a specific behaviour that needs to be corrected to minimize the risk of being a nuisance to the society at large.
After all, (most of the time) our kids are the by-product of our values and upbringing, don’t they?

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