OF late, there has been talk, yet again, of bringing back the cane to schools. Arguments are being put forward by both sides about whether caning is an effective form of punishment.
This is a rather delicate issue and needs to be handled carefully. However, proponents and opponents do agree on one thing, that the level of discipline among students has somewhat dropped, contributing to the increase in the number cases of disruptive behaviour in schools.
Like many other things, discipline does begin at home. Before blaming other parties, parents must first evaluate their approach at home. Are they being too strict or too lenient? Is there a basic rule for children to live by? Are they being fairly rewarded and punished? Are their parenting actions effective?
The above are some of the tough questions confronting parents. In all aspects of life, we want our actions to be effective. We want to see positive results in whatever we do, including disciplining our children.
Unfortunately, many parents succumb to their emotions along the way. They are inconsistent in rewarding and punishing their children. If they are in a good mood, they may overlook glaring mistakes. But if their mood is bad, even the tiniest of errors can turn their home upside down.
Such parenting styles will never be effective because the children will be left confused. They may not be able to differentiate between right and wrong because everything depends on the parents’ emotional state.
For children to understand and learn, reward and punishment must be consistent and rational. We are all emotional creatures, so to be rational in times of great distress is rather difficult. Parents must find a way to ensure that they have a good reference point and guide that will provide the needed consistency in dealing with their children.
Fortunately, there are many workable methods to achieve this. Some parents use a “points system” where good behaviour and performance will earn valuable points. Any violations will result in points deducted. Though this sounds like a lot of work, it is hard to deny its effectiveness.
The effectiveness of any method can only be measured if it is agreed and accepted by the children themselves.
A very smart way to achieve this state is to through mutual discussion. Get the whole family involved. Create a safe environment for everyone to share their opinions, feelings and needs without any pre-judgement and hidden agendas.
Even the little ones, as early as four years of age, can get involved. You will be surprised at their demands and desires. Chances are, you will be left smiling and even more motivated by them.
For something like this to work, it has to be a two-way process. If parents choose to walk a one-way street where only parental needs and demands are important, it will be a lonely and hazardous street.
On the other hand, parents who choose to travel on a two-way street will find that their journey is a much more pleasant, calm and even exciting.
We all can be on this happy street. All we need to do is to ask our children to do what we want while committing ourselves to deliver what they need.
Besides mutual discussions, sincerely open your heart and give them access. Dig deep to understand their true needs and pledge to honour them. This powerful action will prove too much for our children to resist. In return, they will provide us with their utmost co-operation and commitment to be the best they can be.
FINDING THE BALANCE
Once we are able to come up with a fair system, we will find that children will do their best. Clear rewards are a motivating factor. They don’t have to be expensive gadgets. Simple, sincere words of appreciation coupled with a warm hug will do. Once in a while, treat them to a nice meal for a job well done.
On a really special occasion, a more valuable gift can be offered if they deserve it. At other times, it’s the thought that counts and children do not expect much more.
But if punishment, including physically hitting them in appropriate places, is necessary, children gladly take it knowing that it is done fairly and in a rational manner.
Instead of animosity, children will learn to accept the consequences of their errant behaviour positively. The effects may be gone after a few days, but the lessons stay for life.
Such is the power of a clear reward-and-punishment system. If done well, we may be able to kiss the dreaded rotan goodbye.