D is for Discipline?!?!

For this blog I decided to consult a dictionary. Certain words when associated with small children and babies worry me. So I looked up the definition of Discipline and this is what I found.

dis·ci·pline

1.training to act in accordance with rules; drill

2.activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill;
training

3.punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.

4.the riguor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc

5.behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behaviour and order
maintained by training and control

I find it hard to correlate this with babies and small children – how can someone be expected to act in accordance to rules when they don’t have the mental capacity to understand what the rules are? How can you punish someone for doing something when they don’t understand what they have done wrong.

As I have said before, babies and children mirror the behaviour they see. If we want our children to be well mannered then they have to see that in action, if we want them to abide by a set of rules or code of conduct then they have to see us doing the same. Use praise and reward for behaving in a way that meets our expectations and not highlighting what we consider to be, breaches of the code.

Very small children and babies have no ability to be naughty. Their cognitive abilities haven’t developed enough for them to consciously think of committing an act just to annoy us. Their behaviour is to attract our attention in order for us to fulfil their needs.

At birth a baby knows is what it experienced in the womb, warmth, love, cradling, movement and nourishment and suddenly they will be bombarded with sights, sounds and experiences both physical and emotional. This continues for the entirety of that child’s life.

Imagine you are placed in a world so alien to you, where you don’t understand what any one is saying, you can’t move to do anything without aid, you can’t talk or communicate; you are at the mercy of those around you. Scary thought? Did you think about the lack of control when you planned your birth, you may have, and how the health care professionals seemed to talk a different language and kept bombarding you with odd incomprehensible questions, touching you, moving you etc. This is how your young child feels. And then it gets too much and no one is listening to what is wanted, needed the frustration builds and you may lash out, or shout or find another equally angry response. This is what your young ‘angry’ child is doing, trying to communicate needs with no real discernable language in which to do so.

So this is my view on why babies and young children can be challenging so how do we ‘deal’ with it?
Put yourself in your child’s shoes. Now no-one is perfect, we all have bad days, we all have moments when we feel nothing is going right and the whole world is against us. On your bad days what would help? Someone shouting at you? Someone slapping you? Being abandoned to your misery? For most of us the answer is no. For me I would like someone to try and understand, to maybe help sort out my issues and perhaps just give me a hug and tell me it will be alright. Well you child needs that too when they are having bad days or disaster moments.

Don’t expect too much of your young child – sitting at a table of adults for a couple of hours is boring, wandering around the shops for a day is boring, waiting in a long queue is boring and your child will try to find ways to amuse themselves and ways to try and get your attention. Children are inquisitive so they will find cupboards to open and places where things are hidden, that is the nature of children and the nature of learning.

At the same time don’t beat your self up over an outburst you may have – we have all been there, but if you wrong an adult you ‘man up’ and say sorry and maybe even explain why you felt the way to did, grant your child the same courtesy and at the same time you are teaching them that it is normal to occasionally lose control and the way of making things better is to apologise and acknowledge your feelings.

Its not about disciplining a child but about teaching a child how to communicate, how to react, manners and respect for each other and its about teaching by example in how you behave to others and how you behave towards your child.