An important aspect of parenting is disciplining their children. Parents should realize that how their children behave is reflective of their parenting style and gives people an idea of how they are disciplining of their children. For most of us, we consider disciplining as a one-sided task assumed by the parents. We should not forget that communication is important in all relationships, especially parent–child relationships. It should not be only the parents doing the talking when reprimanding their children. A desirable scenario for disciplining your children is where you give them a chance to talk – not talk back defiantly – about their behavior and things that concern them or us parents.
An open communication with your children should always be established at all times and at all situations. Sometimes, we think that talking with our children when disciplining them is not necessary or awkward, especially when we are punishing them. Little do we know that we have smart children who may understand more than we think they can. Showing our children that we are consistently stern and consistent with our discipline is needed, but at times this may not be enough. We should also talk with our children and explain to them why they were being punished for their bad behavior. We should make disciplining an avenue for learning, and not just for punishment and rewards.
Talking with our children when they misbehave can be quite tricky. One way of initiating a conversation and a meaningful communication is by asking questions. We need to move beyond “OK”, “Yes” “No” “fine” and “nothing” responses when we ask our misbehaving child. Try to ask about things that are specific, but still open-ended. Also, make the atmosphere calm and conducive for a heart-to-heart conversation. You can turn mute or down the TV or radio volume or sit with them in a calming and silent area of the house. It’s also great to start the conversation with an anecdote from your own day or from your childhood. Try one of these conversation-starters:
- Would you mind telling me what’s bothering you?
- What was the hardest thing you had to do today?
- What’s the reason why you did (cite the specific misbehavior)?
- Can you tell me a good thing we can get from this talk?
- Give me a reason why I shouldn’t ground you/put you in a time-out?
- What rules are different at school than our rules at home? Do you think they’re fair?
- Was I being stern enough or was I being too stern?
- Am I a good parent or a bad parent? Why?
There are still more conversation-starting questions you can ask aside from these. When they give their response, be open and acknowledge it. You can ask follow-up questions or explain to them depending on their response. Sometimes, we may not be able to elicit a response from our child when we ask them. That is OK. There should be no forcing, nagging or harsher punishment if they don’t talk. Some children may just have a hard time opening up to their parents. Remember to be encouraging and open if you want to talk with your child. You may also want to encourage them to ask you a question. Let them know that it’s OK to do so.
As mentioned earlier, our children can be smarter than we think. We can effectively teach them good behavior by engaging in a meaningful and constructive conversion with them as supplement to our disciplining of them. This way, they will realize that behavioral change is a learning process — they are still learning to change their ways for the better despite having to face discipline or punishment.