Modern parents are confused and bewildered about when to start disciplining their children. In fact, many child development experts are unwilling or unable to state a certain age to initiate discipline in children for fear the parents will overreact. The phobia created by these experts inhibits parents from disciplining their children.
Parents, especially mothers, have been traumatized by the emphasis on parental abuse, so they are gun shy of disciplining their children. This results in children pushing the limits of acting out and questioning parental authority.
The answer to when to discipline is as soon as necessary. A toddler sitting in his highchair might look right at you and defiantly pour his drink on the floor. Babies who are breastfeeding may clamp down on the breast. The mother should flick the baby’s cheek, training the child that biting his mother is unacceptable. As the child grows and develops more complex behavior, the parents should discipline the child to eliminate any unacceptable behavior the child exhibits.
Unacceptable behaviors such as running around the house screaming at the top of their lungs, throwing their food off the table, refusing to answer when spoken to, climbing out of their crib, pulling the pet’s tail, saying “no” when told to do something need to be eliminated. All these behaviors and many others indicate the child needs to be disciplined.
Early discipline to change behaviors helps to eliminate inappropriate behaviors before they become established. This means that the mother must make the decision to discipline as soon as needed. The parents, by trial and error, learn what the best method of discipline is in each situation.
Issues that arise between the child and the parent, usually the mother, show that if the child is not firmly put in his place, he will begin to run the house and dominate the parents. As the mother herself becomes the victim, the child becomes the victor to his detriment. This pattern becomes a difficult one to reverse.
Too many young mothers, especially if there is not a father in the household, are losing every battle with their untrained, obnoxious, willful, young brats. The two- to five-year-old boys can be extremely aggressive and defiant, needing a stronger approach than a girl. Some overwhelmed mothers of young children receive help from their male family members, which may be insufficient for correcting the child’s misbehavior.
Once the overwhelmed woman realizes she must be firmer and stronger with her child, she sees she can be in charge of them. The concept that it is never too early to discipline becomes it is never too late to begin. The woman realizes that discipline reestablishes control over her child and is the beginning of her having control of her undisciplined child.
The parents must be strong and “in charge” to gain and keep the upper hand. The causes of losing the upper hand change as the child grows older. The early stages of a child’s life are mostly about following the rules set up by their parents, such as eating properly, following instructions and commands and learning to do the right thing in a specific situation. As the child grows, he is supposed to anticipate the appropriate actions without being told. Eventually, the adolescent matures into a quasi-adult and should perform the appropriate behavior with no prompting.
At this stage of development, the young adult has created a checklist in his head to complete all the necessary duties needed to meet his responsibilities and satisfy all requirements to have a safe and satisfying existence. The individual has passed the real-life test of being a disciplined adult.
Domenick Maglio, PhD. is a columnist carried by various newspapers and blogs, an author of several books and owner/director of Wider Horizons School, a college prep program. Dr. Maglio is an author of weekly newspaper articles, INVASION WITHIN and the latest book entitled, IN CHARGE PARENTING In a PC World. You can see many of Dr. Maglio’s articles at www.drmaglioblogspot.com.