Discipline and Love: How to Educate a Child

August 25, 2016

When we establish radical positions about our children’s education, we lose control of the situation. So, we go towards the permissive end and play with words, we could say that we can lead a normal life simply with a child around, instead of planning our lives around our child.

In order for education to be appropriate and adequate, it must meet certain requirements: it must be systematic, there must be clearly established authority, and affection. Systematic education is coherent, it’s when our words and actions are in tune with one another. This is the best way that our little ones can see the values that we want to instill in them within the continuum of our actions. It’s the best way of helping them experience the positive consequences of assuming and internalizing these values.

By authority we mean the ability to assume control of situations with our children, serving as a reliable but not infallible guide. Authority must also be protected between the parents, because if one adult is discredited in front of the child, this adult will automatically lose his authority. When at all possible, different points of view must be addressed and worked out privately.

And by affection, we’re referring to the quality that keeps all lessons from being painful. Instead, they facilitate and stimulate the senses. Discipline and love must go hand in hand in education.

Not talking is not allowed

This is one of the best slogans for Finnish education, which is setting a trend in how to do things better when it comes to educating children in and out of schools.

It is forbidden to not talk in classrooms, because the communicative need is a basic part of every human being. Omitting it, for the sake of rectitude and discipline, only indicates teachers’ and parents’ inability to understand our nature and, therefore, their children’s nature.

teacher asking children question

It’s simply about giving the child the turn to speak when they want to express themselves. Not anyway they want, but any time they need it. This radically contradicts our ideas of rectitude, but we must consider the following: these old ideas that are repeated over and over…Have they truly been successful in our education?

When we refer to not talking, we mean that the child has communicative needs, and they need to share them. It’s simply about specifying that it’s best to do so with a certain tone and at a certain time, but make sure he understands that he can express himself if he so wishes.

Many disruptive behaviors are caused by the child feeling ignored, without his own thoughts and with one sole motive to act: obedience. Let them speak, communicate and express themselves. Talking lets them learn how to express themselves through speech and not through impulsive actions.

Reprimand in private, reinforce in public

There is nothing more distressing for a child’s self-esteem that suffering reprimands, insults, corrections or even physical punishment in public (this latter case is even reportable by law). Besides being bad for their self-esteem, it’s useless in terms of making your point.

When the child is scolded in front of many people, he is thinking much more about bearing the shame and how to reestablish his pride than about what you’re trying to say or explain to him.
mother and daughter high five

If you want to correct something in their behavior during a get together with friends or at a birthday party, try to talk to him privately or if necessary, pull him out of that situation completely. If you think he has lost control of the situation, you must regain control, but do so privately.

On the other hand, reinforcements can be given in public without being afraid of causing them to develop excessive vanity. Showing them affection in public and having them receive compliments for their good behavior in front of their peers is instructive and revealing for him and the rest of the kids present.

Explain things as if he was an adult, but with examples made for a child

You don’t have to talk to children as if they don’t understand you, because in the end they’ll pretend to not understand you for their own personal gain. The fact that they can’t understand complex words and syntax doesn’t mean that they won’t understand the essence of an explanation. Adapt it to their level and try to make it fit their reasoning by asking them questions about the consequences of behaving one way or another.

little girl at dividing path

For example, if they have insulted someone, you can try to establish analogies between what they have just done and what they would like others to do to him. If he has insulted someone (for example, because they sweat a lot and smell badly); explain how he would feel if someone said in front of other kids that he still wets the bed sometimes.

You encourage their reasoning, make a simple analogy and stimulate their ability to empathize with others.

You can be stern, but watch your tone and gestures

When a child oversteps their limits, they must be punished or at least signaled out for their bad behavior. There are various kinds of problematic behaviors. The important thing is for them to be corrected with constancy at the appropriate time. The motive is to keep the child from making it a part of their repertoire of behaviors in order to get what they desire.

If he, for example, hits one of his fellow classmates, we should show determination in the sanction or punishment that must be fulfilled. This can include a restorative action (asking for forgiveness and doing something positive for that classmate), a withdrawal of their rewards or a negative punishment (that they can’t play on their console for a week) or a stern and firm chat from the adults in their life.

mother scolding angry girl

The fact that this is recommended doesn’t mean that we can forget about our tone and our gestures during this reprimand. They say that the tone with which we talk to our children will be their inner voice, so we must reprimand them with a firm voice, always avoiding screams or yelling. Point out their bad behavior but not their personality or character in a general sense. Always establish alternatives of adequate and acceptable behavior.

If you ask your child to control themselves, they have to perceive that same control within you.