Disciplining your child (Part 2)

By Osarennoma Ogbeide

“You are grounded!”, “your phone privileges are suspended”, “to the naughty corner”… Many times we think that this could only work for people ‘in the abroad’ and not here. However the real question here is have we actually tried it in our homes and for our children?

Psychologists see learning as a relatively permanent change in behavior. It spans from knowledge and experience which usually would involve study, observation and practice. So, in helping your child to learn what’s right and wrong, you would need to practice and study different methods that best suit them and their learning process. In line with this, there have been studies to expatiate on reinforcements and punishments.

Reinforcement just like the name implies is what would strengthen behaviour. It further increases the probability of a specific response as long as reinforcement continues. Positive reinforcement is introducing a pleasant stimulus in order to encourage behaviour. For example, giving your child a gold star for performing well in the class assessment.

However, negative reinforcement is the act of withdrawing something pleasant in order to increase behaviour. Taking away a child’s toy in order for him/her to focus and finish an assignment is a perfect example to this. Not only do these methods yield results, but they save the child from endless beatings and strokes of cane. 

Punishment is a consequence as result of an undesired behaviour. While reinforcement aims to encourage or increase behaviour, punishment aims to discourage or curb a behaviour or response. Positive punishment is the addition of something unpleasant in order to reduce behaviour. This is the category where flogging belongs, however there are other methods that could be explored like telling the child to kneel, face the wall, and go to the naught corner.

Negative punishment entails the removal of something pleasant or desired in order to discourage a behaviour. Restricting movement which is grounding a child is under this category, seizing the phone and gadgets; withdrawing deserts and snacks from the child etc. These are all subject to the personality of the child. If your son is one that loves snacks and sweets, withdrawing those will be effective. It may however not work for the child that is constantly on social media and with gadgets.

Through careful study of your child and application of different disciplinary methods, you will be able to identify which combination is suitable for your child as there is no one-size-fits-all. When I was little, I liked being around family and associating with everyone. When I did something wrong, my punishment was to face the wall. As Africans we didn’t necessarily call it “the naughty corner” but I knew it wasn’t a pleasurable experience for me. Facing the wall meant I couldn’t talk or associate with anybody at that point and it was at those moments that my sisters would decide to go out to play, just imagine! So in order not to be left all alone with the plain, boring wall, I made a conscious effort not to repeat any bad behaviour so my play and talk time won’t be interrupted. That was one way I learnt to do the right thing. The right way to disciplining your child well is to first know your child. It may not be a walk down the park, but you’ll get there eventually.

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