The Guidance Approach to Discipline
In a guidance approach to discipline, parents use methods that reduce conflicts respectfully for parents and children.
Discipline is not punishment. It is a means of helping the child learn acceptable ways to deal with personal feelings and desires. Punishment, on the other hand, is a reaction to misbehavior that is usually hurtful and may even be unrelated to the misbehavior. Punishment is ineffective because it does not teach appropriate behavior. Though it may prevent a repeat of the behavior in the short term, it does not teach the child "what to do instead," so it rarely works in the long term. Punishment may release the parent's angry feelings and make the parent feel better, but it can create fear or humiliation in the child, and rarely leads to the creation of a respectful relationship.
When children misbehave, parents and other adults need to help the child learn appropriate behaviors. Punishment may give immediate results, but does punishment build self-control? Do children learn to cope with their strong feelings and tough problems if they are punished? Research supports the conclusion that discipline works better than punishment and that children who are punished become very different people than children who are disciplined.
This approach to discipline means using developmentally appropriate guidance.
What is developmentally appropriate? That means you have a clear understanding of the stage of development your child is in. You know what can be expected for the age. With this in mind, you choose to pick a discipline method that best fits the child and the situation.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of this approach is that it is based on open communication, positive discipline and that the techniques can apply to any age child. With a little practice and patience, you will experience positive results.
Principles of a Guidance Approach
Research tells us that it's very important to respect the child's stage of development and not to label a child as a behavioral failure. Seven principles outline the basics of a guidance approach:
- Children are in the process of learning acceptable behavior.
- An effective guidance approach is preventive because it respects feelings even while it addresses behavior.
- Adults need to understand the reasons for children's behavior.
- A supportive relationship between an adult and a child is the most critical component of effective guidance.
- Adults use forms of guidance and group management that help children learn self-control and responsiveness to the needs of others.
- Adults model appropriate expression of their feelings.
- Adults continue to learn even as they teach.
The guidance techniques that follow provide tips to remember in stressful situations.
Your Role as a Parent
It is important to see children as part of the total family system. Sacrificing everything for their sake is probably not a wise long-term decision or investment. Parents also have needs that must be met. Urie Bronfenbrenner, a renowned child developmentalist, suggests that every child needs to have people who are really crazy about him who love him with all their hearts. Parents are the people who can give this total love to their child, and it may be the most important contribution they make to their child's development.
A child needs to know and feel that, no matter what, his parents love him. Parents can tell their child that they may not like the behavior they have just observed, but they will always love him. Love is unconditional and shared in a variety of ways with children.
Reprinted with the permission of North Dakota State University.
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