Discipline is an essential part of parenting, but how do you know you aren't going overboard?

Mum of two Marie Ng has always seen herself as a no-nonsense type of mother – she believes in early bedtimes, minimal junk food and screen time, and consequences when her two young sons, Jayden, 4, and Noel, 7, misbehaved.

But she was horrified when her older son entered Primary 1 and had free rein to buy whatever he wanted in the school canteen during recess.

“I found out from my son’s classmate’s mum that he was buying a grape juice drink without my knowledge, every single day!” she says.

Ng started to question whether she had been too strict with her boys about rules, such that they felt the need to push the boundaries when they got the chance.

“I was disappointed because it seemed like there was a part of him I could not control, but I also caught myself am I being too controlling and strict?” she says.

Your parenting style can have long-term effects on your child’s social and emotional development. 

This situation might make you wonder are there instances when you’re too strict with your child?

How do you know if you’ve crossed the line when you mete out punishment? Does your list of no-no’s overwhelm that of your yeses? Are you speaking in a loud, firm tone or raising your voice?

More importantly, what impact does this have on your children?

The effect on junior’s behaviour

Your parenting style can have long-term effects on your child’s social and emotional development.

Frances Yeo, a child psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre, notes that being too strict can lead to behavioural problems.

“When parents send messages to their children that they are not good enough, these children often develop self-esteem and insecurity issues,” she points out. These children then show emotional problems when they act out.

Discipline and ensuring that junior faces consequences when they behave badly are important if children are to learn the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. However, unrealistic rules or too severe consequences can have adverse effects.

Yeo states, “If parents are too strict, or have too many rules, kids may feel left out among their peers.

“For example, the child may find that he cannot join in conversations with his friends about TV programmes or video games. Or he may not have pocket money to buy stationery from the school bookstore.”

Yeo adds that she has seen kids resort to stealing money, so that they can buy items from the canteen or bookstore, just to be like others in school. 

 

Examine the way you parent

As parents, it may be a good idea to take stock of your parenting and discipline styles.

A good first step would be to see if there are any signs that you may be too harsh on your kids, or if you have too-high expectations of them.

Telltale signs include:

* Your child lies.

* You expect rules to be followed, no questions asked.

* You find yourself nagging a lot.

* You resort to threats, saying for instance, “I’ll lock you out of the house!”.

* You seldom let your child do things their way.

 * You have little patience for jokes and silliness.

* You don’t know your children’s friends nor do they invite them over.

* You can’t tolerate other parents’ lack of discipline.

You may need to loosen up a bit if your child often:

* Feels like his parents doesn’t understand him.

* Feels anxious and nervous.

* Is insecure and unsure, often confused and doubting himself.

 * Feels depressed.

* Has low self-esteem.

To discipline their children in a firm yet reasonable manner, parents should:

#1. Be reasonable and flexible

“Be reasonable and flexible,” Yeo says. “believe that everything in moderation is good. And it is more important to teach self-control and responsibility of their actions.”

“Do more listening and less talking... Letting them express their feelings and thoughts sends messages to children that what they are thinking is correct and real. By accepting what they say, it also sends messages to children that they are being listened to.

Yeo adds that the discipline method you use needs to suit the different personalities of different children.  “For example, some children respond well to a firm voice.  Some children, especially boys, don’t respond to a firm voice. If you talk to them in a firm way, it can lead to a power struggle.”

Instead, talk and discuss with your child the reasons why he needs to do a certain action or behaviour. Or encourage him to him voice his feelings and concerns this gives them a sense of control over the situation. 

#2. Listen more

Yeo’s advice for parents who realise they have been a tad too harsh on their kids? “Do more listening and less talking”.  

She explains that many parents she meets don’t listen to their children’s feelings and allow their children to express themselves. “Instead, they are often quick to give solutions or advice,” she states.

#3. Let them express their feelings

To provide a healthier environment and improve the parent-child relationship, parents should allow children to express their feelings, whether good or bad.

Letting them express their feelings and thoughts sends messages to children that what they are thinking is correct and real. By accepting what they say, it also sends messages to children that they are being listened to,” Yeo explains.

And when kids feel listened to, they calm down and are better able to hear their parent’s advice or solutions. 

Yeo adds, “Quite often, kids can give solutions to their own problems after they are allowed to express themselves” which actually beats having an adult tell them what to do.

Photos: iStock

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