8 effective ways to discipline without using the cane

Pick up useful methods to teach junior right from wrong that do not involve physical punishment.

Disciplining your child is arguably the most important, yet most unpleasant part of your role as a parent. Even when you discipline your children with love and positivity, there will be times where your child gets on your nerves because you can’t seem to get through to them.

And when your promises of consequences fall on deaf ears is when you feel compelled to reach for the cane, especially with the older children.

However, Phua Liling, a consultant with Chapter Zero Singapore and administrator of the Respectful/Mindful Parenting Singapore Facebook group, notes that research clearly shows that spanking is bad for junior’s development.

“Children who are spanked become more aggressive over time, display other anti-social behaviours, are more prone to lying, and are at a higher risk of developing mental health problems later in life.”

She adds, “I’m passionate about helping parents break out of hitting as a patterned reaction to their children’s behaviour.”

To discipline your tot is to teach desirable future behaviour, whereas punishment inflicts suffering for past behaviour.

Noting that spanking has a traumatic effect on children, even leading to psychiatric disorders later in life, Insights Mind Centre psychologist Daniel Koh explains, “It teaches your child the power of anger or pain and makes it normal for them to demonstrate such hurtful physical acts on others.”

Renowned educational psychologist Dr Michele Borba points out that spanking also sends your child a mixed message — it’s okay for adults to hit but not kids. Plus, your kewpie will not learn anything new if you cane them.

So, it is important to differentiate between discipline and punishment, Phua advises. “Although ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ are frequently used interchangeably, they are not synonyms.” To discipline your tot is to teach desirable future behaviour, whereas punishment inflicts suffering for past behaviour.

Therefore, your discipline tactics should be geared towards changing an old behaviour and not causing your mini-me to associate pain with misbehaviour. Why not try these cane-free strategies:

1. Put positive house rules in place Your house rules should be tailored to make it easier for your child to behave better. These rules should also be written in positive language, says Dr Borba. So, instead of coming up with a rule that reads: We do not speak rudely to each other. Try: We speak calmly and politely with one another or we will treat each other respectfully. To ensure your child follows these rules, come up with consequences if they break the rules. It can be as simple as helping out with chores or more reading time and less time for watching cartoons.

2. Use when and then statements Rephrasing the instructions your give to your tyke helps them to understand what your expectations are. So, the next time you want them to put their toys away before bedtime, try saying, “When you’ve put away your toys, then I know you’re ready for bed.” Likewise for washing their hands before their meals, try,
“When you’ve washed your hands, then I’ll know you’re ready to eat.”