Learning how to discipline to a child

Importance of disciplining in child development

Discipline means "training to conform." It is not the same as punishment. Its purpose is to train the child to do the things that society believes are right. The child must learn that the rules and regulations are not senseless restrictions but are necessary to enable people to live together happily and harmoniously.

Many children break rules not because they are trying to make life difficult for their parents and teachers but because they really do not know that what they are doing is wrong. Explain each rule carefully to the child in words he can understand and emphasize the relationship of the rule to all types of similar situations. Ask the child to tell you in his own words what the rule means to him and set him straight if he has twisted its meaning. A child's memory is short. He must usually be told time and again what he is to do or not to do.


Praise should paly a major role in discipline. It is a powerful stimulant and gives the child the necessary motivation to try to do what is expected of him. A child deserves special praise when he tries hard or makes personal sacrifices even though the results are not up to expectations. A smile or pat on the back, or  a few words of commendation are all he needs to drive him on to renewed exertion. Contrary to popular opinion, praise does not make a child lazy or self-satisfied. Instead, it makes him eager to do what is expected of him. One cannot praise a child too much for a real accomplishment.


A bribe is an offer of a reward given before the act is completed. A child who is bribed will do what is asked of him only so long as the bait is held before him. When the bribe is not offered, he will do as he pleases. Bribes should have no part in discipline.


Occassional rewards, like praise, are important to discipline. They should not be promised ahead of time but given as a surprise after the act is completed. The best time to give them is when it is apparent that the child has been trying very hard, not just when the results are good. ANy simple treat, a small gift, or special recognition such as praising him in front of others or putting his name on an honor role will give him an incentive to forge ahead.


Only when it is obvious that a child has intentionally disobeyed a rule should he be punished. If discipline has been of the type outlined above, few occassions will arise when punishment will be needed. When they do arise, the type of punishment should be carefully considered, not given in a fit of anger. Slappings and spankings are likely to make the child so antagonistic that he will cease trying.

Expecting a child to make amends for his misdeed makes sense to him as a punishment. If he has to mop up milk he intentionally throws on the floor, say he is sorry when he does something he knows he should not do, or replace with something of his own the possession of another that he breaks in a fit of temper, he will think twice before repeating these acts.

Sending a child to bed or depriving him of a meal because he was naughty has no educational value whatever. The child is likely to build up a dislike for bed and rebel against going there. When deprived of a meal, he is likely to get hold of food anyway, but of the wrong kind. With other children, it is sometimes a good policy to deprive them of some pleasure, such as going to a movie or watching television, when they have been intentionally troublesome. It also helps to send them to their rooms, explaining that they must stay there so long as they persist in making life difficult for other people.