As we have discovered, the discipline is a process with many dimensions. To date, we have discussed four of the 10 principles of healthy discipline not to overwhelm but to provide parents and caregivers with tools to work hand-in-hand toward a stable, structured, well-communicated environment in which rules and boundaries are clear and explained, which brings us to Principle #5.
Explain the reasons behind the rule
When I questioned my parents about a directive, I remember hearing “because I said so!” While there are times when parents should insist that their child should listen and obey because parents are in charge, children greatly benefit from understanding some of the “why” questions about rules and directives. I think, sometimes, caregivers believe that children really do know why they are told to obey a rule when, in fact, they have no clue.
Principle #5 in encouraging discipline is to explain the reason for certain behaviors that are expected and requested.
Why should a parent or caregiver have to explain what is an expected behavior?
A variety of research studies have found that morality does not develop in children because of parental power assertion methods alone, or from withholding or withdrawing love.
Learning morality and developing a conscience depends on using inductive reasoning methods and explanations. In other words, if children are to learn the rules and values of the family and internalize them, they will need to hear why it is important to share the reasons, how other people feel when they say mean words, and why certain rules and laws are needed. Children do not learn these rules by being sent to their rooms or by being punished. Instead, values develop out of dialogue, explanation about emotional responses and sharing.
The other important characteristic for encouraging moral behavior is showing affection frequently in nondisciplinary situations.
It is important to model caring behavior, discuss the reason for rules, read stories about people with integrity and courage and explain how the other person may feel in different situations. Children not only need to experience the consequences for misbehavior but also need to experience these types of reasoning and explanations as well. They need to learn how they impact others and what others may perceive about them as a result of their behavior and words.
In order to achieve this, caregivers should give time to helping children understand their world. It often doesn’t make sense to a child why we are keeping them from what they perceive as fun or stimulating. Yet, what we do does have consequences to others and in order for a child to learn about those consequences, discussions about that are the only way to convey a set of values that will have the capacity to be internalized by the child.
When that happens, the child has moved another step in developing their conscience and a set of moral values that will help keep them protected and safe for years to come. So when you publish or explain those rules, give some thought and words to the reasons for those rules and spend some time communicating those reasons. It will help your child understand and own those values and rules as their own much more easily. Thanks so much for reading Lakeside Connect.
I am hopeful that these discussions are helping you in the discipline of children in your care.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network
Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 404-405.