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How to discipline your kids without yelling or raising your hand

Whichever form of discipline you use, it is important to remember to be firm without being threatening and to always follow through.

Most parents who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s will agree, yelling and smacking was a regular form of discipline across many households. Today, times have changed. Yelling oftentimes doesn’t work, and spanking is not only frowned upon but illegal.

On 18 September 2019, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled that corporal punishment in the home is illegal. This ruling outlaws any physical punishment a parent may use on their child such as hitting or spanking in the name of discipline.

How then do you go about controlling the behaviour of unruly children without resorting to smacking?

The best way to dish out discipline

Anybody who has children quickly realises that parenthood does not come with an instruction manual. There are many different situations you’ll find yourself facing and no real right answer for how to handle them.
One of the trickiest is meting out discipline. How do you go about controlling the behaviour of unruly children without resorting to yelling or hitting?

It’s a question many parents have asked and there have been many different answers.

A number of experts have suggested alternate techniques for disciplining children, but all of them have one end goal in mind; not only stopping the unacceptable behaviour but reinforcing the fact that it is unacceptable by making your child face the consequences of that behaviour.

Be firm and consistent

The first and easiest disciplinary method is to set the rules early and stick to them without exception.
Even the youngest children have some concept of right and wrong and they need to understand from as early an age as possible what is and isn’t acceptable.
And those rules need to be maintained across the board by everyone who has responsibility for your child, whether it’s you, another family member, or a babysitter.

Bad behaviour has consequences

Once the rules have been established, you need to establish clear consequences for breaking them.  The specific consequences can vary depending on the child’s age, but they should be consistent as well.

The importance of time-out

Younger children can be disciplined with the ‘time-out” method. Simply choose a particular step on the staircase, usually toward the bottom for safety’s sake, and make them sit there for a particular amount of time whenever they act up.

For older children, a particularly effective method is shared chores. If your children are arguing or antagonizing one another, have the two of them work together to complete a particular chore. The specific chore is up to you. You can assign your child to clean the bathroom, wash the kitchen floor, or straighten up the garage.

A word on disciplining in public

Disciplining can be even trickier if you happen to be out in public but there are ways around it here too.  If your children are fighting with each other, have them hold hands as you walk through the mall or the grocery store.

It sounds benign, but to most children, especially those in the awkward pre-teen years, it can be worse than any spanking.  It will certainly not be an experience they’ll want to repeat any time soon, which is the entire point.

Of course, the time out has become quite popular and it can be effective too as a way of making your child reflect on his or her bad behaviour. Once you have established a set of rules, it is up to you to enforce them while bearing in mind that they are in your child’s best interest.

Discipline never comes easy but you can take matters into your own hands without becoming a dictator.  It will be hard on you and your child, but in the end, it will be worth it when your child grows up to appreciate the importance of good behaviour.


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