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Sentinel Digital Desk

"Don't behave like that, you know what will happen to your special Sunday lunch if you do," or "Well, well, I think you've forgotten what happens when you fare so badly" are sometimes parts of our conversations with our children. It is true that we parents often go into a phase where we think that we can solve and handle every problem or situation our children are in with an ounce of discipline. Often our approach to discipline involves a carrot and stick approach—it is true that we usually get down to rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior. There are advantages and as well as disadvantages to this approach. One of the disadvantages is that our children may learn that bad behavior is OK as long as they don't get "caught and punished". They merely learn to adapt to the expected reaction from us grownups around them. However, sometimes a different approach may help- a different approach that may teach them the control and judgement that is required to exercise discipline by themselves. So, what do we need to do to help our little ones develop inner discipline?

It helps if we let our children make decisions. We need to get our children involved in making decisions about what they want. Let them pick what game to play, what book to read, what DVD to watch, what food to eat etc., Of course, as we have discussed before, in some of these cases like food, we have to give them a fixed set of choices. Children feel more important when they have to make a decision. We can also help them in their decision making (without trying to influence it) by listing down various factors they can consider. These small acts of decision making will train them to think the next time they encounter a situation where they have to make a choice, even if we are not around.

It is necessary to give responsibilities that they can take care of themselves. For example, if we are cooking, helping them measure out the rice we need or counting the number of cashews we ask them for gets them involved with a sense of responsibility. We can also give them regular responsbilities like putting away the newspaper at the end of each day, walking the dog, watering the plants etc., Having a responsibility and doing it, gives our children the confidence that they can get things done right. They also learn how what they do helps others and it makes them feel good and important.

It is very necessary that we acknowledge our mistakes whenever we make them. If we make a mistake, we need to talk openly about it and apologize. We should explain to them what we did and why we did it, and also explain to them what we should have done. And tell them also how we fixed our mistake. Why is this important? Because our open discussion tells our children that everyone makes mistakes. But more importantly, it teaches them that there is no need to hide a mistake. It also teaches them that learning from a mistake is important and it is even more important not to repeat mistakes.

We should remember that using tokens can help. We can set up a token system that our children can use for certain activities. For example, we can give them tokens for candy or for books they can buy or for junk food servings etc., Giving them a fixed quantity of tokens and asking them to manage it over a period, say a week or a month teaches them self-control. They may use them all up quickly sometimes and then crave for more, but we have to stand firm and not give in. Over time, this system can teach them how to think before taking any action.

And yes, the power of an extra curricular activity is here to stay. Extra-curricular activities like karate, music lessons etc., can help our children learn to control their body and mind also. These activities require children to focus, practice diligently and control various parts of their body.

If we use some or all of these techniques we will find that over time, our children will learn to self-regulate and think before they act, thus resulting in what we refer to as "good behaviour". They will produce results only over the long term and can be used in addition to other positive disciplining techniques we choose to use.

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