When it comes to disciplining children, there are so many theories and so many schools of thought.
Some claim that being too strict on kids will "damage" the kids or hurt them psychologically and eventually cause more problems in the long run. Some say that the gentle parenting approach is the way to go because it minimises psychological harm.
There are those who swear by the naughty or thinking corner, saying that kids just need time to cool off and "think". There are also those who believe in tough love, that you cannot be too soft on kids.
Some parents prefer to use the rod to discipline children (read: discipline, not abuse). The rod sometimes does not even have to touch the child, just the sheer mention or appearance of it is enough to stop or curb misbehaviour.
When I had my firstborn, Phoebie, I was really into reading different theories of parenting. I dug out my old University textbook and read up on the developmental stages, so that I understood why Phoebie was acting in a certain way. I was on the email list for babycenter and read every article that was sent to me.
At one point, I also scoured the book stores to find books on different methods of parenting.
Whether it was about bedtime training, discipline methods, or love languages, I tried it find out more and tried different methods.
As a baby, Phoebie was put through the "cry-it-out" method during our attempts to sleep train her. She went through the whole "naughty corner" period, before we renamed it the "thinking corner when she was older". At one point, we resorted to using the rod.
By the time my son, Breyen, came along, Phoebie had already gone through a number of different methods, so we knew what worked with her and what didn't.
Alas, raising Breyen was a whole different thing altogether. This isn't just about gender differences, it is about how each child has a different personality (just like adults).
While some theories claim to be be a "one size fits all" method, I know for sure that it isn't true. Even my friends who are raising twins will tell me how different the twins are.
One of the challenges of raising children who respond to different disciplining methods is having to balance the "fairness". Phoebie will ask why her younger brother is allowed to do certain things while she isn't. I have lost count of the number of times I had to sit down with her and explain to her that some things are just different for the two of them, but she is definitely not deprived of similar privileges.
No matter what discipline method or theory I use on my children, I've come to learn that there are two things I must make sure of at the end of the day:
1. That the child understands why he or she was disciplined
2. And that his or her love tank gets a refill.
The child has to understand why he or she was disciplined.
Seriously, the whole point of disciplining a child is so that he did was wrong, and why it was wrong.
At certain ages, kids do things out of curiosity and may not know what happened is wrong. For example, a toddler may bite his friend because he wanted to see what kind of reaction there would be. Of course, other toddler bite for other reasons, but that's another thing altogether.
Toddlers are at a funny age. They are testing boundaries and they like attention. They don't exactly know what is dangerous or safe and definitely are not always clear about right and wrong.
The toddler may be put in time out or naughty corner for biting but once the time is up, he needs to be explained to about why biting is wrong. It's a tiring process to keep explaining things but hey, that's how they learn.
When it comes to my almost seven year old, the explanation part is brought to a whole other level. She has a better understanding of basic rules but she is learning to reason right from wrong, and she is learning about social acceptance and a whole truck load of other stuff.
I reprimand Phoebie whenever she makes a rude remark or rolls her eyes because these gestures are not nice. I then have to explain to her why these gestures are not nice and how she can deal with her emotions better if she gets upset the next time.
The child's love tank needs to get a refill.
Let's face it. No one likes getting scolded or punished, not an adult and certainly not a child.
While they may or may not know that they have done wrong, and understand why they are getting punished, it feels lousy to be reprimanded. The love tank is running low or even empty after that.
To minimise adverse effects or to make the child feel better, there needs to be some form of reconciliation.
It may sound hypocritical to show love and hug and kiss your child after you have just sent him to the corner or just smacked his hand with a cane. However, reconciling with him shows acceptance and helps to fill up his love tank again.
Tell the child, "I want you to know that it wasn't nice what you did, and I hope you learn from your mistakes. But even though you made a mistake, I still love you."
I have had to do this many times with Phoebie, and now more with Breyen too, and trust me, it is very tiring to have to first explain why they were punished and then reconcile with them. The thing, though, is that the child needs to know that making mistakes is part and parcel of life, and that you don't love him lesser because of that. He is also not lesser of a person because of the mistake.
I have also found that when I force myself to reconcile with my children after an incident (yes, force, because let's face it, sometimes we are so hopping mad that we as adults are not ready to let go of the anger), I can move on faster and get back to whatever else I was supposed to be doing.
My child's love tank gets a refill and so does mine. Maybe the refill is not to the brim, but its better than low or empty.
Regardless of what method or theory you subscribe to when it comes to disciplining children, what truly matters at the end of the day is how you end it.