This is a cut n paste but it makes a lot of sense. I spoke with the writer at length, and the deeper he explained it the more sense it made:
Parents need to know that discipline doesn’t mean hitting or punishing unruly toddlers. It does mean ensuring their emotional health and protecting them from themselves. With guidance, parents can come to understand that setting limits and saying “No” are acts of love.
While performing a routine school physical on a 6-year-old, I couldn’t help noticing how his 16-month-old brother was busy exploring every inch of the examination room. Halfway through my exam, I remarked to the mother about her lively little toddler, “I notice he’s quite active and curious. How to you make him obey you…how do you discipline him?”
Shocked by my question, the mother responded indignantly, “Discipline him? I don’t discipline him. He’s too young to be hit!”
I replied that as a matter of principle, I didn’t believe in hitting children of any age. I then explained to the mother exactly what I meant by discipline. In the case of her adventurous 16-month-old, it had absolutely nothing to do with punishing or hitting him and everything to do with supervising and protecting him.
1. Discipline doesn’t mean punishment:
The vast majority of parents, including the majority of pediatricians, mistakenly think that discipline is the same as punishment. Mere mention of the word “discipline” causes uneasiness and confusion.
Just as a careful history and physical exam are essential to an accurate diagnosis, effective discipline is the key to healthy and successful parenting. Discipline is one of the most important aspects of parenting, but much ignorance and confusion surrounds it. Thus, it should come as no surprise that while more “how-to” parenting books are available now than ever before, there is also more parental anxiety, frustration, guilt and uncertainty.
2. Sparing the rod doesn’t spoil the child:
Over 200 years ago, it was believed that night air caused pneumonia and that “bleeding” patients was necessary to cure them. People also believed that beating children made them grow into upright citizens and responsible adults. Indeed, parents who refused to beat their children were accused of being neglectful and irresponsible. Unfortunately, even today, there are all too many adults, parents and non-parents alike who cling to the belief that physical punishment is necessary in the rearing and “disciplining” of children.
As a result of more than 20 years of dealing with various types of childhood behaviour problems, I am convinced that the most effective discipline involves no punishment. Hitting, threatening, withholding privileges or grounding are not only the least effective forms of discipline, but when used excessively or harshly they actually contribute to the development of subsequent emotional and behavioural problems in children.
3. Discipline with love and without pain:
Effective discipline is based on controlling the child’s behaviour without threatening, hitting, shaming or other forms of punishment. When this type of non-punitive discipline is consistently applied to children in a context of unconditional love and acceptance, children will thrive emotionally and psychologically. As a matter of fact, children of all ages not only need discipline, they want it.
The only requirement is that parents be physically stronger than their children because some physical restraint may be necessary. It is essential, therefore, that discipline begin when the toddler begins his first significant interaction with and exploration of his environment. This is a stage when curious children must be consistently supervised, watched and restrained.
When there is a direct conflict between what the child and parent want, the parent must win for the child to win. Discipline can be non-democratic. Parents should not threaten, plead, cajole, bribe or offer many choices. There are situations when a child must simply obey a parent. Understand that saying “No” and setting consistent, age-appropriate limits are a form of loving and giving.
4. Because I’m the parent, that’s why:
To understand why I advocate a form of discipline that often disregards what children want, we must recognize that they are not really capable of making mature and appropriate decisions on their own.
Being immature, they want what they want, right now, with a limited ability to tolerate frustration. They will whine, throw temper tantrums and make unreasonable demands. They are clingy yet adventurous, afraid yet fearless. It is critically important that parents be aware that small children must be protected from themselves. Normal toddlers are not responsible or accountable for their actions. Their parents are, however.
Effective discipline does give parents the tools to protect their children. Once parents fully understand the concept, they will no longer find themselves becoming increasingly upset and frustrated by trying to reason with their toddlers who, by definition, are unreasonable and immature.
5. How to discipline:
Effective discipline includes any action on the part of the parent that changes the child’s interaction with the environment. The key point is that discipline does not require the child’s consent or cooperation. Assuming there is no emergency and time permits, the parent simply tells the child what to do, clearly and firmly. The child is told once, and if he does not respond, the parent repeats the instruction once more, 10 to 15 seconds later. The parent does not repeat the instructions more than twice.
If the child does not respond immediately, the parent assists him, taking him by the arm and removing him from whatever he is doing. No “time-out” or change of location is necessary, just simple assertion of parental authority.
After letting go of the child’s arm, the parent can expect him to try to return to the thing you wanted him to stop. The parent then quickly restrains the child and presents him from doing so. At this point, the child will probably become upset and even throw a temper tantrum. That’s all right. It’s normal, age-appropriate activity and it means the parents are setting limits properly.
Basically, the parent should respond to a temper tantrum by 1. Not giving in to the child. 2. No punishing. If the parent uses this approach, temper tantrums, which peak between 16 and 24 months of age, will gradually decrease and rarely happen after age 3.
The next step is the most important and where most parents fail: The child is not allowed to return to the activity. The parent physically restrains the child with the least amount of force. The parent is setting limits in a situation in which the child is incapable of setting limits. When parents set consistent limits, the child will ultimately be able to do it for himself.
6. Why saying “No” can be positive:
Effective discipline is not a negative concept. It does not deprive the child, but enhances and protects him. It provides what the child is unable or unwilling to provide for himself. The 3-week-old infant who is fed when hungry is being “disciplined.” The 3-month-old who has his diaper changed is being “disciplined.” The 6-month-old who is prevented from rolling off the change table onto the floor is being “disciplined.” The 1-year-old who is comforted when upset or afraid is being “disciplined.”
There are certain things, however, that children must not be allowed to experience routinely, since such experiences are socially unacceptable, potentially harmful or both. . Effective discipline does not allow 1-year-olds to touch hot stoves, 18-month olds to ingest poisons, 2-year-olds to fall out of windows or 3-year-olds to drown in swimming pools. Effective discipline loves, protects, guides, retrains and allows children to safely develop mastery of the essential psychosocial tasks of early childhood.
As children become older and more emotionally mature and responsible, they can be allowed more freedom and choices commensurate with their maturity and ability to handle them. Children, as well as adults, however, never completely outgrow the need for some limits and structure in their lives.
The psychological and emotional health of children is just as important as their physical health. It is time for us to safeguard their emotional and mental health with as much concern and deliberation. In young children, effective discipline saves lives; in children of all ages, it promotes growth. The consistent application of discipline in the context of unconditional, no-strings-attached parental love is the surest way to immunize children against serious emotional and psychological disorders.