Columnists

Disciplining children at school, home – Part 1

Educational Journey with EPHAT MUDENDA
DISCIPLINING children should take place at home just as well as it is applied in a school environment. Of course it is true that some children behave differently at school than

they do at home. This is as a result of various factors, including peer pressure at school.
Experienced teachers are expected to discipline young ones in an effective manner. And some of the techniques employed by such professionals are worth emulating by parents and guardians in a home where a schoolchild hails from, since they can be as effective there as they are in the classroom.
The word discipline comes from the Latin word ‘disciplinare’. It means ‘to teach’. It is never about punishment because such ‘discipline’, in most cases, never works. True discipline is that which is meant to guide and manage a child’s behaviour. It is based on the quality of a child’s relationship with his or her care provider, that is, a teacher in the classroom, and mum, dad, an auntie or uncle at home.
Each time a child receives consistent response from a loving, caring adult, whether at school or at home, what will develop is a desired deep attachment and a sense of being wanted. This in itself forms the foundation of good behaviour and effective discipline among young ones. Key in positively nurturing behaviour that should prepare children for a responsible adult life is to ensure that children/ adult relationships are respectful, responsive and reciprocal.
A simple gesture such as a parent/ guardian or teacher greeting a child, for example, sends a positive signal to a young person, who will grow to appreciate the fact that they are worth your time, thereby sustaining the cycle of trust and love between yourself, an adult, and young ones themselves.
Positive reinforcement is an important ingredient in instilling discipline into children. Smiling, giving them ‘five’ (hitting the little one’s hand with yours to celebrate an achievement), as well as giving effective praise, are some of the ways that can be employed to achieve the desired reinforcement. However, one should not just shower them with insincere praises without thought.
In a classroom set-up, an experienced educationist is mindful of the fact that effective praise should always avoid comparisons and competition. A child’s current progress, for instance, should be compared with his or her past performance rather than with his or her peers. This can be replicated in a home where there are several children who must be treated equally.
Praising a child for doing what is right must be done in a caring, natural tone of voice that should never leave the others around feeling as if their efforts are not being appreciated at all. Actually, in most cases young people, particularly those at the upper primary and secondary school level, can tell if at all the praise directed towards them or their friends is genuine or not. When acknowledging the good that one has done, it is important to be specific about the particular action or observed good behaviour, rather than just telling them ‘well done’ or ‘good boy/ girl’, etc.
The reward and acknowledgement in a situation where an adult finds a young person in an act of kindness towards his or her friends is more genuine than one in which a child simply announces that they managed to do the work you had asked them to do. As you openly praise them for their warm gesture towards one another – being kind and caring – children develop a sense of self-worth, self-esteem and discipline.
At home, too, parents and guardians will do well to make sure that they avoid making comparisons between siblings, calling names and using phrases that may just end up making some feel they are ‘good boys/ girls’ and that others are not doing a ‘good job’.
emudenda@daily-mail.co.zm/ ephatm@yahoo.com

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