To Lay Down The Law (Tips on Discipline)

Toddler tantrums. The angst of puberty. The teenage years. Adolescence. Adulthood. It may read like the list of different phases children go through that adults quote as the acceptable excuse for whatever display of mutiny that just took place but personally, I see them as just different phases of growing up without the negative connotation. As a mother of two level headed teenagers and an educator, I can say, I’ve been there, done that and I’ve earned the T-shirt!

My Background

Coming from a Nigerian background,  I had a steep learning curve. Before I started having children, I determined what I was NOT going to do or be as a parent (LOL!). But Determination alone won’t get you very far. You gotta know what kind of parent you will be, how to fulfill your vision and reach your goal of being “Mother of the Year”. Spoiler alert: Your path is chock full of failures.

THE TWO’S (AKA The “terrible” two’s)

When I had my son, I saw lots of parents in public getting insults hurled at them, demands yelled at decibels only animals in the wild could duplicate and punches thrown at them. Done by their angelic looking terror who happened to be their toddler. I looked at my baby and wondered if all the love in the world would ensure the same thing wouldn’t happen to me. So I read. There are a plethora of resources out there, to help you in your parenting journey but the most important resource is your will power to stick to the plan.

Your Little Alien

Recognise your babies are fundamentally aliens! They do not speak your language and you don’t speak theirs. Parents often talk down to their children for some reason that baffles me. Using “baby” talk. But research has shown that babies as young as 6 months communicate through sign language!

As with an alien, you find a language dictionary and both of you learn the others language. Please stop using “ma-ma, da-da”. Not only do you sound stupid but your child is smarter than that. Furthermore, it frustrates them when they can’t make you understand their wants and needs and this makes them lash out. 

Speak to them clearly, use basic four letter words and short sentences – their attention span is short.

Come here; sit down; don’t move; Naughty!

Mummy/Daddy loves you; Hug?; Kiss?; NO!

To smack or not to smack?

When I was growing up, my mum was a firm believer of beatings. Her beatings were administered at the drop of a hat and I I learned to run. (I hold several medals in races I later won at school – thanks mum!)

My dad on the other hand, was measured in his discipline. You absolutely knew you deserved whatever beating you got. You also knew how many lashes you were going to get, on what part of your body they were going to land and above all, why you were getting the beating. 

As a parent, I tend to favour my dad’s brand of discipline. You thought I was going to say I don’t smack my children? WRONG! I smack them. What I don’t do is smack them senselessly in a rage over whatever infraction they have committed. 

Scenario One:

Toddler: “No!”

Parent: “Don’t do that. Eat your food.”

(Toddler knocks spoonful of food to the floor)

Parent: “One more time and you’re getting a smack”

(Toddler repeats the action)

Parent: A smack is given

The above scenario has the toddler testing the boundaries of the parent. The parent has to remain in charge at all times. The parent also made an edict and this part is very important – if you say you are going to smack them if they do something, YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH. You do not make promises and then forget about it or wimp out. This is why you watch what you say to them. Desist from making empty threats/promises otherwise your authority is diminished in their eyes and you become a thing of ridicule.

 Realise it is just one smack. This is not when you rain down smacks all over their little bodies. That is overkill and frankly abusive. A sharp smack to the back of the hand lets them know you fulfil your promises; it lets them know there are boundaries that they should remain within. Children need boundaries. It lets them know you care about them and teaches them what behaviour is acceptable.

Scenario Two:

Parent: “Please hold my hand as we cross the road”

(Toddler struggles and finally yanks their hand out of the grasp of parent. Makes a dash for it. Parent rescues child before any harm befalls them. Parent has crossed over to the dark side of hell and is ready to bring a world of hurt to the child).

Parent: (in a murderous rage) “You are going to get six smacks on your bum when we get home for letting go of my hand. That was naughty. You could have been run over by a car. You could have been taken by a stranger. Now. Hold. My. Hand.”

The above scenario is one of many dangerous acts your child will commit, not because they are disobedient but because they are illiterate to the ways of the world. It is your task to help them navigate this world until they become more familiar with it. This is a learning situation for both the parent and child. Even if you fail at this point, there will be many more opportunities to succeed as the child grows older so don’t despair. There is a limit to how many times you can react uncontrollably and lash out verbally or physically at your child, before they disconnect and that is the breeding ground for disobedience and rebellion.

Please try not to shout. Shouting defeats the purpose. They can’t hear you because they are scared of your raised voice and are focused on that instead of your words.

When you do get home, administer the smacks on their bare bum, with your hand. Six smacks as promised. Again, they should be short and sharp, don’t whale on their little bottoms. It is also important that you are not angry when you smack them otherwise they will think they’re getting smacked because you are angry and not because of the danger they put themselves in. Do ask if they know why they’re getting smacked so both of you are on the same page.

Top tips:
  • When they’ve earned themselves a smack, take a moment to think of how little they are in size compared to your size and hopefully this will help you to administer the appropriate level of force.
  • Always administer the appropriate number of smacks for their age. A two year old should not get the same number of smacks as a six year old.
  • Always administer the appropriate number of smacks suited to the infraction. Throwing food on the floor should not earn the same number of smacks as running through a busy road.
  • Smacking should be the last resort otherwise it loses its efficacy.
Other forms of discipline

I had to get smacking as a form of discipline out of the way as it is a hotly debated topic and various governments have made it illegal to do so. I’ve always maintained that I’d rather discipline my child at home where they know they are loved and it’s for their own good, than let the justice systems discipline them for me in jail. On the way to earning themselves a smack, they could earn themselves a time out,  losing various privileges (TV time/football games/favourite dessert) or extra chores.

One thing to remember, do not discipline your child in any way if you failed to tell/teach them what to do and what not to do. You cannot expect to play a game without been taught the rules of the game. You will lose and will probably challenge the outcome of the game. You will be filled with a sense of injustice and outrage. Now put your child in that scenario and you will have an idea of how they feel when they are disciplined for something you as a parent failed to teach them.

Training + Discipline = Obedience

Discipline + Training = Rebellion/Disobedience

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