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Finding that middle ground: Punishment versus encouragement

Published:Sunday | April 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence

When it comes to the love that a parent has for their child/children, there is truly nothing that competes. But as the child develops, there are stages and instances that seem to test this love. Parents often talk about the terrible twos, but there are other stages when a child's curiosity and exploration of how the world works that have parents trying to find a balance between satisfying and nurturing that curiosity versus discipline.

Yolanda Lawrence has found a way to strike this balance when it comes to her four-year-old son. Her son is vivacious and above average when it comes to reading and reasoning capabilities. Due to this, he is extremely inquisitive and questions a lot of what is said.

"If he asks something and I know the answer, I respond immediately. Otherwise, I will tell him I don't, but will find out and let him know. I go as far as giving him a time frame in which I will get back to him," she told Outlook.

Her approach to discipline is similar, as she tries to explain to him even when he questions her authority.

"I tell him why I am punishing him. As a matter of fact, now he asks, 'Because you said so, mommy?' If I can't think of anything, then I will say yes - but I usually give him an answer. I do not like to tell him 'because I said so', because he is very smart and reasons well," she told Outlook.


Explain reason for punishment

If she has to punish him, she makes him aware of why he is being punished.

"If I punish him afterwards (after the act), I will explain what he did wrong and why I punished him and if necessary, how to handle it in the future," Lawrence shared.

Child psychologist Gemma Gibbon does believe that when it comes to an overactive child, or any child, parents should explain to them the reasons for the decisions.

This, she believes, will allow them to have an understanding of the situation, and why it is wrong. Thus, if the same situation arises when the parent is not there, they will not do it. Gibbons believes that if you just tell a child no, and dictate to them, you will take away their independence and you would want to nurture it, not take it away.

She notes that many believe that discipline is to punish, but it should be more about guiding them. It is good for a child to question why, but ensure that you find that middle ground between discipline and not outing the child's 'fire'.

"Engage the conversation and get to know their opinion, but stand firm and hold your ground. Do not be swayed, and do not allow the interaction to sway you," explained Gibbon.

In order to keep your overactive child out of trouble, she recommends that you keep them active with organised routines.

"Chaos is the enemy of an overactive child," Gibbon told Outlook. When there is no anchor or guide, they will find something to do and it can be unintentionally destructive.