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Pediatricians are always faced with parents seeking a strategy for disciplinary action. They often have to  develop a detailed approach that looks at the child-parent relationship, reinforcement of positive behavior, while highlighting the results of negative behavior.

Corporal punishment is mostly limited by its nature while its effectiveness is of limited scope with potentially undesirable side effects. The earliest disciplinary strategy occurs as parents or the caregivers interact with the infants, mostly in the passive way, but already developing a mutually satisfactory regime of sleeping, feeding and waking. To signify discomfort, kids tend to cry, but later learn to modify behaviors, when they acquire memories of how they have been relieved (Thomas, 2009).

Discipline in fact means teaching; it is the word that is derived from the root word discipline refers to teaching or instruction; it mostly consists of the set of rules and regulations that are established to guide behavior. This is according to Lee Salk, PhD clinical Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the New York Hospital-Cornel Medical Centre.

Discipline, therefore, can refer to the system of nurturing and teaching that can prepare children to attain competence, self-direction, self-control, as well as the ability to care for others. This in fact amounts to the system whereby three integral elements are looked at. The first one is learning environment that is conducive for positive parental-child relationship. Proactive –strategy exists, where there is a systematic teaching of desired behavior. Reactive – strategy is formulated to enhance positive behavior while eliminating undesired behavioral patterns.

Most parents face the dilemma over the issue of discipline of their children, especially first time parents, as they are not sure  how to handle their young children, when they suddenly become difficult to control, particularly from the ages of eighteen months to three years. Why this happens can be surmised based on the fact that most parents believe that their young ones are like unreasonable creatures. This is due to the fact that although children at age of 18 months are rapidly developing physically, they usually do not have the self-control depicted by the memory span that they will have at the age of three (Ponterotto, Suzuki & Casas, 2009).This in effect means that they are not able to learn as easily as they would at the later age. This situation makes parents feel helpless. However, parents no longer need to feel this way as there is help. Other options of disciplining children, like provision of rewards if well behaved and reasoning with the child, can be of tremendous help. Thus, when children are introduced to the set of guidelines earlier, they tend to have the feeling of protection and the sure way of developing because they belong to the stable system , thus, learning is made easier. Spanking, on the other hand, is the mode of punishing that in most cases leads to the feelings of negativity. Punishment is different from discipline in the way that discipline is positive as it incorporates learning experience for the child; while punishment may only stop unacceptable behavior. Physical punishment in most cases has the negative, long term effect on the behavior patterns of a child in the future, as children, who have been hit, tend to be aggressive and also hit others. Long term effects associated with spanking can be manifested in the child’s future behavior as:

  • Discouragement
  • Low self-esteem
  • Abusive relationships in the future
  • Believe that hitting others is ok.
  • In most cases, spanking imparts the wrong lesson to the young mind. The kid can learn that:
    1. Big people tend to hurt small people.
    2. I will also hit others when I grow up.
    3. Hiding the behavior is better as opposed to changing the manners.
    4. While dealing with anger, it is acceptable to hit others.
    5. Instead of focusing on the inappropriate behavior it is easier to look at the mother as the mean mother.
    6. I am a terrible, meaningless person that deserves to be beaten (negative feeling). This in most cases leads the child into the future failure or abusive relationships.
    7.  It is not safe to make a mistake or rather take a risk.
    8. Rebelliousness is built up as the kid learns to do what he/she likes, while ignoring the consequences that are mostly known as being beaten.

Parents should understand and appreciate their roles in the child’s life better. They should understand that they are the role models for their children, thus if you hit your child, he will learn to hit others too. Some parents may misinterpret fear to be respect, and  think that your kid respects you more, due to the physical punishment that you impart. The child in most cases will opt for the easier way out, pretending to respect the parent but in reality, it is only an outward feeling that masks the fear inside.

When looking at the dilemma that a first-time parent faces: to either spank or not to spank, especially regarding children aged between 18 months and below 3 years, can be looked at as a crossroad. To Christian parents it is taught that to spare the rod, you spoil the child. Thus, the dilemma to such a parent is, in case of being  faced with scientific facts about child rearing that oppose to his/her religious beliefs, to choose the best practice in most cases can become difficult. In most cases, the parent thinks that he/she has no options in the matter, when in reality other means of corrections or chastisement are available. A well-kept secret in the modern child psychology is the availability of options in disciplinary actions such as the provision of rewards and reasoning with the child, as opposed to spanking. Kids will respond to rewards after being deemed obedient. They then learn to regulate their behavior, according to the set of rules in effect, learning what is expected of them. This accords them with confidence in their behavior in the future, making them responsible and easier to handle (Prince, 2009).

Parents in most cases are likely to employ aversive techniques, when faced with disciplinary situations of being angry, stressed, irritable or just depressed. About 44 percent of surveyed parents used corporal punishment, because the parent had lost his/her temper. The parents then experienced the feelings of remorse while meting out those punishments. To parents, it is advisable to administer punishment only in cases, when the parent is emotionally in control.

Provision of Optimum Parent-Child Relationships

Disciplinary techniques can be most effective if employed in the context of the loving environment, when children feel secure and loved. In this case parents’ response to children, whether disapproving or approving, will have the biggest impact, as far as the parent’s response or approval is very important to the child. The sense of security in the environment, which a child grows in, eventually leads to the personal worth. This then minimizes the occurrences of negative behavior decreases and thus improves the parent and child relationship.

Parents can greatly decrease their child’s negative behavior by providing attention to the daily activities, like school work, games and their hobbies. This tends to increase the child’s positive behavior.; Withholding parental attention decreases the frequency of negative behavior.

Certain conditions in the modern parent-child relationship are basically built on the educational parameters, whereby children look for role models, whom they want to imitate in their growth. These conditions include:

  • Maintaining an emotional tone that is positive at home environment through affection towards the child.
  • Being consistent in the form of patterns of interactions and daily activities that will convey the child’s respect, while making negative behavior experiences less stressful.
  • Consistently responding to similar behavioral situations, thus promoting the more harmonious child-parent relationship.
  • Always providing the reason for any behavior correction makes the child learn to associate negative behavior with a particular reason, especially at toddler age.

Recommendations

About 90 percent of parents in the United States spank their children because they were also spanked in childhood. This is true for the parents, as well as pediatrics, as they were all spanked as toddlers. Thus, changing disciplinary methods in the U.S will take time but should be the goal of all the stakeholders. As discussions on disciplinary regimes are underway, parents are found to be defensive, as they justify their own parents’ practices. Religious leaders advocate the corporal punishment, while public interest in the discussion is presented based on the recognition of children’s rights, which pediatrics are supposed to report (Psycho-Medical Society 2010).

Specific Physician Activities

While counseling parents on disciplinary techniques, physicians must:

  • Be clear about what constitutes disciplinary schedules that are acceptable.
  • During visits pediatricians need to avoid showing emotions of anger.
  • Be able to address alternatives, when faced with parental justification for their practices (provide privacy while dealing with parents, away from the children).
  • Demonstrate expertise and interest in child behavior patterns and development.
Code: Sample20

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