How to discipline children ?

The words Shista (Discipline) and Shiksha (Punishment) have originated from the root word Shikshan (Education). Discipline means bringing good behaviour into practice by means of education. That is why, it is very essential that while punishing a child, we make him understand the reason for which he is being punished.

1. Important suggestions regarding disciplining children

A. Appreciation of good behaviour and punishment for misbehaviour

If children get good marks in an examination praise them. Complimenting them will encourage them to behave better. Children should be scolded for misbehaviour and if necessary, punish them.

B. While speaking to children, speak in a polite requesting tone and not in a commanding tone

For example, instead of saying, “Bring me a glass of water”, say, “Will you please get me a glass of water, dear?”

C. Unanimity amongst family members

Before disciplining children, it is necessary that family members discuss what kind of behaviour they expect from the child and sort out the differences of opinion in this matter. Unanimity amongst parents and other family members is very essential in disciplining the child. There should not be any differences of opinion between the parents. For example, father praising his son for climbing up high on a window and mother scolding him for the same. Parents should sort out the differences in opinion in advance and not in the presence of the child.

D. Punishment should follow the mistake immediately

“Wait till your father arrives in the evening”, is a wrong punishment. This makes the child anxious about the punishment until his father arrives. The severity of the punishment should be proportional to the mistake committed.

Our school principal was a very gentle and serene person. All students used to approach him with respect and love and not with apprehension. One day when I had gone to meet him, I saw him thrashing a 10th Std. student with a cane. I was taken aback on seeing this wrathful behaviour of Kale Guruji. When I met him later he said, “This boy took Rs. 50 from me yesterday for his mother’s funeral. But today morning, I met his mother in the temple. So I had to give him this harsh punishment which he will never forget in his life, otherwise he would have become a criminal in future.

2. Appropriate and inappropriate punishment

Not speaking with the child or keeping him hungry are not appropriate punishments, because the same mother would plead him to have dinner in the evening. Not allowing the child to go to play in the evening or to see his favourite television programme would be the appropriate punishments.

3. Imbibe discipline in the minds of children !

‘Discipline is the base of spiritual practice. If every action is not combined with discipline and following of rules then that action remains incomplete. Spiritual growth too is achieved faster if complete discipline is maintained through out the day. Hence, it is necessary to imbibe discipline in the minds of children.

A. At the physical level

1. Making children independent : The seed of discipline is to be sown in the mind of children at a very young age. They should be taught to neatly arrange their bed-sheets after waking up in the morning. Initially, the arrangement might not be perfect, but as they start growing, they will definitely develop the quality of tidiness. Teach them to do their homework and school preparations on their own after their daily routine activities in the morning. Instruct them to keep their books neatly at the appropriate place. Teach them to keep their shoes and school bag at the right place, wash their hands and legs, change their clothes and keep the clothes properly at the right place after returning home from school. Teach them to stitch their torn clothes. Even children enjoy doing their own work. Later on, also teach them to wash their own clothes. Teach them to wash the cup and plate after the morning and evening breakfast. In short, make the children independent. Do not differentiate between girls and boys in this. If they are moulded in the right way, then the children will always be disciplined, whether at home or outside.

2. Early to bed and early to rise : Inculcate the habit of waking up early in the morning at a very young age. It is seen in many houses that children stay awake till late night to study and wake up late at 8 or 9 in the morning. On the contrary, if they sleep early and wake up early for studies then they will be able to grasp better. There is a saying ‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’. In earlier times, the sages used to wake up at Brahmamuhurt (An auspicious time before sunrise, ideal for spiritual practice) and recite the Vedas. At night, the effect of Raja-Tama (2 out of the 3 components of the Universe denoted by activity and ignorance; negativity) is more, whereas, in the morning Sattvikta (Component of the Universe denoted by purity and knowledge; positivity) is more and this has a good effect on studies.

B. At the Psychological level

1. Performing all the things on schedule : ‘Children learn from the actions of their elders; keeping this in mind, the elders should behave accordingly. The elders should set an example by exhibiting qualities such as talking politely with everyone, respecting elders etc. Also, they should do all their work in time. If you keep postponing your work, then you will never be able to complete it. That is why discipline the mind instead of the body.

2. Impression of cleanliness and neatness to be imbibed in children’s mind : In many homes, it is seen that the clothes in the cupboards and racks are kept in a very disorganized manner; in the same way, the house is also completely disorganized. When guests arrive unexpectedly, there is total chaos. However, once your mind is used to tidiness, you will feel restless if the things are not in order. Do not be lazy in keeping the house organized. Teach children that laziness is our biggest enemy.

3. Do not pamper children excessively : Nowadays, there are one or two children in a house. So all their likes and dislikes are taken care of. Hence, children become fussy about everything, including the food they eat and the clothes they wear. Therefore, you should not pamper them excessively, as this will make them stubborn.

C. At the Spiritual level

1. Spiritual backing necessary to imbibe good sanskars in children : Two things are necessary to make the children well-behaved. Firstly, the parents themselves should be well mannered. Secondly, along with disciplining them, children should also be taught to be religious. If children have spiritual backing, then they can imbibe good qualities faster. Only God’s Name has the power to change stubborn and ill-mannered children and many parents have experienced this.

2. The seed of devotion if sown in one’s own heart will appear in the child too : In order to change all this, we need Spirituality and devotion to be a part of our daily life. Firstly, the parents have to be religious. Only then will they be able to sow the seeds of devotion in the hearts of children. Parents tell children stories of Saints and Sages, but they themselves do not practice Spirituality.

I pray to God that, ‘Let the parents realise that, only God’s Name has tremendous power to transform their children completely. Let our Nation get a well-behaved and virtuous generation, so that Divine Kingdom is established at the earliest.’

3. Teach children to offer prayers and gratitude to God : Teach children to pray as soon as they wake up in the morning and pay gratitude to God for showing them this day. Tell them to pay obeisance / salutation to God after washing their face. Teach them to pray before every meal. Impress upon their mind that everything in life happens due to God’s grace.

4. Benefits of being a role model before the children : If the house has to be made perfect, then you should have the qualities of discipline, obedience and respect for elders. By exhibiting these qualities, the elders should set an example in front of their children so that the children imitate them and thus imbibe these good qualities. If this happens, it won’t take long to make an ideal family.