Khanyi | 2008-10-07
How do I discipline without smacking?
My 8 year old lives with his grandmother – twice he lied and said they were told not to come to school and the other day he stole his grandmother's watch and dismantled it because he says he wanted to see how it works. He used to be such a good boy and he does not do these things when he is with me. He spends all his weekends with me. I got so angry and disappointed with the lies that I hit him with a belt – I could not stop crying afterwards because I feel like such a bad mother.
It is brave of you to admit that you felt bad. It is very important to try never to use corporal punishment – it really does not help at all. It is very confusing for children to be exposed to very different types of disciplining.
His grandmother probably needs some help with parenting a young child – things have changed so much in the last few years.
When a child tells a lie, one must remain calm but firm. Tell him you are disappointed in him, that it is unacceptable behaviour and that, if he chooses to tell lies in the future, there will be consequences eg he will have a treat or privilege taken away.
Children seldom tell lies when it is safe to tell the truth. In the case of the watch, it does no good to beat him. Of course, he needs to learn that this is not acceptable. Taking away pocket money or treats is the best way to help him learn from the consequences of his mistakes.
Encourage him to talk to you – to ask you for things he is curious about. Tell him that, if he wants to see how a watch works, he must tell you and together you can try to find an old watch that he can take apart. The main thing is to keep the communication open, to tell him the rules and that he has choices – but that these choices also have certain consequences. He needs to have an idea of what the consequences will be for choosing to break certain rules.
My book "Children Need Boundaries" explains all these issues and helps parents to develop more effective methods of parenting than resorting to smacks.
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