Discipline in public
When it comes to curbing inappropriate behaviour, this mom takes her cue from Bill Cosby.
(Getty Images)
I love Bill Cosby's take on disciplining children.

He says ‘The truth is that parents aren't really interested in justice. They just want quiet.’

There are days in the O'Connor household (okay most days), when I'm desperate for half an hour of peace and quiet; with no fighting, whining or defiance.

Yes, I've threatened to move to another country ... without them. I've also threatened to change my name from Mom and not tell my wicked little darlings my new one.

But parenting wasn't meant to be easy and disciplining the rascals is almost always a challenge.

Cosby goes on to say '... the only people who are always sure about the proper way to raise children? Those who've never had any'.

We've probably all had people glaring at us in the supermarkets, when we've threatened to unleash our motherly wrath on our tantruming children.

A quick clip on the bum can cause an outcry from well-meaning aunties, wanting to bring in the authorities.

Expert advice on public discipline

So what do the real experts say about dealing with our little delinquents?

Psychologist and child rearing expert Ilze Van Der Merwe-Alberts from the Bella Vida Centre in Bryanston, Johannesburg says consistency is key.

She has a two-pronged approach to discipline:

Firstly, avoid resistance. Give your child choices that ultimately will get the result that you want. ‘Would you like to hop to the bathroom like a rabbit or run like a racehorse?’ If there's an element of play in the instruction, the child is more likely to comply.

If they don't listen, they need time out e.g. No story time, TV time etc.

That's great advice for my 4-year-old daughter who is trying really hard to exert her own authority, but it's really not going to work with my 8-year-old son, who is challenging at the best of times.

Van der Merwe-Alberts says pre-schoolers and school-going kids, need to understand that there are consequences for poor behavior. This gives your child the choice to do the right thing and a sense of empowerment without undermining your authority.

But what about those days when your howling child has thrown himself onto the shop floor demanding the latest toy?

Van Der Merwe says the trick here is to ignore. 'If there's no audience, there will be no performance'. She recommends that parents leave the shop immediately, tell the child about the consequences of his behaviour and follow through with the punishment at home.

It's extremely difficult not to lose your temper, but speaking with a low, authoritative, calm voice apparently does the trick.

And no, smacking isn't the way to go if you're trying to discipline your child and teach him values in the process.

Dereck Jackson, a respected parenting expert who lectures around the world, says children like and need rules. They need boundaries and predictability in order to feel secure.

Importantly Jackson says parents are not their children’s friends but should be seen by their children as the authority in their home.

He works according to three stages of discipline. The first is to set clear and realistic boundaries. Once the rule is broken, the parent should give an assertive command. If the child disobeys again, he should face consequences.

After yelling like a fishwife for the umpteenth time at my children I'm often reminded of Bill Cosby's quote: ‘I guess the real reason that my wife and I had children is the same reason that Napoleon had for invading Russia: it seemed like a good idea at the time.’

What’s your approach to the supermarket tantrum?

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Raising a son on your own

2008-07-21 11:35

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