Strict Discipline, Is It Still Relevant?

Strict discipline is considered as the best way to manage children’ behaviour . For eastern people, we are familiar with  slapping, caning, shouting, standing and giving salute to flags for hours . There are many physical and verbal punishments that we have experienced and we thought it can be good to shape us to be good children. As children, we have heard several times that there is love on the edge of the stick. It makes us believe that we are loved by our parents when they hit or slap us because of our mistake.

On one occasion, I asked this question to some preschool teachers “ do you still believe in physical punishment?”. I found out half of the class said physical punishment is still needed to make the children behave well. However, when I asked them ‘would they like if I give them physical  punishment if they  make mistakes in this class”. Majority of the class positively confirmed `”No”. I wonder why they think it is proper to punish children but not adults. Why is it permissive to do some abuse to the children for the sake of discipline but while for adults is not allowed.

The way we treat the children shows how we think about them. There is dualism in the way we treat children and adults. In some cultures children are considered lower than women. They don’t have any right to decide and even give their voice to be heard.According to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all the children have the same right to develop their potential in all situations and being treated with respect to support their development process.

When we asked some parents about what a child means for them. They come up with some answers like “Children are their precious treasure”, “a gift  from God”and “a blessing for a family”. It is quite difficult to understand then, how they could treat such a gift badly.  On a daily basis this thought does not really implement well in the way we treat  the children. Imagine if they are treasures, then we know exactly how we treat a treasure. We will handle it with care and love. What we believe sometimes happens differently from how we behave. To go deeper than that, must be some core values that strongly influenced our mind about how we treat the children.

Strict Discipline
Kid girl low her head

Strict Discipline in Indonesian Culture

In some areas in east Indonesia, the parents and teachers still believe that in order to produce good character , we should somehow train the children in a very strict discipline.  Strict discipline is believed to be a more powerful way to educate the children. It is considered as the best way to manage the students’ behaviour at home and school. When the child makes a mistake, then punishing them is a way to make them back to the right track. Decade after decade, we have practiced this type of  discipline at home and at school. The stick is the magic weapon to control the students. Until today, most of the parents and teachers use strict to manage misbehaviour students. No wonder, there is still a systematic abuse toward children that is permissible under our culture.

Strict discipline emerged in Indonesia is part of the culture that influenced by Ducth education system at colonization era. The discipline that was practiced by combining with physical punishment. For example, when a student made a mistake , then a teacher at school had authority to punish the students physically or verbally. The system was supported also by the parents. Therefore when a child reported to his/her parents that the teacher had punished him at school, the parents would punish him more. So it is better to keep it silent. At the time, the children struggled a lot since the education system did not support  the children’s development positively.

However, today when some schools have adapted a better education system which gives more space for children, many schools in remote areas are still the same. The old education system is still  used today. Punishment by hitting, running around school or slapping still can be found at class. Parents are still allowed to punish the children at home.

Angry mother
Angry mother

The Effect of Strict Discipline

Some of us might be a product of this strict discipline  and maybe we think that this is the best method to make children behave well.However, what we did not realize is strict discipline only works temporarily to stop a child’s misbehaviour. The children might learn to behave when we are around or someone that they are afraid of is there.  But cannot guarantee they will behave well when we are not around.It works only temporarily and does not have a long impact in shaping students’ characters.

 Physical punishment also does not help the child to learn why her behaviour was wrong. It does not give a chance to learn how he/she can behave well. It limits children’s point of view to solve problems, in two choices, reward or punishment.  By giving physical punishment we also give an example for our children to do physical abuse for others as physiologically child see, child do. They might learn that hitting and screaming is the way to get what they want.  The child who always experiences hitting and kicking would tend to do the same things to other people.

Punishment also destroys the relationship between parents and children or teachers and children. Children may lose their trust in us as parents or teachers.   It also creates feelings of  powerlessness, fear, trauma, anger , unwanted and hopelessness. It makes them grow with bitterness and resentment. The result can be bitter memories that will last a long time.  It will influence their confidence and the way they see themselves. Children will grow with low-self esteem or be more aggressive.

Moreover, strict discipline also can cause physical injuries such as bruises,bleeding and broken bone. We can do more damage to their body physically, paralysis , brain damage and sometimes death.

What could we do to change it ?

It is time to change. We can open our mind for an alternative way to educate the children in a more friendly and nicer way.  One of them is applying positive discipline. Positive discipline is a discipline model that focuses on the positive points of behaviour. It is based on the idea that there is no bad child, just good or bad behaviour. Good behaviour can be taught and reinforced by positive communication without hurting the child verbally or physically. It is an authoritativeapproach which  focuses on encouragement , empowerment and problem-solving.

Positive Discipline does not use yelling, spanking, or physical punishment. It teaches the children to focus on solutions, not on mistakes. For example, when a child drops a glass and breaks it, the best response as a parent is encouraging them to find the solution. Instead of yelling at them, trigger them to solve the problem by directing them to exercise some choices about what they have to do to solve this mess. This process also teaches them to be problem solvers and be more responsible for their own actions. This method is effective to activate brain development because we teach students to think more and take a role to fix their mistakes instead of feeling guilty and do nothing.According to Dr. Nelson, there are five principles of Positive Discipline.

1. It is kind and firm at the same time

When children make mistakes we don’t directly scold them or punish them. We can talk to them and find out the reason for misbehaving. By talking heart to heart and helping the children to express his feelings, it will help us understand the children better. However, at the same time, we can show them the consequences of their misbehaving. They will have time to think and reflect on their behavior and witness by themselves the result of the misbehaving. We can also help  them to plan for a solution or next step that they can do to get better in the future. In the process, we can be their mentor to mentoring them through their learning process not just in the academic field but also in the character building.

2. It helps children feel a sense of belonging and significance

By involving the children in the conversation builds strong bonds between adults and the children. As an adult we give a good  example of how to treat the children with respect. The children will trust us because they can treat them well and help them to improve their behaviour in a more positive way. Positive talks shape the good self-image for children. They can learn to respect and love themselves more when they learn how other people respect them as well. It will help them to grow with a good self- image and have a strong sense of belonging with their parents  or teachers.

3. It is effective long-term.

While more people believe in strict discipline because it can change misbehaviour instantly, positive discipline is more effective to create long-term behaviour. In strict discipline, we can only control children when we are around which means children will only behave when the adult is around. However, we cannot guarantee that children will behave well when we are not there with them. The strict discipline forces children to behave because of fear and intimidation. While in positive discipline it may take time but it will produce a steady character. Children are guided to choose certain behaviour because they understand the consequences of their actions.

4. It teaches valuable social and life skills for good character.

Character like other skills is not born naturally, we need to acquire it. It is a skill that we should learn. By applying positive discipline in the class or at home, we give an example for the children how to respect and treat people. The children who have more experience of kindness and well- treatment tend to grow up with the same behaviour. As they experience how their parents treat them with respect, they  will have a tendency to treat other people the same

5. It invites children to discover how capable they are and to use their personal power in constructive ways.

Positive discipline focuses on the person’s ability. It emphasizes on the person’s ability to make good progress. Talking is a way to dig out the person feeling and activate his skill to solve the problem. By understanding their feelings and their potency , we can guide them to use it as   power. We cannot understand and discover their potency through punishment and scolding.

Teacher hug student
Teacher hug student

Positive discipline is more effective to manage misbehavior of  students in the classroom,instead of  using punishment or rewards. It provides an opportunity for the  students to learn and adapt their behaviors to meet expectations in the classroom. Moreover, simultaneously it  teaches them how to make better choices in their path to adulthood. By applying positive discipline , we can create a better generation. No more feeling guilty and low self esteem, children will grow up in a positive environment and will support them to be a better positive person.

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