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Are you spoiling your child?

By Vision Reporter

Added 12th September 2012 05:24 PM

A few weeks ago, I visited a friend who owns a children’s store in town. As we chatted, a lady walked in with her son, who looked about eight or nine years old, looking to buy a Ben 10 watch.

Are you spoiling your child?

A few weeks ago, I visited a friend who owns a children’s store in town. As we chatted, a lady walked in with her son, who looked about eight or nine years old, looking to buy a Ben 10 watch.

By Rebecca Nalunga

He rained blows on his mother
A few weeks ago, I visited a friend who owns a children’s store in town. As we chatted, a lady walked in with her son, who looked about eight or nine years old, looking to buy a Ben 10 watch.   
 
Unfortunately, they were out of stock and the mother asked the young lad to choose any other item. 
The not-so-happy boy stomped around the shop, picked some items, most of them belonging to the Ben 10 brand and deposited them at the counter for billing. 
 
When presented with the bill, the mother discovered she was short by a substantial amount and asked the boy to leave some of the items, arguing that he already had lots of Ben 10 things at home.  
             
With that, the boy began raining blows and kicks on his mother, accusing her of never listening to him. Everyone else in the shop watched in horror. The mother almost timidly said: “Do not beat mummy!” whereupon he beat her even more and proceeded to throw a tantrum.
 
When she could take it no more, my friend, the shop owner, intervened by firmly telling the irate child to stop beating his mother and apologise to her. Meanwhile, the mother was frantically asking where the nearest ATM was so she could withdraw more money to pay. 
 
My friend told them that even if she brought more money, she was not going to sell them anything from her shop unless the boy apologised. In what she must have considered reinforcement, the mother feebly implored her son: “You apologise or else the auntie will not sell you her things.” 
 
The boy, even though he had stopped his violent behaviour, had a defiant look on his face, stood heaving in anger and refused to apologise.
 
 No amount of begging from the mother could coerce the boy to apologise so to save herself anymore embarrassment and, hopefully, time, she paid for what she could afford and walked out with her son. Needless to say, there was no gratitude expressed for the new toys received
 
Their departure was followed by a pregnant silence in the shop and suddenly everyone burst out laughing, but there was a serious underlying issue presented: the issue of discipline or lack thereof.


Psychologist’s recommendation
Renowned talk show host and psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw gives tips on how to discipline children:
nCommit yourself. Let your child know that you are going to do what you say you will. If you threaten and do not act, it reduces your credibility.
 
nLearn your child’s currency and what they value. It could be a toy, a particular activity they love or a privilege which you can withdraw and introduce negative ones when they misbehave. If you control the currency, you control their behaviour.
 
nHave predictable consequences. Let your child know that a particular action produces a particular result. If the rules stay the same, children will abide by them. Discipline in public can be tricky, but not impossible. 
 
In Positive Discipline: A Guide For Parents by University of Minnesota extension programme, experts recommend removing the child from the scene to a quiet place. That gives the parent the freedom to discipline without fear of judgement from the public and to the child, a chance to calm down.
 
McGraw strongly advises that parents do not give in to tantrums in public. It can be tempting to give in to the demands just to quiet the child down. 
 
But they will soon learn that if they throw a big enough tantrum, they will get what they want.
He adds that rewarding good behaviour is an important aspect of discipline. A reward is something your child earns for good behaviour while a bribe is offering a treat hoping he will behave well.

Parenting:Then and now
Stella Mutebi, a stay-at-home mother of four wants her children to be able to live sociably with other people if ever she is not with them. To achieve this, she has developed different disciplinary methods:  
 
 “I created a naughty corner in the house where I send the children whenever they misbehave. However, before doing so, I explain to them why they are being sent there and when they are done, I hug them for reassurance.”
 
She spanks her children once they are above the age of three and applies the explanation technique before and after doing so. The result?  Well-disciplined children.

Back in the days
Joy Mukasa, an elderly farmer, attributes today’s laxity in discipline to careless parenting techniques. 
“Even the Bible says, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’, but I am simply baffled by the reluctance of today’s young parents to discipline their children.” 
 
Whereas she does not advocate for corporal punishment, Mukasa says in their days denying the child privileges like going to play with friends and instead sweeping an entire stretch of  compound alone were enough to set them straight.
 
 She adds that unlike today, if a neighbour found anyone’s child misbehaving, they took it upon themselves to reprimand them, a gesture which was well appreciated by the parents.
                     
 Joseph Lubowa, a special hire driver, recalls one such incident when at about the age of 14 years he was discovered by a neighbour making out with a girl in the bushes after dusk.
 
“He dragged me by the ear and gave me a thorough beating. The worst part was hoping that he would not tell my parents because that meant more punishment from them,” he narrates. 
 
Sadly, he was not so lucky because on returning home his parents had already received the news.
 George Kugonza, a father of five and grandfather of three, believes that children as young as one year will test their parent’s limits to see     how much they can get away with. 
 
His eldest child  used to attempt climbing a stool while stealing glances at his father to gauge his reaction. 
“He was too young to be spanked, but in a firm voice I would tell him, ‘No!’ and it worked. Of course when he was older, I spanked him,” he laughs.

Teachers can only do so much
A primary school teacher preferring anonymity observes that these days there seems to be competition between parents on who has the most indisciplined children.
 
She attributes this to parents watching reality TV shows and wanting to raise their children like Kimora Lee Simmons or The Kardashians, forgetting that those shows are just that—shows. “How else do you explain a child coming to school, throwing tantrums, refusing to do homework and the parent reacting with fury when asked to intervene?
 
Strangely, the same child will come back with lots of new gifts as though to reward their uncooperative behaviour!” she exclaims.
 
According to Apollo Kigonya, a teacher at Lubiri High School, teachers can only do so much because whatever morals the children learn from home determine their behaviour at school. “Children need consistency to know that what is unacceptable at home, is unacceptable at school and at the supermarket,” he points out.

Western world
The disciplinary measures have evolved much in the Western world. During the medieval times, parents followed biblical guidelines, where scolding was considered ineffective. Corporal punishment was the norm then including beating to inflict pain and prepare the child for the hostile world they were in.
 
In the early 20th century child experts advocated for formation of habits and routine, urging parents to reward good behaviour, punish the bad alongside developing strict routine for sleep, food and other bodily functions to create an organised adult.
 
Today the most common disciplinary measures in the western world are:

Time-outs or corner time 
A child is sent away from the family or group for a given period after misbehaviour. This is intended to give an over excited child time to calm down and help the parents separate feelings of anger toward the child from the bad behaviour. It also gives the parent time to come up with a plan of action.

Grounding
This is usually for pre-teens and teenagers. The parent restricts their movement outside the house, for example prohibiting visits to friends or trips to the mall, except to school.
 
This is usually combined with withdrawal of privileges like computer, phone or video games. Scolding is criticising negative behaviour. However, some researchers say this can be counterproductive by reinforcing negative behaviour or the child may withdraw into themselves.

Praise and rewards
Encouraging words toward the child when they do good, spending time with them and hugging are all ways of executing this method. A child lacking attention may exhibit bad behaviour to get it. 

Natural consequences 
It involves letting the children learn from their mistakes. For instance the child refuses to eat, the parent can let them go to bed hungry so that they experience the repercussions first hand, as opposed to following them around with a spoon, begging them to eat.
 

Are you spoiling your child?

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