Will Traditional Discipline Work On Digital Natives?


Whether we like it or not, our children have two lives now. They have to manage and navigate their lives both online and offline. So, how can we continue expecting them to behave like how we did when we were children?

Life now is much more complex. Just by admonishing children for their behavior, we cannot expect change to happen going forward. For change to happen, appropriate behavior must be taught and modeled by caring adults.



Acting Out And Questioning Authority:


Children act out when their sense of security is compromised. Acting out can be whining, manipulating, disrespecting and questioning authority constantly. They rebel when they’re uncertain about their identity, their circumstances and they don’t really understand the family dynamics.

Questioning authority is not necessarily a sign of rebellion. Children, especially teenagers, when asking questions are trying out new ideas. Don’t push their suggestions away, in fact, appreciate them for how they’re thinking.

Usually when children rebel or don’t do as instructed, they are testing our limits. When your child says he’s not going to attend a party with you guys, he’s just testing you. In his head he’s most likely thinking, “Why are you listening to me? You just need to tell me that we’re going inspite of how I feel.”



Developing Obedience In Children:


Every behavior, whether it is a tantrum or lack of regard for your authority, is a form of communication. If you’re able to establish connection with your child to help see each other’s viewpoints, there will not be any need for any form of obedience training.

In terms of developing obedience in children, it is better to be proactive and not reactive. And it helps to remember that children are always paying attention even though it might seem otherwise. They learn best from adults who can regulate themselves. So don’t be afraid to show your struggles (age permitting), your humanity and having deep conversations.



Preventative Vs. Punishment:


When parents punish their children, they do it without any anger in their hearts. It’s our natural disposition to reprimand kids for something they did not do well. Punishment is after the fact, and discipline is the preventative.

And sometimes when children commit mistakes, they do so because they simply don’t know any better. They have not been in that situation before and don’t really understand the consequences of the choices and decisions they are making.




Teenager Rows With Mum



Putting The Power Into Little Hands:


It is important to understand and acknowledge personal challenges that children have. They’re in front of us only a few hours a day and the rest of their day they spend it under peer pressure and trying to find their own identity in the world.

When children mess up, they feel powerless. Their self-esteem takes a hit. And this is the best time to help them out in a big way. Ask them how they feel, empathize with them. Put the power back in their hands by asking them what can be a good solution to get out of the mess they got themselves into. Because it is not fair to be least available to them when they’re sad and are feeling the burden of messing up. Show them you’ve got their back.



Say This Not That:


If children get into trouble at school or fall behind grades, and we go to talk the teacher to help them out, it sends a very bad message to them. It tells them that they don’t necessarily have to take responsibility for what they have gotten themselves into.

Overall, our words matter more than anything else. Express how you feel rather than attack them or judge their actions. “I am upset at what happened.” Or “I am disappointed in your behavior.” Rather than saying, “How can you even do such a thing?”

Don’t judge, be empathetic. “I’ve noticed that you’re not acting like yourself lately, I would like to know what’s going on in your life? I’m here to listen (when you’re ready to talk).”

Give instructions in bite sized chunks. “Take the article and underline what you don’t understand.” Attach rules to the objects. Instead of saying, “Stop doing that,” say, “Don’t jump on the grass.”

Redirect, don’t correct. If your child demands something from you, you might want to scream that the world doesn’t owe them anything, not even their mother. Instead you can respond to them by saying, “I will do what you want. But when you’re ready to show me that you can be polite and patient, I will be happy to help you out. Try again in a few minutes.”



Positive Reinforcement: What Can We Do?


Set boundaries early on. Show them that, even though unlimited, your love too has its limits. Boundaries can be clear and non-negotiables. Fuzzy, no follow through rules are empty threats – can make your words lose their meaning and value.

Be clear, and set some general expectations around the house and in life. Be brief and use simple declarative sentences. Remember you are the boss. Explanations invite arguments, so talk authoritatively.

Let them handle their own emotions don’t rush to apply a bandaid. Don’t be terrorized by their whining. Make them do chores, teach them transferable skills. Teaching is about giving. Control is about getting, so use every chance to teach.

Give them positive reinforcements where necessary, and most importantly, give them what money can’t buy, your attention. Show them that you have their back, as they explore life. When parents make it easy for children to behave well, they become more confident. They see themselves in a positive light and aim to do better every time.


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About The Article Author:

Our mission with FutureSTRONG Academy – to grow children who respect themselves, their time and their capabilities in a world where distractions are just a click or a swipe away.

I see myself as an advocate for bringing social, emotional and character development to families, schools and communities. I never want to let this idea out of my sight – Our children are not just GPAs. I’m a Writer and a Certified Master Coach in NLP and CBT. Until 2017, I was also a Big Data Scientist. In December of 2044, I hope to win the Nobel. Namasté

Write to me or call me. Tell me what support from me looks like. 

Rachana Nadella-Somayajula,
Program Director & Essential Life Skills Coach for Kids and Busy Parents

Parenting For a Digital Future

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