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Discipline in COVID Crisis

We are at home all the time! This lockdown is very difficult for the children. When schools were on, children had a clear schedule to their days. The outdoor play was something they looked forward to as they met friends of their age groups and had greater social interaction. However now they are always at home and around adults.

This is creating anxiety and frequent emotional meltdowns in children. General back answering and outright refusal has increased (speaking from my own experiences) as well as continuous testing of limits . During the corona crisis our Parenting is under pressure. On top of our already busy schedule, now we have to spend a good amount of time each day disciplining our children. 

Discipline sounds like a harsh word that often is associated with punishments and time-outs. However that is not what I mean by Discipline. What children require the most is clear boundaries and ability to self-regulate emotions. This is what Dr. Daniel Siegal and Dr. Tina Bryson termed discipline in their international best seller No-Drama Discipline.

To summarise, discipline means giving children the ability to handle challenging situations, frustrations and emotional storms. It is the ability to have self control and develop moral compass for children. We as parents also need to have patience and not react to the situation. Instead we should use these meltdowns as opportunities to teach our children about self-control. I follow this 5 step process to help discipline my child

Calm the child

The first step in any emotionally charged situation is to calm the child. A crying/angry child is not going to listen to any reason during an emotional meltdown. We want to communicate that its ok. “I understand that it is difficult to handle big emotions and I am here for you”

Verbalise their feelings

Here we are acknowledging their feelings and verbalising their emotions. “I can see that you are upset, tell me about it”. Research says that verbalising emotions helps to get control over them, because the act of labelling the emotion itself means the brain is able to clearly name the emotion and gains control.

  • Hearing them out helps to build connection with the child. Image Credit – No Drama Discipline book by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr Tina Bryson

Hear them out

Rather than passing judgements after the situation has somewhat calmed down, we should ask the child to explain what happened and why he took the decision. This is tough for parents as generally we are pressed for time and want to resolve something asap to get back to our work. But some time must be spent to hear the child out. Often times, when the child recounts what happened he realises he made a mistake and sometimes even admits it. My approach is to first listen to his side of the story without judgement. 

Teaching moment (Setting Limit)

Once he gives full account of what happened, you can state the limit – this is the teaching moment. This is the best time to give options to your child to rectify the mistake. “You feel like jumping now, seems like you are very excited about jumping. You can jump on the ground , the sofa Is for us to sit.  Would you like me to pick you up or will you come down on your own?”. If the child doesn’t self-correct his mistake, you need to follow through by picking up the child keeping him on the ground. Generally there will be crying afterwards, but you can again use the strategy to calm the child, acknowledge and reiterate “Sofa is for sitting, ground is for jumping”.  

Move On

After the teaching moment, which is short session of eye to eye interaction with your child and followed up with an action by the parent, we should move on. Now as parents, we feel sad for the child and try to give long explanations and justifications about why what we say is right. Generally during these long explanations, children tune out and not listen.

Parents sometimes bring the baggage of previous situations into our current one and label the children, to prove their point. However let us not bring any emotional baggage with us when we discipline. Let me know if this method helps you in calming you child

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