All through the preschool years, you taught your child to follow certain rules of behaviour – your discipline rules, in other words. Yet now that he is older, you find there are times when he should learn to break them.
The challenge is to teach your kid when he is allowed to do so. Consider the following scenarios:
Don’t make a mess at home
Why you have this discipline rule: There would be chaos at home if your child leaves a trail of clutter and jumble behind him as he moves from one activity to another.
When he can break the rule: Play sometimes involves mess, it’s as simple as that. Your child can’t have fun painting or clay modelling, for example, without stretching the boundaries of tidiness. If he isn’t allowed to make a mess, you’ll stifle all his creativity.
How to explain it: Tell your child that although you normally don’t like a mess in the house, you want him to enjoy himself painting or modelling. Suggest that on this occasion, he puts down as many bits of newspaper or cloths that are needed to minimise damage. Besides, he’s old enough to clean up after himself without supervision.
Be quiet in public
Why you have this discipline rule: When you are at a mall, or in a cinema, you expect him to be respectful and quiet so that he won’t disturb others.
When he can break the rule: If he is in danger because his personal safety is threatened (for example, if a stranger tries to lure him, or some children bully him), then he needs to forget all the rules about being quiet and instead shout to attract attention.
How to explain it: Tell your child that although you usually expect him to be quiet and well-behaved when he is outside, he should always scream for help if he thinks he is in danger; he shouldn’t feel guilty about it. The worst that can happen is that people frown at him.
Do your homework as soon as you get home from school
Why you have this discipline rule: You want to make sure your child keeps up with his schoolwork, and you’ve learnt that the later he leaves his homework, the longer he takes.
When he can break the rule: Sometimes there are special events, such as a friend’s birthday party after school, or enrichment lessons. Sticking to the homework-first rule on these occasions would mean he’d miss out on significant events.
How to explain it: Emphasise that homework is important, but explain that on rare occasions, it can wait for a while. Point out, though, that any delayed homework must be completed before he goes to bed later that evening.
(Also read: Child doesn’t want to do homework: how to help)
Be seen and not heard
Why you have this discipline rule: You think it is good manners for your child to sit quietly when he is in adult company, to listen to you without challenge, and to speak only when adults talk to him.
When he can break the rule: Now that he is older, teach him how to speak his mind calmly and reasonably. When the time is right, he can make a sensible and interesting contribution to a discussion.
How to explain it: Tell your child that he should always take part in group or class discussions, and that he shouldn’t be afraid to express his viewpoint at any time, as long as he has a sensible line of argument and speaks respectfully to the others while doing so.
(Also read: How to help your child control her emotions)