There are many schools of thought when it comes to disciplining a child. Some swear by fear tactics while some guarantee success with love. Whatever technique we might end up using, one thing is common for all of us- we want disciplined well mannered kids. That would bring us a lot of peace. Would make us Nirvanama.

So how can this aspect of Nirvanama be tackled? How do I bring up a happy yet disciplined child.

Since at Nirvanama we focus on Mother’s emotional and spiritual health,  I am not going to diverge into which tactic you end up using- fear or love. Whichever you use is upto you, your child, your psychology, your child’s psychology and many other factors which you are the best judge of.

To help moms arrive at a Nirvana state and help them weigh pros and cons of their decisions about discipline tactics, there are five major philosophies to consider:

  1. Age: Some of us make the mistake of not starting active disciplining early.

Your child’s brain is developing at an exponential rate compared to you. While you might be adding a few neurons each day (if at all, there is still some controversial research about whether an adult brain can regenerate and create even a single new neuron), your kid’s brain is growing exponentially. He is learning new things, new tasks and new skills. He is, at the same time, registering these to his memory. Its but obvious he needs millions of permanent synapses being formed in his brain everyday.

And the biggest thing he is learning is behavior.

No not his own. He is learning and observing the behavior and psychology of those around him. And he is committing it to memory. At the pretext of sounding evil, your little angel is devilishly busy in getting a hang of your psychology. Even better than you.

Have you ever noticed how your 9 month old grins after you have repeatedly removed his thumb from his mouth and he keeps putting it back each time? It looks so cute. Yet, what he is doing is testing your patience. Seeing how much leverage he gets. How ductile your efforts are.

So destroy the myth that your baby is too young to be taught anything. He is learning much more than you will in the next 5 years together!

Set boundaries and imbibe discipline tactics as early as possible. At 9 months of course the methods are different. If he puts his thumb in his mouth 100 times, make sure you have the patience to gently take it out 101 times. He will soon know that you mean it! And your no is always a no.

  1. Timing: Nothing makes a bigger rebel than public humiliation. If you have friends over or are in a public place your disciplining tactics cant even be on the borderline of strict. Scolding a child in front of people is just digging a deeper grave for yourself in the long run. So time your battles properly.

In that particular instant you could say a firm but polite NO or even try the method of distraction. You could even let him cry it out a little bit without reacting to it.

But never scold, scream or punish a child in public ( I say in general never punish a child at all).

You can ground him later, talk to him later and be a little stern also. But once the guests leave. In fact once they leave, make sure you take him up on his behavior. Otherwise he will learn that misbehaving should be done only in public coz mommy doesn’t say much then. Thus, make sure you get back on that topic as soon as the guests leave.

  1. Reward works better: It is but universal psychology that rewards work much better than punishment in disciplining. Remember your child is not a lab rat. He doesn’t need to “perform” in an experiment.

I am living proof that rewards make a much lasting impression on the baby than punishment (of course by punishment I don’t mean whipping your baby. I am using the term to talk about general negative enforcement behavior like scolding, screaming, grounding, reprimanding etc). There are of course days when I lose my cool and have reprimanded my daughter. And there is a direct link of the following days being so difficult with her. She tends to get more stubborn, more challenging, more rebellious. Its her way of dealing with being “punished”. Children have a lot of anger in them. We all know that!

So I keep my “punishments” very very mild. A polite NO. sorry….a better way to put it would be REPEATED polite NOs is usually my style.

But I keep my “rewards” grand. Whenever she does a good thing, I make sure I make a big deal about it. Lot of drama. Applauds. Standing ovations. Even a little sweet treat. It just infuses that “feel good” feeling in her. She is then desperately trying to do things that will get mommy into that dramatized reward queen mode!

And its obvious that when kids are busy figuring out to be good, they don’t have time to be bad!

  1. Consistence: Nothing has a worse reversing effect that non-consistency. If you said NO to TV during dinner, you have to keep that rule all your life! One day if she is crying too much doesn’t mean you let her turn on the TV that day at dinner time. The tough part in this is that you have to remember what all rules you set in the first place! That can be herculean if you generally keep saying NO a lot.

Thus as a policy I say NO to things only of dire importance. Like no play doh while eating food. Of course you don’t want play doh going into your child’s mouth (my DD is learning to eat on her own. Hence she has her hands in her food a lot during meal times). But whatever it is you have said NO to, you have to keep your stand throughout. Similarly it goes without saying that the rules apply to whatever you have said YES to.

You simply cant backtrack.

You are confusing the baby. Allowing for loopholes. And giving her a hint that there is a “if-but” clause in each rule. Believe me, you don’t want that!! Coz once your baby gets the hang of that psychology, no amount of reasoning will work once the stubborn little thing argues that “Mom, but you did let me do this the other day!”

  1. Chanakya’s theory: There was a great philosopher in India called Chanakya. He was born in 371 BC. He was a king maker and most of his philosophy (called Chanakya Niti) revolves around laws of administration. How to be a good king or an administrator. Yet one of his key mantras can be extrapolated to mothering too. Of course with a little customization to suit you and your baby.

Chanakya preached that to get any task done by someone you should follow the order of “ saam daam dand bhed”. These words purely mean:

  • Saam- to advice
  • Daam- to put a price/ bribe
  • Dand- to punish
  • Bhed- to find out a weakness.

Suppose you want a child to do a particular task, say pick up his plates after he finishes dinner.

Firstly and foremost technique to be applied is “saam” or advice. Advice the baby on the task and tell him the pros and cons involved. If he understands it he will go ahead and do the task. Well and good for you!

To go with the example, you should tell him that its good manners to pick up your own plates after you eat. If plates are left there they might break or even get dirty. Some insects might crawl on them while we are asleep. And tomorrow you will eat in the same plate as it was not kept in the sink for washing. Which means you will eat a creepy crawly dirty plate. And if you do put your plates for washing you will get a sparkling shiny nice plate to eat in!

If this doesn’t work then go in for “daam” or bribe. Now bribe doesn’t mean monetary bribe. You could bribe your kid with something really tiny like if you put your plates for washing I shall tell you an extra story at bedtime. And I have just heard the best story in the world. this will be enough to get your bub excited to go ahead and do the task.

Even if this fails, then go onto “dand” or punish. You could cut down his bedtime story time if he didn’t listen to you. He might cry and wail when he sees you actually dint tell him a story. But once is enough to make him realize that mommy means business. He will make the connection on his own that if he had kept his plates on his own after dinner, he would have got a bedtime story. You are teaching him a life lesson in one night! So stay strong for that one night and don’t give in!!!

And in the end if nothing works, there is a supreme tactic that just works all the time…”bhed” or find out a secret or a weakness of a person to get your work done. And we, as moms, rule this area. Who knows the secrets and weakness of our bubs better than us?? I could make my daughter do anything if I tell her that I will let her wear her dancing frock and let her do a little dance on her favourite bollywood song. Or if I tell her that I will let her color an extra page today.

You know what makes your baby’s heart skip a beat. Go in for that.

If you keep these 5 aspects in mind, I don’t think that there would be much effort required in disciplining your child then.

You don’t have to be an evil villain when it comes to disciplining kids.

As with most other mothering aspects, its best to keep telling yourself:


Be a polite yet firm MA….be a NIRVANAMA!

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