Disciplining children is tricky



Saudi Gazette report

AS children grow older and enter different developmental stages, they sometimes challenge adult expectations and authority.

Children often misbehave to test the limits of authority or to gain something such as attention or peer approval. When children act out, they need to understand that there will be consequences to their actions and discipline is the best way to teach them from right and wrong.

Experts say parents should avoid physical discipline as it is often linked to increased aggressiveness, low self-esteem and even depression. Instead, parents should use other forms of punishment that help children realize their mistakes and correct their behavior, Al-Riyadh daily reports.

According to Dr. Mansour Al-Dehaiman, psychology consultant at King Saud Medical City, corporal punishment does not teach children anything except fear of being caught red-handed. The child will be more careful the next time to not get caught making the same mistake. Such punishment teaches violence and makes a child’s personality weak, he said.

“Parents should not use physical punishment to correct the behavior of their children. For example, if a father beats his elder son because the latter hit his younger brother, then the father is teaching his elder son to use physical violence to deal with others. Correcting bad behavior should be done by making the child feel bad for what they did wrong,” Al-Dehaiman said.

“Disciplining a child should not be done by depriving the child of basic needs such as sleep, food and drink or any kind of emotional deprivation. Parents should resist the idea of resorting to physical punishment and should replace it with more effective disciplining methods,” he added.

Some parents abuse their children verbally when disciplining them and studies show that a child will have heard 16,000 swear words and insults from his parents by the time he reaches 16 years of age.

Muhammad Al-Saad said parents should avoid verbally abusing their children as this can negatively affect their personality.

“I believe that verbal abuse and insults can weaken a child’s personality and make the child more hostile toward others, not to mention his emotional growth would be affected negatively,” Al-Saad said.

Al-Anoud Al-Saif, a female teacher, said since children tend to imitate their parents, they would pick up both good and habits they observe.

“If a child sees his father screaming and raising his voice to others, he will copy him thinking this is the best way to deal with the situation. Some parents are domineering and controlling and do not let their children play any role in the decision-making process,” she said.

Al-Saif went on to say that the children of controlling parents often grow up to be weak. They are also more likely to rebel against their parents and do exactly the opposite of what they are told.

“Each child has a different personality that should be taken into consideration when disciplining him. Some children obey their parents if they are told to, while others will have to be disciplined. For the latter, parents need to sit with them and discuss things,” she added.

Dr. Muhammad Al-Kharashi, pediatrics consultant, said parents should be role models for their children and warned against physical punishment and emotional deprivation.

“A child should be warned once or twice when he makes a mistake. If he continues disobeying his parents, he should be grounded or not allowed to play with his favorite toy or game. Of course, each phase has certain discipline methods. The first 10 years are extremely important for shaping a child’s personality. It’s difficult to discipline a child after 10,” Al-Kharashi explained.

“Parents should involve their teenage boys and daughters in the decision-making process as much as possible. Whether a family is buying new furniture, picking a destination to travel abroad or buying groceries, teenaged children should be involved in the decision-making process as this will give them a sense of responsibility,” he added.


According to lawyer Salman Al-Eneizi, corporal punishment is a form of physical abuse and a violation of the Kingdom’s child protection laws.

“Beating a child will always backfire and bring negative results and does not solve the problem. It teaches children to think that it is okay to use violence to handle certain situations. I had once worked on a case of a father who was beating his 5-year-old child. Neighbors lodged a complaint against the father who beat his son to death. The father did not mean to kill his son as much as he was trying to discipline him. Beating always leads to catastrophic results,” he said.