On the Issue of Teaching the Child

I keep getting a constant question, ‘So how do I teach my child to behave? How do I teach a child to be disciplined without shouting, yelling and flogging?’

Some go as far as telling me that it is not possible, that children who don’t get this special treatment of the yelling and shouting game, not to talk about the use of the cane wonder of wonders, will become rotten to the core!

Not so true.

But before you start saying this woman with her ‘Stop using the cane’ agenda, that is not what I want to concentrate on today.

Let us deal instead with what we teach our children first, how we do it and how this feeds into how to teach discipline, and most importantly doing it effectively.

Please note the following:

  1. We have an obligation to teach our children how to live life to the full as responsible members of society. They must learn what is culturally and behaviorally acceptable. At the end of the day an education devoid of the above is a failed system! 
  2. Children learn what they live, what they see lived out around them, not what you say! We know this don’t we?

Therefore to teach a child you must watch what you are doing around them!

The child is always learning. Beware they are watching and learning all the time. So do not tell them to be good and you are not. You are their role model.

When we shout and yell, ask yourself, are you in control or your emotions?

I know it is my emotions and most times I would say things I did not want to say in the heat of the moment. This shows further that I really was not in control at all! What is said may be condemning, criticizing or negative.

(This is why I prefer not to say anything to start with when I am faced with an annoying situation, I may walk away, I am not being rude, the rudeness would have been what I would have said if I did not move! – I do loose it occasionally though. )

On the other hand if we spend all our time pointing out the faults in what a child does then we end up creating a negative world around the child! They see everything from the point of view of what is wrong in each situation not from what is right!

Beware, be very careful! Remember the child is always learning.

It is as simple as seeing a glass that is half full or half empty, both view points are looking at the same glass, but the perspectives are poles apart. If the negative is the constant in the life of a child then the outcome may not be impressive as the child grows into adulthood.

  1. A child that always listens to negative comments about herself may end up feeling inadequate.
  2. The child may develop low self esteem.
  3. Criticism feeds the child’s mind, telling her that she is bad and not good.
  4. Children take what we say seriously, they take it to heart, they take it as a personal attack on themselves.


This is simply because what she hears is not the correction, but that she is a bad girl? You must always ensure that the child understands that it is their behavior and not herself that is unacceptable.

Consider this:

Labake is 7 years old, she is carrying a glass of water to the table, she bumps into a chair and it falls out of her hand. Splash! Mum who was standing by, shouts at her,

‘Labake what is wrong with you, you are so clumsy! Aha! Even your junior brother would not make such a clumsy mistake. Come on go and get the mop o ja re!’

What do you think Labake is thinking or feeling?

What about this:

Chinedu was playing outside with a ball and suddenly Dad hears a crash and he walks into the sitting room to find that the ball has gone through one of the sliding doors!

He takes a deep breathe and says to his 10 year old,

‘Chinedu, you see why we have the rule: Don’t play ball near the house?’

‘Yes Daddy, I am so sorry, it wont happen again’, he is already in tears.

Dad says to his young son:

‘Yes, I know it wont happen again, because I am going to make a call to find out how much it will cost to fix this so you can calculate how long it will take you to pay for the repairs from your pocket money.’

Chinedu, looks at his dad in shock, then his shoulders sag as he realizes the great consequence of not following the laid down rule.

His dad watching, sees that the message has been received and lesson is taking root, he says to his son:

‘Let’s get a broom and clear this up.’

As they go to the kitchen together he says:

‘This reminds me of when I broke the window of our house when I was a child just like you, and your Grandpa made me pay for it. That was the first and last time I ever made a mistake like that.’

Chinedu’s face lights up,


Now Dad uses this story as a teaching moment for Chinedu.

Which of these parents has been able to teach the child a valuable lesson without breaking the child’s spirit or self -esteem?

Let’s take a pause and learn to break the cycle of yelling, shouting and criticism.

Now this is also important, if you are always criticizing your spouse in front of the children, you are asking them to take sides! If you do the same about your parents, in-laws and siblings you are putting your children in the middle of adult conflicts! Yet we are expecting them not fighting their brothers and sisters!

Beware, children learn from our example not from what we say or tell them to do.

So in conclusion:

Accidents do happen. Don’t lose it, instead let them learn through your calm response, use it as a teaching moment, let them make the connection between what they did and what happened, and what they need to do to make it right.

They will learn that it is not them but their actions that was wrong. They will also learn that their actions have consequences.

Remember that continuous criticism is bad for the soul, instead give credit for their efforts, I was taught a long time ago, that in order to correct a person effectively you need to give 10 credits for every correction you make. Tall order right? But it works. Try it and see what magic this technique will inspire around you.

So to teach a child not to condemn themselves or complain about situations you must keep the atmosphere positive, focus on the solutions and not the difficulties and the disappointments.

This is the beginning of how to teach your child to grow right

man wearing white dress shirt with black necktie
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com



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