Exploring the diverse perspectives of the disciplinary methods aimed at modifying problem behaviours in young children in selected areas in Pietermaritzburg.
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Racial diversity shapes the way individuals perceive the concept of discipline, from the meaning they attach to it, to the different disciplinary methods they apply, to the role they assume in the disciplinary process. Described as a form of love, respect and guidance, discipline encompasses the teaching of values and behaviours. Young children are encouraged to know the rules and boundaries within the home and schooling facilities, making them mindful of the behaviours that are expected of them. In South Africa, the modern child is labelled as technologically more advanced, eager to do more, see more and learn more, and therefore needs constant stimulation. Notwithstanding the impact of race and culture in nurturing a child, technology currently also plays a role, with the study results revealing that the majority of participants denied children luxuries as a method of modifying problem behaviours. Parents and educators approached discipline in various ways, implementing methods familiar to them. The research results revealed that several participants supported the occasional smack on the bottom, arguing that the intent and attitude of a light smack or tap is very different from physical abuse, and demonstrates love and guidance. Many of the participants interviewed were in favour of maintaining corporal punishment within the home environment. Further positive disciplinary methods used included time-out, rewards and praise, a change in tone of voice, and the denying of luxuries. The participants held very negative views on the use of demerits, with a number of participants choosing not to do so. Participants described demerits as demoralising and de-motivating, and claimed that it created a sense of unfairness on the part of learners. The parents, crèche facilitators and Grade R educators interviewed highlighted problems that included a lack of parental involvement in homework, recreational activities, and most importantly, discipline. Emphasis was also placed on establishing a more positive, healthy educator-learner relationship. The recommendations of the study included creating greater awareness through the means of support networks and workshops for parents and educators. These could establish a forum to share information and provide support when dealing with problem behaviours, language barriers and discipline.