The one area in which most parents seem to have great difficulty is that of discipline. Often parents unknowingly impose negative forms of discipline that have far-reaching effects on Spiritual Darlings. Negative forms of discipline include the use of corporal punishment and psychological abuse, which frustrate children and make them defiant.
The following guidelines offer positive disciplinary codes of conduct.
1. Love and discipline should go together.
2. Discipline is quite necessary as the Spiritual Darlings are innocent and continuously learning, with the parents being their foremost teachers.
3. The most important thing in dealing with your Spiritual Darlings is to practise the art of praise, appreciation and encouragement. Always attempt to be positive, and avoid negative comments about the child. Believe in them, so that they can believe in themselves and emphasize their assets and strong points. Acknowledge their attempts to complete their allotted tasks. Also point out your joy at any improvements. This will help build their self-confidence.
4. Spiritual Darlings want the attention of their parents. Parents must ensure that they get this attention for good behaviour and not for being mischievous. This can be achieved by praising good deeds and ignoring minor faults and mischiefs that are not embarrassing and destructive.
5. Parents should let their Spiritual Darlings face the consequences of their actions (within obvious limits of safety). For example, if the child forgets his jersey let him feel the cold.
6. State clearly the mutually accepted basic rules and the consequences of breaking them. Be consistent in applying the rules. However, if new information regarding an issue becomes available, be flexible and adapt your interpretation to the situation.
7. Parents should strictly monitor the viewing of TV, as a lot of havoc is caused by it. If possible it should be given up completely. In the booklet Solving the Problems of Kali Yuga it is stated how our spiritual merits are lost through bad company, free mixing with the opposite sex, reading books dealing with murder, sex and violence, visiting gambling houses and liquor shops, and witnessing or participating in vulgar dancing, etc.
Parents should also keep a vigilant eye on their Spiritual Darlings to ascertain whether they are associating with bad company, taking drugs, indulging in immoral acts, etc. Many of these habits are acquired by watching TV, or while they are at school. Steps should be taken to counteract these habits.
8. Regular practice of Yoga Asanas, physical exercises and games are absolutely necessary. Spiritual Darlings must be trained to "go beyond the comfort zone". This will develop will-power and physical strength. They must be encouraged to do physical work that is demanding. This will make them tough. Spiritual Darlings should not be unduly protected from rain and sun. This would make them less hardy. If they perform difficult and responsible tasks at home, they will grow strong enough to meet the challenges at school. They will not succumb to peer pressure.
9. Use the power of free and sincere communication and interaction. Use reason to make Spiritual Darlings see and understand their bad behaviour. Teenagers especially feel highly elated if they are consulted in family matters and decision making. This is one way in which to approach the teenager in a positive manner by building his self-esteem and increasing his sense of responsibility.
10. Withdraw certain meaningful privileges if Spiritual Darlings are dishonest or naughty.
11. "Time-out" or a period of removal to a quiet place until the Spiritual Darling is ready to behave appropriately is very effective, especially in the middle childhood period.
12. Ignoring temper-tantrums, especially in the young Spiritual Darling, is very necessary. In this way the parent does not fan the flame of anger and frustration but allows it to die down, after which the parent can speak to the Spiritual Darling and try to understand the frustration that is causing the tantrum. It is a well-known fact that Spiritual Darlings sometimes use a temper-tantrum to gain parental attention.
13. Attention-seeking behaviour is usually presented in the form of negative, destructive behaviour, which often elicit negative response from the parent. Be careful of this and do not react negatively. Ignore the negative behaviour of the Spiritual Darling until he quietens down, and then in a positive and firm manner talk to him and offer appropriate guidelines for acceptable behaviour.
14. In conclusion we would like to state that the Divine Master, Sri Swami Sivananda, was quite firm in the matter of disciplining Spiritual Darlings. Said the Master in one of his poems written about fifty years ago: "Children should not be allowed to indulge in reading novels, attending the cinema and smoking. If they persist in these evil habits make them starve for one full day!"