Find resources / Articles / Six things babies need – effective discipline

Pregnancy is a good time to start thinking about how to help kids grow into happy adults. The six principles for effective discipline are helpful on this journey.

Relationships and communication

Most people want to be happy and capable, and want their children to grow up to be happy and capable too. Right from the start, early relationships and good communication make all the difference. This is where the six things children need to grow into happy, capable adults helps. They’re also known as:

  • the six principles of effective discipline
  • ngā tohu whānau.

The six things:

  • are based on research from a 2004 report by the University of Otago and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner
  • provide the foundation principles underlying all Tākai resources
  • can be applied to all ages and situations
  • are well worth becoming familiar with.

We’ve included a section on ngā tohu whānau in every Whakatipu booklet, including Te Kākano, so you can share these ideas with parents at any stage of their baby’s growth.

The six things

An overview of the principles (pages 5, 6 and 7). Each short statement describes the basic and most important ideas about each principle.

Principle one: Love and warmth

This is required from the very beginning of life, as it helps build the bonds of trust and love, and positive self-esteem. It’s also a way for parents to invest in their relationship, and makes respectful discipline easier and more effective.

Principle two: Talking and listening

Talking with children, listening to what they say, and giving clear messages suitable to their age creates good outcomes. Expectations cannot be lectured into or shouted at children. Their fear, and the need to defend themselves, will overpower their ability (and willingness) to listen.

Principle three: Guidance and understanding

Children are more likely to cooperate when they understand why we require things from them. Straightforward respectful explanations inspire greater cooperation than methods such as guilt trips.

Principle four: Limits and boundaries

Rules keep things fair and safe for everyone in the family. Rules need to teach mostly ‘what we do’ rather than ‘what we don’t do’. For families who need more support, the clearer the rules are for their children, the more successful the outcomes. But remember, rules need to work for everyone — not just the parents.

Principle five: Consistency and consequences

Consistency involves predictability. Children connect an action with a consequence from an early age. When consequences are applied there is real learning — without suffering. Relationships can also stay intact. The 3 Rs of creating consequences successfully are to make consequences Related, Reasonable, Respectful. Parents need to apply all three if they are to experience success and satisfaction. This method teaches children to put things right.

Principle six: A structured and secure world

This involves two things:

  • Planning ahead to avoid predictable difficulties by, for instance, putting breakable objects out of reach of two-year-olds.
  • Monitoring your own behaviour — children will copy your behaviour. This is called modelling, and is a major learning tool.

On page 9 in module three each principle is expanded on. And there are lots of ideas for workshops.

Tākai Whakatipu booklet Te Kākano – nga tohu whānau (pages 25–34) shows how each of the above principles can be understood for pregnancy and pre-natal babies.

These statements help us understand how the six principles are relevant during pregnancy. The important messages about taking care of the pregnant parent and thinking about the needs of the baby throughout Te Kākano are all reinforced in nga tohu whānau.