Discipline means to teach...

There is an ongoing debate about whether children of this generation are being disciplined enough to positively effect their behaviour. Most parents that I meet will tell me that they feel that their child needs to be disciplined more both at home and school and this is the reason they cite as to why the child is misbehaving.

What I have realised is that when some parents are talking about discipline, they sometimes have in mind what they may have experienced when they were being brought up. In lots of cases including my own the discipline that was being dished out from the older generations was characterised by harshness and criticism and in most cases it invloved some level of physical chastisement. The belief is that those forms of discipline were more effective as children were not as rude and were more easily controlled by their parents. There is also the belief that "It didn't do me any harm' and so my child should receive the same.

On closer examination of the word 'discipline' you will find that the word comes from the root word 'disciple' and this word means 'to teach'. This means that whatever ways that we choose to discipline our child will teach them something about the world. With this in mind then we must think about what we really want our children to learn from our discipline strategies. Do we want our children to be taught to be fearful, aggressive and quick tempered or do we want our children to be able to regulate their emotions well, be respectful, display self-control and the ability to problem solve?

Discipline therefore should not be the same as punishment and should not inspire a sense of fear and humiliation. If we examine many past discipline practices of the past they really should be classified as punishments, and in many cases left the child involved feeling fearful and or humiliated. In tandem with this many of the parents who used these practices with their child were left feeling guilty for having subjected their child to the punishment in the first place and relationships between the parent and child was mostly damaged. To test out the truth in this we only have to ask ourselves if the harshness, criticism or physical chastisement we may have received when growing up had a positive or negative effect on our relationship with our parents.

For many who grew up in this climate of harsh discipline they learned to avoid doing the behaviours that caused them to be punished in front of their parents but would probably still repeat those same behaviours when their parents were not around. Therefore we could argue that punishments taught many children to hide their wrongdoing but not positively change their behaviour.

Our goal for disciplining our children should surely then be to help develop in them better character traits including things such as self-control, management of their emotions, and problem solving skills. If what ever form of discipline we choose does not promote these types of traits then we have to ask ourselves what are we really teaching?


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