We must all suffer one of two things:
the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.
‣‣‣ Jim Rohn
Discipline, from the same latin root word as ‘disciple’ meaning ‘to learn’, is focused on a vision for the learner growing and developing in and towards maturity.
The process of discipline is to help a child to learn … to understand, adopt and live by a set of values so that her character is shaped rather than her behaviour merely controlled by an external influence.
Discipline is when parents, teachers, family and carers partner up in the care of a child and share a vision that one day a self-disciplined adult will emerge. In a disciplined child there will be a growth in understanding and an increasing responsibility for the helpful and healthy behaviours in her life. This also means that child making choices on the basis of a set of understood and adopted values. She will be motivated to keep them for deeply personal reasons.
For example, a community demonstrating a high commitment to preserving the environment, fair trade, sustainable development, renewable energy and clean technology would be said to have ‘green’ values. This would also indicate a deeper respect for our planet and life on it; even a love for it. For a child in that community, the goal of ‘green’ discipline would be for that child to acquire those characteristic qualities, attitudes, practices and the deeper underlying motivations which are consistent with those of the mature ‘greenie’.
Such qualities and practices are not easily or naturally developed. They must be gradually learned. This process requires guidance & help for the parent and the child as well as for the community around them. Discipline is a positive process rather than a negative battle. This is true only if the focus is kept on the desired values, attitudes and behaviours to be nurtured.
To manage takes in the idea of ‘handling a situation, taking care of something/someone and making decisions about’.
There are times and stages of a child’s life when a process of discipline is either not possible or will take an extended amount of time to establish.
While the processes of discipline unfold, it will be helpful to consider:
- Each child is different. Any process of discipline will be dependent on age, personality, capacity and ability.
- With very young children, management of all situations is key.
- Sometimes ‘life happens’ for us adults and getting through the hard stuff is hard stuff. Sometimes we are left with neither the capacity nor the will to discipline a child. Just do what is necessary to get through the next 10 minutes.
- Management means to make all the plans necessary in order to handle one small step at a time; get through it; and to care for yourself as much as you care for your child in the process.
- Help is often needed to manage a situation well. Work to find the help you need.
- Even when a process of discipline or learning is not appropriate in the moment, management of all situations is mostly necessary.
- Sometimes the option to bring parental influence to a situation is limited. Life with a severely disabled or incapacitated person is largely about managing the situation for the benefit of everyone.
Containing the Latin ideas to ‘counter-roll’, control emphasises the parent/adult/teacher maintaining attention and focus on themselves, their agenda and their regime of fear or power. “Do this or else!”
Appropriate controls have to be exerted in times of danger. No time to talk discipline when a 2 year old is about to step onto a road without looking. Control is best when there is agreement with the child as to what these controls may need to be to either manage a situation well or to learn a discipline. There is a better chance that such agreements will lead to self-control.
- Discipline is focused on an adult’s agenda of the learner growing and developing in maturity.
- Control emphasises the parent/adult/teacher focus on certain needs in the present moment.
The integrity test
- Discipline helps a child grow in their ability to work and relate apart from specific directions from the teacher/parent.
- Control is evident when a child or group of children respond only to the parent’s/teacher’s directions. This is indicated at those times when the control is ‘off’ and the child or children run ‘out of control’.
- Discipline helps a child to understand what is right and how to choose to do it because they value it for themselves.
- Control is experienced as a force or pressure to conform to a set of values.
The meanings of words shown above indicate that ‘punishment’ IS NOT ‘discipline’. Punishment usually means to inflict pain or penalty on a person for misbehaviour. The word ’punishment’ is derived from the Latin word meaning ’pain’.
There may be some aspects of a great discipline tool that may involve some bad consequences that are ‘painful’ but this is only a small part of a much bigger picture.
The words ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ are used interchangeably when the only discipline tool one has is a hammer and everything and every situation starts to look like a nail. This does not ultimately help a child to ‘learn’.