The current headlines from the worlds of sport have brought
our whole culture to a point of questions regarding how discipline our children
and how discipline ourselves. Make no mistake, those two concepts are
intrinsically related, so it makes sense to view both concepts in this light.
The entire reason that an adult may use physical discipline may be wrapped
around the idea that that adult has an undisciplined mind.
First, let me start by defining discipline, in my own words.
Discipline is practice to become better at an activity. Martial arts are a
discipline. Zen meditation is a discipline. Professional sports can be a
discipline. To succeed in these areas, one needs to work at them on an almost
spiritual plane until they become second nature. Until a body can perform these
tasks without thinking. By using the word discipline about our children’s
behavior, what we are really teaching is the idealization of a certain
Idealizing a child’s behavior, like rewarding being a good
listener or a kind act, teaches children that this type of behavior is the
ideal. Listening to a teacher, being kind to your friends, sharing your toys,
working hard until you get an answer to a problem…these are ideal behaviors
that we try to instill through discipline. So what happens when a parent uses
more physical ways to teach this discipline?
It is not OK to willy-nilly beat on your children. That is
in no way what I would ever condone or say. However, there is an aspect to
physical discipline that some parents still use effectively, and it does not
come out as often as you think. By using physical discipline, you are saying
that the behavior your child committed is so far out-of-bounds, there needs to
be an immediate physical reaction to counter the out-of-bounds behavior. Where
the perpetrators of physical discipline start to abuse their children is when a
child’s smallest action becomes worthy of being “disciplined”. There is no
learning that can take place when a child is afraid to cross a parent.
I love the word “discipline” because it denotes what you
really want to accomplish as a parent. Disciplined behavior is learned,
practiced, and perfected behavior. When an adult can behave in a disciplined way,
this can teach your child much more about proper social behavior than any butt
slap or scream. It is really hard to do this, which is why parenting is a
“discipline” like a martial art. You have to constantly practice to get better
Don’t fear, new parents and struggling parents. Everyone
goes through their parenting in their own way, and you will find your path.
Just remember that if you want to discipline your child, remember what the word
actually means. Help them practice the right behaviors; don’t just punish their
bad behaviors. Have a disciplined mind and a disciplined approach, and you won’t
have to discipline your child as much.
Labels: Discipline, learned behavior, Parenting, Punishment