Using Discipline as a Teaching Tool
One of the primary tools that parents struggle with is the role of “discipline” in child rearing. When an unruly child is observed in a public place, one might overhear someone saying, “That child needs some discipline”. Too frequently adults see discipline as somehow synonymous with punishment. In exploring the meaning of the word discipline, the word itself comes from the same Latin root word as “disciple” which translates as “to teach”. Teaching and punishment, therefore, look somewhat different in practice.
Teaching in early childhood begins early in the form of meeting the needs of infants. As the different cries are deciphered and responded to, we, as adults, are teaching the infant that an adult will always take care of his needs. This very basic act assists the child to build trust in its caregivers.
Discipline occurs in early childhood throughout adolescence as the adult caregiver models appropriate behavior for the child. How to react in a public place, how to interact with friends, teachers, co-workers and intimate partners are all being taught, even if no words are spoken between the adults and the child.
A child/youth identity also comes from discipline. If a child/youth observes that his mother’s tone of voice is warm and friendly when she answers the phone but her voice is irritated and disparaging when talking to the child, the child/youth learns quickly that he/she is not worthy of the same warmth that a stranger on the other side of the phone line is given.
Discipline also requires assisting a child in understanding that there must be balance in all we do. There is balance in nature as well as a need for balance within ourselves. Balance teaches a child that it is acceptable to do things for ourselves but also for others. This type of teaching assists the child to grow away from the notion that he/she is the center of the universe.
There is a place for discipline within child rearing just as there is a place to reward positive behavior. It has been said that the twin pillars of justice are reward and punishment. The hope is that the more discipline a child receives from having his needs met early on, the modeling of adults in appropriate behavior, a sense of warmth and worthiness on the part of the adults in their life, the less they will need in the form of punishment.
Tags: balance discipline with reward an punishment, discipline as a tool for learning
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
- Dorothy Molczyk, LMHP LADC, provides individual, family and group therapy at Wholeness Healing Center. She is experienced in serving children, adolescents and adults. Her areas of specialty include substance abuse/dependency, healing from traumatic events, recovering from loss, and behavior disorders in children and adolescents.
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