How many times have we heard that discipline is the magic intervention to fix everything that is wrong? Whilst I believe that there is some truth in this idea, it is my contention that many of us fail to understand what discipline truly is. I write this blog today, because I want to make sure that we all clarify that discipline does not equate physical punishment. In my experience, I find that many use the word ‘discipline’ in a context where children should be given strict demands to which they have to abide rigidly. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for people to suggest that failure to abide by such rules should be punished, even corporally.
The problem is that we often use this word to legitimize authoritarian parenting, which is a style of parenting which is characterised by rigid demands, with low emotional response towards the child. Essentially this would mean that the child must obey what the parent says. However, discipline is about moulding characters and teaching self control into acceptable characters (Papalia et al, 2006). Discipline is about teaching children morals and rules. It is about talking with children about their mistakes and giving them the opportunity to reflect upon how to make it better. Discipline is about advising children about their wrong doing, with the intention to learn and grow. Discipline is much less about having the parent have their way, but it is essentially about supporting the child to develop.