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Discipline is one of the most controversial topics in both education and parenting. Throughout the world, opinions differ greatly regarding the definition of, use of, results of and need for, "discipline." Personal definitions of discipline often come from deep-rooted and emotionally divisive religious and cultural beliefs.
Tragically, these various beliefs have often led to defensiveness and heated conflict. Such strong emotional reactions make it extremely difficult for reason, objectivity, new ideas or even overwhelming scientific research to prevail. The result is a cycle of emotionally damaged children who then grow into insecure and defensive adults unmoved by reason, logic or compassion.
Note: The book Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn presents the findings from numerous research studies on the use of punishment and rewards. Life Skills 101 for Teachers by Norma Spurlock - offers a non-punitive approach to child development.
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|Discipline and Social Problems
Many people point to social and behavioral problems as evidence of a lack of "discipline, " but when they do this they often make the common mistake ofconfusing discipline with punishment.
A thesaurus helps us see that there are many sysnonyms for the word discipline, some having quite a different meaning than punishment. For example, one thesaurus offers us these synonyms:
In order to avoid confusion, it is helpful to use the specific word punishment when that is what is really meant.
When we use the word punishment it becomes more clear that we are not filling many, or possibly even any, of a person's unmet needs, in particular their unmet emotional needs. When we realize this it is easier to understand why punishing people is very likely to actually cause *more* social problems, since people's emotional needs are not being met, or even acknowledged when they are punished.
|Remember that the root word of
discipline is "disciple." A disciple is a
follower, but the best way to get children to follow us
is not by punishing them. The best way is by caring
about them, meeting their needs and by earning
their respect, not
To better understand a child's emotional thought process, it might be helpful for you to think about how you feel when you are punished. What feelings were programmed into your brain's deepest emotional circuits when you were punished as a child? Did those feelings help you feel better about yourself? In other words, did they bolster your self-esteem and self- confidence? Or did they create feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment? Did they ever produce feelings of resentment, hostility or defiance? Did you feel loved, supported, and understood when you were punished? Did you feel helped and nurtured?
Before you decide to punish a child, ask yourself this question: How do you want them to feel? This question though, begs a larger question. What is the goal of "discipline"? Is it to get children to behave according to your (or society's) expectations or is it to help them learn to develop the self-discipline they need to achieve their own goals later in life?
Your child, teen or students' self-esteem, self-concept, and self-worth are all riding on how you answer these questions.
Note: The book Punished by Rewards (Alfie Kohn) presents the findings from numerous research studies on the use of punishment and rewards. Life Skills 101 for Teachers (Norma Spurlock) offers a non-punitive approach to child development.
See also this article by Thomas Gordon
Not Call Punishment Discipline
For all the reasons mentioned on this page, it is strongly suggested that we stop calling punishment "discipline."
As shown by the following Google search, few people seem to be in clear agreement on this suggestion as of Feb 2012
xxx need search data
Consequences-Natural vs. Fabricated
The word "consequences" is often used in discussions of child-rearing. Typically the word is synonymous with "punishment." For example, a common "consequence" for children and teenagers in American homes and schools is getting "grounded" or being sent to "detention".
Such consequences fall under the category of "fabricated consequences." Fabricated consequences are those which are created by someone who has power over someone else. These are opposed to natural consequences, which will occur naturally without the intervention of an authority figure.
Here is an example. If a child regularly hits other children, it can be expected that a natural consequence would be that the other children will avoid him and he will be left with no friends. A fabricated consequence would be to have the child write 500 times "I will not hit people."
Children are helped more when educated as to the likely natural consequences of their actions, rather than being punished by the fabricated consequences imposed on them from above. Only the former may truly be called education.
Here is a quote from someone who sells parenting books:
From Child Punishment article
|See also this article by Thomas Gordon|
Practical Differences Between Discipline and Punishment
From looking at the different synonymns for the word discipline, we are faced with the following dilemma: Exactly what do we mean by the word discipline? Clearly, there is a large difference between chastisement and development, for example.
To help us resolve this dilemma, let's think for a moment what an emotionally literate child or teenager might say if he were asked how he felt after he had been "disciplined" by an adult for some unwanted behavior. Would he say "I feel disciplined"?
He might, but it is very unlikely. Would he say "I feel developed"? Again, very unlikely. It is much more likely he would say, "I feel punished."
Educational expert Alfie Kohn reminds us that regardless of the intent of the adult, what matters most is how the child or teen experiences what is being done to him or her. In other words, what matters is how that child or teen feels. This is what will tell us which emotional needs in his or her emotional bank account are being met, or are being subtracted from. -
To better understand a young person's emotional thought process, it is helpful to think about how you feel when you are punished. As a child, what associated feelings were programmed into your brain's deepest emotional circuits when you were punished? Did those feelings help you feel better about yourself? In other words, did they bolster your self-esteem and self-confidence? Or did they create feelings of shame, guilt and embarrassment? Did they ever produce feelings of resentment, hostility or defiance? Did you feel loved, supported, and understood when you were punished? Did you feel helped and nurtured?
Here is an important thought for parents: Before you decide to punish your child or teen, ask yourself this question: How do you want you child to feel about themselves, and about you?
This question though, begs a larger question. That question is: What is our highest goal?
Alfie Kohn suggests teachers and school administrators ask a similar question. He asks what is most important, to try to figure out
A young person's self-esteem, self-concept, and self-worth all depend on how you answer these questions. Indeed, the future of the world depends upon the emotional health of these future adults.
"Discipline" A Leading Cause of Child Deaths
In the first few pages of his book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman has this quote