What is discipline?

What do you think about when you hear the word discipline?  Many parents relate it to punishment and/or anger.

For children, this word is even less desirable because when they hear discipline it evokes memories of pain and discomfort. Just thinking about discipline it alters parents and children emotions, it raises tensions all around the house and it makes it difficult to solve behavior problems.  Using inappropriate physical corrective measures, blurs the line between appropriate punishment and abuse.

However, the word discipline goes far beyond correcting children’s bad behavior.  In a broader sense, this word of Latin origin refers to the methods, the guidance, the application and formation of appropriate habits; including moral issues.  For example, if a child wants to be an athlete and compete in the Olympics, they must participate in a regime of discipline as soon as possible.  They have to initiate a series of habits to enhance their performance, such as going to training, not eating high calories, drinking lots of water, and set schedules for daily activities. If they do so, they can achieve their goal. Positive habits and routines are essential to achieving goals.


That is why when we talk about self-discipline, we often identify it with personal success because it establishes routines to achieve the dreams we have. Thus, this kind of self-discipline is based on a set of principles or ground rules such as willpower, persistence, hard work, diligence and the acceptance of those principles as necessary to obtaining significant and important goals. These concepts have become the key to establishing our discipline and therefore, the purposes we have set out for ourselves.


Speaking of discipline at the behavioral level, it come into play the values and attitudes of the individuals allowing a harmonious coexistence with all members of society. Of course, this is not achieved by chance; it also requires constant and consistent effort. At different times and depending lifetime periods, standards and codes need to be respected.  Some examples could be the use of school uniforms, waiting for your turn to speak, respect for elders, among many.

Applying all of the above characteristics favors a holistic development for children in the short, medium and long term span of their lives.  When applying for a job and they maintain and display the same desirable characteristics such as organization, order, responsibility and respect, they will continue to be successful. To help children develop these habits and characteristics, it is not necessary to use extreme measures.  Those characteristics need to be set by example and they need to go hand in hand with what we say with what we do as parents and adults. If they see the congruence between words and actions, children too will be motivated to do the same.


However, there are times when many children do not obey the instructions given by their parents. Upcoming articles will explain how self-discipline begins with parents and facilitates the development of good habits in children, not only in school but also in nutrition, health, entertainment and interactions with others. Good discipline is more than punishment and excessive corrective measures.  Good discipline begins at home with everyone in the family involved and strengthens the relationship between parents and children.  

By Eduardo Mendez 

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