Discipline doesn’t mean what you think it does

For some reason, the word discipline is very controversial in our culture. And even beyond the word, how you choose to discipline can really put you under some serious scrutiny. I think I’ve figured out why, and it’s this; discipline doesn’t mean what I originally thought it did.

I looked this word up in Merriam Webster and the 3rd definition was the one that caught my eye. It says ‘training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character’

Think about that. We’re training our kids to develop mentally and morally. Discipline is a positive thing! It’s really about helping our kids, or even ourselves to mold into a better version. Isn’t that what we all want?

Today I want to share with you 3 common misconceptions about discipline, and then I want to share, the truths that I’ve learned.

After writing this, I’ve realized that these truths aren’t just about disciplining in parenting like I originally thought. They are relevant for anyone trying to add some sort of discipline to their lives.

Discipline is proactive, not reactive

When I first began this parenting journey, I was looking at discipline the wrong way. I thought, he does something bad, he gets his punishment. Tit for tat.

But what I’m learning is, discipline shouldn’t be defensive. In other words, the training of my son shouldn’t just be happening when he does something wrong.

I should be encouraging him when he gets it right, realigning him when he gets it wrong, and modeling the correct way for him. 

Teaching and training is a daily thing. Just like we proudly teach our kids the alphabet song, or how to tie their shoe, we also need to teach them right from wrong. 

This isn’t just giving lectures or punishments. This is about all of that and more. We’re teaching them a way of life, and that is going to require constant instruction.

If our training can’t begin until they mess up, we’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities.

It’s about correcting the heart, not about discipling the action 

Picture it. I tell my son not to throw the ball in the house. He throws the ball in the house. 

When this happens, it’s easier for me to dwell on his action, which was throwing the ball in the house after I told him not to. But I think it goes even deeper than that. It’s not just about the ball, it’s that somewhere in his mind, he felt that disobedience was ok. He felt that he didn’t have to listen.

That’s the problem that I want to fix. I want to train his heart, not just respond to his actions.

When I think about all of the situations that my son is going to encounter in his life, it can be a bit overwhelming. But what I know is, there is absolutely no way I’m going to be able to give him a play-by-play of acceptable actions for each one. I can cover some of them sure, but it’s impossible to know everything he’s going to face in his life.

What I can do, though, is solidify his values. If he knows that he shouldn’t steal, whenever he’s in a situation where he is faced with that, he’ll know what to do. If he knows lying is wrong, when he has the opportunity to lie, he’ll know that he shouldn’t.

I’m not under the impression that he’s always going to choose the right thing to do, we’re human. But if he chooses to do the wrong thing, he should know that he’s doing the the wrong thing. That’s the point of discipline.

I think that’s important.

It’s not a dirty word

Discipline is synonymous with training. I think we can all agree that training is a positive word. The point is, don’t get caught up on lingo.

We have to teach our kids right from wrong. We have to instill values in them, and we have to show them what is acceptable in life and what isn’t.

If you think of it in school terms, it’s very reasonable to say, we must teach our children to count. It’s an important skill. One they will use for the rest of their lives in a variety of situations.

Discipline is the same thing. Whatever method you choose, we are teaching them important skills. Ones that they will use for the rest of their lives in a variety of situations.

You are their teacher. And that’s a good thing!

What are your feelings on discipline? Does it have a positive or negative connotation to you?

Well that’s all for this week! Here’s to raising wonderful kids, the best way we know how.

Make life sweet and learn all you can.

(2) Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great words of encouragement! You are exactly right on your analysis. I was teaching a class of teenagers and they told me something I will always remember. They said “Adults always teach us what NOT to do, but not WHAT to do. I always tried to remember that. When raising my family I tried to give scenarios and ask them how they would respond. I would ask my girls “So if a guy did this…..what would you do/ I would ask my son “If you were the father….what would you do? I totally agree that if you train the heart…you are preparing them for any situation that comes their way. All the best as you raise your son. Wink! Wink!

    1. Amie says:

      Thank you, that’s great insight. I’m going to try doing some of those things that you mentioned. Thanks for sharing!

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