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Discipline is a parenting tool to show children what is important


Values emerge from a magic mix of limits, discipline and role modeling because children develop a close and trusting relationship with their parents based on an internal consistency between what they see, hear, and experience at home. Additionally, limits and discipline guide children towards clearly communicated perspectives, ideas, and behaviors that ultimately support self-esteem and self-control because these activities help children develop well defined values in which to base their decisions and actions. Parents who wish to raise value-driven children should tap into the power of limits and discipline to achieve their goal.

Discipline is an instrument to evaluate and teach behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs important to the family

To help understand this process more clearly, let’s focus on discipline specifically. Discipline is an instrument to evaluate and teach behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs important to the family. Discipline is enacted to communicate that a child has not met the expectations and limits given to them by their parents. Therefore, prior to discipline, parents must expressively set limits and make them known to their child.

In general, limits:

  • create a safe space for children to maximize their developmental capabilities;
  • are open and free enough to allow them to continue developing;
  • are controlled sufficiently to protect their safety in all aspects (e.g. physical, emotional, social, etc.).

Discipline is necessary when children do not respect the limits that have been set. Discipline is how parents firmly create the boarders of the limits that have been set between what is appropriate and what is not. Discipline clearly defines the boundaries of limits by showing children, from their own example, that they have exceeded what is considered appropriate for the family.

To be clear, it is imperative that parents use discipline to mark the borders of the child’s limits. If not, there really are no limits for the child. Using discipline to control the boundaries of limits helps children feel safe and secure while improving trust and parental respect.

Children do not trust or respect parents who say that there are limits and that there will be consequences if those limits and consequences are not enacted. In these cases, children feel more emboldened to do as they please and know if they push hard enough, their parents will relent and allow them to behave as they choose. This sets the child up for safety concerns and impedes them from learning self-control.

Discipline also supports the parent-child relationship. Children naturally learn and test limits. Discipline is how parents control where limits start and stop. The application of discipline is merely a continuation of limit setting. The internal consistency that emerges when parents set limits and control the boundaries builds confidence between parent and child. Children recognize and appreciate parents keeping their word. It is true that children may not completely agree with their limits or discipline, but they do understand what their parents are trying to communicate when this structure is maintained. This understanding between parent and child is key to establishing a close and trusting relationship.

Differences between discipline and punishment for the education of our children

It is vital to clarify that discipline is not the same as punishment. Discipline is about teaching. It is a tool to inform children that they have not met the expectations of the family adequately. The consequence, which is a part of discipline, is the mechanism to motivate children to change their attitude or behavior. Children are active members in the process of discipline. The goal of discipline is to help a child move to an internal locus of control, meaning that they self-regulate their behavior to fit with the expectations of the family. This ultimately leads to an improved self-control. Parents who use discipline appropriately are able to connect with and motivate their child to take on the responsibility of self-control.

Punishment, conversely, is the enforcement of power to stop a particular behavior as quickly as possible. The power structure is hierarchical and the child has no role in the interaction other than to submit to or resist their parent’s power. There is no focus on teaching in a punishment framework. Punishment is focused on suppression and, most often, fear. This leads children to learn an external locus of control, meaning that they are driven to behave by external factors, such as fear of punishment, rather than internal ones, such as values.

The application of discipline is necessary if parents wish to set limits for their child. Doing so will help parents effectively communicate what is important in their families while also building a strong, trusting relationship with their child. Overall, discipline is a positive parenting tool that helps parents raise happy and healthy children.


© 2018 Deanna Marie Mason

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Tuesday, 12 November 2019

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Dr. Deanna Marie Mason

Calle Téllez, 26, 28007 Madrid
T. +34 912 192 862

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