Discipline as the Opposite of Punishment

Classic Disciplinarian

Classic Disciplinarian

Discipline, not punishment.

Discipline is always a word with which I had a difficult relationship. It’s Latin-based, and the roots include definitive phrases like “”treatment that corrects or punishes” or “order necessary for instruction.” I think that’s the basis for contemporary understanding of the word—it has become a synonym of the word “punish”. It starts with the “time-outs” and progresses quickly to consequences and punitive measures, often harsh and based on anger and revenge. It’s true—here, look it up.

An advantage of becoming a parent at age 40 rather than 20 is the many years of growth and presumably maturity one accumulates during that adolescent period—for me, a very long and slow one. Along the way, I heard or read or watched someone suggest the the root word of discipline is actually disciple. Anyone (like myself) claiming to be an advocate of strict discipline had best be able to back up their claim. A disciple suggests a mentor, and a mentor needs to be a teacher, an inspiration, and a guide.

I decided that discipline was the the true meaning of the more tired, worn, and misused contemporary word, and that word is: Parenting.

I started to think of what I would have liked if I could be a child all over again. If I could redesign.

I had a great mom and dad, but suppose I could be better—what would that look like? I started designing at sixteen. First thing that popped into my mind was having a guide to the world. An experienced person capable of teaching me everything I needed to know about the world in front of me. Someone who’d “been through it” and could help me understand myself and how best I fit into the world. Someone who understood discipline not punishment. Maybe he or she wears a toga or Socratic robe. Entirely optional, of course.

What I didn’t need was someone telling me what to do and when to do it. I didn’t want someone there only to correct my bad behavior. No need to punish me for every wrong decision or call me out on my ignorance of the world. I didn’t want someone there only for my bad school grades, yet strangely silent during my accomplishments. I didn’t want someone to demand academic proficiency while withholding an education of the world.

We have two chances for a happy childhood, once when we’re a child, the other when we’re a parent.

I decided to have the best, most fun, happiest second childhood I could imagine.

It all begins with the right partner. And that’s a different story.