The Process: Discipline of the Child

The fundamental goal of parenting is to teach and assist the child in acquiring quality character traits such as self-control, respectfulness, integrity, honesty, and competency.  These traits do not come naturally to the infant, toddler or preschooler, but through the process of discipline every child will acquire them to some degree.  The word “discipline” is often misunderstood to mean punishment or correction.  It’s true meaning is centered around training, like a runner preparing for a marathon or a student preparing for an occupation.  Discipline is defined as “training expected to produce a specific character or pattern of behavior, especially training that produces moral or mental improvement” (American Heritage Dictionary).   In the context of parenting, the discipline process is comprised of three primary components: instruction, affirmation, and correction.  A fourth component necessary for success is more dependent upon the parents: devotion.

Parents who are devoted will be intentional about the parenting process.  The child must first receive instruction in proper and safe behavior.  Then the parent must motivate and direct the child toward this proper behavior through affirmation (encouragement) and correction.  In the loving rearing of a child, the acts of affirmation should always outnumber the acts of correction, though some correction is always needed.  The compliant child will need less correction than the particularly contrary child.  Children of all persuasions especially need a parent’s love and encouragement.

Application of the Process

Instruction: First, give instruction to your child at an age-appropriate level.  It must be clear and may need to be repeated with younger children.

Affirmation: Encourage your child by affirming his or her proper behavior with words and actions.

Correction: With any misbehavior, first judge your young child’s intent or motivation, then correct:

If Accidental: Forgive and teach.

If Innocent: Express disapproval and teach.

If Intentional disobedience: Express disapproval, teach and impose consequences for correction.

Examples of Discipline at Each Age Group