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Discipline and Boundaries for Children
We live in a sick world when some people confuse discipline with child abuse. We, in fact, live in a world that wouldn't have come as far as it has without disciplining its children for as long as it did. We would be in a chaotic anarchy of neurotic, paranoid, egotistical, self-centered, destructive, violent people. Oh. Wait. We do live in that type of world. Whoops!
Science? No, common sense
All the facts that I will speak of here have been researched and written about, but I'm not going to bother quoting a single research paper or child psychology website through this essay. For me this is a matter of common sense, even though, I insist, it's been researched extensively already.
Discipline is an excellent form of education. You heard right. It does have nothing to do with punishment, it is a mechanism for a child to learn rectitude in conduct, to learn that there are things in his grasp and things outside his grasp, to learn that actions have consequences, to learn that not all individuals think the same way he does and consequently he must not expect his behavior to always be accepted or acceptable.
Feeling secure and being cared for
Recent studies prove that children who have conduct boundaries (e.g. go to bed after dinner, play with Nintendo only 1 hour a day, wash their hands before sitting at the table, you get my drift) and are disciplined when those boundaries are trespassed feel entirely more loved and cared for that children who don't have a single boundary and are never disciplined, or only disciplined randomly.
There is a simple reason for this, and you don't need a psychology degree to understand it: Having one's parents "watching over you" is a sign of attention and interest. Children perceive being watched by parents as being under a wing. This is a trait shared by most animals, not exclusively human.
Lack of or random discipline very often goes associated to children's feelings of unworthiness and neglect. Children from such parents perceive, even thought they don't have the mental mechanisms to understand what/why yet, that they don't matter to their progenitors, who don't care enough to worry about them or discipline them when they do things they aren't supposed to do.
Random discipline often points to parental stress, frustration or other factors that hardly ever relate to the child and are strictly linked to the parents' state of mind. Lack of discipline is a dark reflection on the parents', not the children, lack of values. Parents who have no clear values can hardly teach them to their children.
Children actually suffer from lack of discipline, primarily in their tender years, but the disorder concerning not having clear boundaries can and is usually carried forward into teenage years and possibly into adulthood, bringing on a new generation of dejected, unloved, uncared for children.
Clear, consistent, and objective
Those were Paraglider's words in his comment to Shalini's essay. I couldn't agree more. In other words, this means the kid understands that it's not a random act of annoyance or a sudden occurrence, but a persistent message.
What nobody ever says in reference to discipline is that it's just an extension of raising a child and, let me tell you, raising a child is a seriously tough business that, fundamentally, requires a lot of discipline on the parents. Ironic, I know, but that's the way things are. When a parent wants a kid to learn something, he must exercise discipline within himself to take the time to explain it clearly, consistently and objectively.
If, for example, the child is jumping up and down the armchair and the parent doesn't think this appropriate, then he must tell the child to stop at once, and explain why. When the child does it again, the same explanation is due and the same repression of the conduct must ensue. If, say, the parent came back really tired from work, saw the child jumping up and down the armchair but thought, "damn, I'm too tired for this now", the child will be first very confused, and subsequently very frustrated and likely hurt when next time it happens his father spanks him.
The child won't have a clue what is expected of him, so clarity, consistency and objectivity are very important to transfer the message.
Discipline gone awry
After generations of discipline being the most natural thing in the world, the world reached a counterpoint of "live and let live" culture, where discipline started being frowned upon as coercing the child's freedom and not letting him express his "true self". Some parents that had grown under the blanket of maybe not too adequate discipline (not clear, nor consistent or objective) seemingly decided that they didn't want to impose that kind of "mental cruelty" to their offspring. That, I believe, was the beginning of the end to common sense.
Instead of adopting a clearer message with their children, that generation around the late 70's and early 80' and most after simply disregarded the message completely and let their children run amok, without guidance nor care. Which brought us to today's world where spanking a child when he's pissed on the foyer on purpose can be considered as child abuse.
There is no mystery to that, in my opinion. Those who are even proposing such a concept, spanking as abuse, are as clueless about discipline because they probably had none, they are kids of the "live and let live" misleading approach and probably have little thugs for children and think it's the most natural thing in the world.
End of rant. But will likely come back to review. Maybe add some photos of me spanking someone.
© 2009 Elena.