• Discipline

    According to the dictionary, the definition of discipline is a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity. In my work with parents of late, I have found myself having to clarify this definition.  There is nothing inherently negative, harsh or coercive about this definition yet many parents seem to think that to be good disciplinarians, they have to be negative, harsh, and coercive.


    The frustrating aspect of parenting is that it is a long term project.  I think that frustration often leads us to react in loud, finger pointing, ways in an effort to exert “discipline”.  Nothing we do as parents will do much to change anything in the moment.  Everything we do is a seed we plant that ultimately will create the stable contributing, responsible adult we hope for.  


    Discipline does not have to be negative.  In fact, being more positive is more effective.  The most effective tool we have as parents is attention.  Attention is a positive reinforcer.  A positive reinforcer follows a behavior and makes it more likely that the behavior will occur again in the future. When a favorable outcome, event, or reward occurs after an action, that particular response or behavior will be strengthened. So the logic extends, if you pay attention to something you will increase the likelihood that it will continue.  

    So what do I often tell parents to do when it comes to low level noxious behavior?  Ignore it!  But then I get the look and question, “You don’t want me to discipline?” And then we break out the dictionary.  Yes, I want you to discipline.  I want you to use your parenting techniques to send a clear message about what is a good choice and what is a bad choice.  And when it comes to well researched techniques, if you pay attention to a bad choice, you are increasing the likelihood that it will happen again. So sometimes doing nothing is the best discipline you have!  Try it!