What is the Definition Of Discipline?

The root word of discipline is ‘disciple’- a follower or believer of a teacher. The definition of discipline then, involves learning. Childhood discipline is about teaching and training, not about pain, blame, shame or humiliation.

Jane Nelsen, author of the series of Positive Discipline books (Positive Discipline, Positive Discipline – The First Three Years, Positive Discipline for PreSchoolers, Positive Discipline for Teenagers, etc) states in several of them ‘Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, we first have to make them feel worse?

Children DO better when they FEEL better’. This is true for children and for adults as well. All people do better when they are encouraged, not discouraged. By virtue of the definition of discipline, we should be using age appropriate discipline and we should be teaching, not hurting.

The Positive Discipline books are based on the theories of Alfred Adler and a student of Adler’s – Rudolf Dreikurs. Adler believed in a philosophy of discipline which very much relied on treating children as we should treat ALL people - with dignity and respect. Dreikurs applied Adlers’ theories on how to dicipline children in his book ‘Children the Challenge’ which was published in 1964. He also applied these principles to positive discipline in the classroom, for use by teachers.

Jane Nelsen, in her work, has added to these theories, helping millions of parents and teachers to incorporate age appropriate discipline with children in their homes and schools.

Childhood discipline is often not so much about what a parent does, as how he/she does it. Adler’s (and Nelsen’s) philosophy of discipline involves being both kind AND firm at the same time. The research on discipline calls this discipline style, authoritative. Positive Discipline incorporates kindness, love and empathy as well as teaching limits, structure and guidelines at the SAME time. Thus – kind AND firm.

Within this framework, there are lots of discipline ideas that are respectful of children while still teaching them how to ‘be’ in the world.

The research literature as mentioned earlier calls this discipline style authoritative. In the Positive Discipline books it is often referred to as democratic.

We feel that the term democratic embodies what this philosophy of discipline is about – modeling a true democracy. Children, as well as parents, have a voice and are treated with dignity and respect, while still being engaged in understanding guidelines and following rules. The result is children who, as they grow into adulthood, are developing the qualities of respect and empathy as well as the life skills of responsibility, assertion and problem solving.