Reprinted with permission of the
National PTA -- 1993
To many people discipline means punishment. But, actually to
discipline means to teach. Rather than punishment, discipline
should be a positive way of helping and guiding children to
a positive way
of helping and
children. . .'
Why children need
You, as parents, are your child's first
teachers. Disciplining your child may be
difficult, so understanding the reasons for it is
For protection - - Often parents
discipline children to protect them from danger.
A parent may teach a young child not to touch the
hot stove by removing her from danger while
saying "No, no, stay away. The hot stove
will burn you and it will hurt!"
To understand limits - - Discipline can
help children understand limits and learn
acceptable behavior. A 6-year-old learns to take
turns in class because the teacher and students
have set rules for how to behave.
To get along with others - - Discipline
can help children learn to get along with others
and develop self-control. A 12-year-old reminds
her friend of a school rule that helps them both
avoid a conflict.
The purpose of discipline, then, is to
teach children acceptable behavior so that they
will make wise decisions when dealing with
Discipline is not the
same as punishment
Studies have shown that physical punishment,
such as hitting and slapping and verbal abuse,
are not effective. While such punishment may seem
to get fast results, in the long term it is more
harmful than helpful. Physical punishment can
discourage and embarrass children and develop low
self-esteem in them. Some experts argue that it
also promotes physical aggression in children by
showing them that violence is acceptable and that
"might makes right."
Instead of using punishment to correct
behavior, children need to learn what behavior is
allowed and not allowed and why. Parents should
stress dos rather than don'ts.
An example of positive discipline would be
telling your son, "Please pick your clothes
up off the floor because I have to vacuum in
here," rather than saying something negative
like, "Don't throw your clothes on the floor
- such as
- are NOT
In school, as at home, the most effective
rules are those decided upon by everyone:
students, teachers, administrators and parents-and enforced by