Discipline Is a Wonderful Word

Although discipline is often referred to as punishment, this is only one of many interpretations of the word. In fact, Dr. Lee Salk, the author of eight books on family relationships and a former popular commentator on social change, domestic strife, and changing family patterns, stated in Familyhood: Nurturing the Values that Matter (p.47), What discipline is not is punishment.  

He continued, “Discipline isn’t a dirty word. Far from it! Discipline is the one thing that separates us from chaos and anarchy. It’s the precursor to good behavior, and it never comes from bad behavior. People who associate discipline with punishment have a shortsighted view of discipline. With discipline, punishment is unnecessary.”

Richard E. Clark, Chair of the Division of Educational Psychology at the University of Southern California, agreed: “Discipline is understood in a very limited way by most educators—How do we get these children to behave?—rather than, How do we support the people in our charge as they learn to channel and direct their positive energy in ways that accomplish their goals and those of their community?” 

The National Parent Teachers Association also agrees. Their publication, “Discipline: A Parent’s Guide,” states, “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 achieve self-control.”

It saddened me when a professor of education told me, “I don’t like the word ‘discipline.’ It’s too harsh; so I use ‘classroom management’ instead.” This “education specialist” is not unique. Many “experts” confuse classroom management, which has to do with teaching procedures and making instruction efficient and is the teacher’s responsibility, and discipline, which has to do with impulse control and student behavior and is the student’s responsibility.

Referring to discipline as a wonderful and empowering word can be a significant step in empowering young people.