Discipline Teaches Responsibility

The ultimate goal of discipline is self-discipline—the kind of self-control that underlies voluntary compliance with expected standards. This is the discipline that is a mark of mature character and that a civilized society expects of its citizens.

Unfortunately, many adults rely on external methods to “control” children. These include rewards, punishments, lecturing, and telling. While teachers and parents who engage in these external methods of control may succeed in getting students and children to toe the line under their supervision, what happens when the adults is not around?

As one teacher who uses external controls said, “My students are very good for me, but they can be holy terrors when I’m not around.” Research points to the same conclusion: Children subjected extensively to discipline based on external controls develop low internal commitment to good behavior. The real power, the real influence of teachers and parents, is not what children do when the adult is with them; it’s what kids do when the adult is not.

Self-development is most effective if the person is committed, rather than just complying to someone else’s desires. Commitment comes through internal motivation. Internal motivation is fostered in a positive learning environment where people feel they will not be harmed; where they are given choices that encourage ownership and empowerment; where reflection and self-correction are the dominant avenues to growth; and where people learn that appropriate, responsible behavior is in their own best interests. The Raise Responsibility System makes full use of these approaches.