Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The D word

I'm posting on this subject because I asked the question below of both Cayley and Lawrence during supper last night, and I was surprised to discover that neither knew the answer. 

This is an unusual result, because most of the teaching that happens in this house flows from Lawrence to me and Cayley, not the other way around.  Cayley's lack of knowledge naturally and understandably derives from her youth.  And I may have had a decade worth of head start on Lawrence, but I didn't grow up in this country, and that leaves me with holes (chasms, actually) in my comprehension of its social and political substructure.

The question is this: 
What is the goal of discipline?

In other words, when I'm disciplining my child, why am I bothering to do this?  What is the ultimate point of it? 

I'll give you a clue: when I search the word "discipline" in Microsoft's clip art library, this is one of only two images I retrieve (the other is a cartoon of a guy yelling at his dog).  But this is NOT discipline - this is punishment, which is a very different thing.
The question came to mind because I read a news story about my home town that greatly saddened me: two more high schools have eliminated school-sponsored dances because the volunteers and staff chaperones are unable to control the kids

Thinking to myself, "This would never happen at MY high school" I checked, and found that my high school actually doesn't have dances any more!  They were cancelled some time ago for the same reason. 

I feel so bad for those kids!  Looking back on it, about 80% of my memories of high school revolve around the dances, which were held at least monthly (I'm remembering every other Friday), and which everyone attended.  Much of the rest of high school was mindless nose-to-the-grindstone stuff not worthy of reflection.  The dances were where we truly got to live and got to know both the other kids and ourselves. 

So we add dances to the growing list of social functions we've done away with, to the vast detriment of society.  What are youth going to do if they don't dance?  Play more computer games and increase their after-dark street swarmings?   

I blame the parents of those kids and note with a chill that I probably went to high school with a lot of those very same individuals, which leads me to ask the question, "What the hell went wrong??"  Sure, there were misbehaviors during our high school years, but they were minor - for the most part, THEY didn't act out of control during our dances, so why do THEIR KIDS act that way now??

I think a lot of it traces back to pop psychologists, flaming assholes who foisted the notion that you should NOT discipline your child using conventional methods that involve the use of force - you should instead REASON with him or her.

What a crock of shit that is!  Trying to reason with a young child is like trying to reason with our dog - it just ain't happenin' because the organism isn't set up to parse that kind of input. True, there is a place for intellectual reason and explanation - but ONLY AFTER control has been achieved over the emotional impulses that are causing the undisciplined behavioral issues. 

A day doesn't go by when I don't see some child pitching a fit in a store while the clueless parent stands there saying gently, "Now, Junior, you KNOW it's not a good idea to do that..."  Does anyone ever see a positive outcome from that effort?  EVER?!?  Of course not! 

So the Microsoft clip art library lacks any representation whatsoever of actual discipline, but one doesn't have to work hard to find a picture of the type of tantrum that occurs in its absence.  This is an indication of where we are as a society.
So what is the goal of discipline? 

Answer the question by following the thread of logic present within the situational example given above: why did the high school dances get cancelled?  Because a large fraction of kids couldn't be controlled.  And why couldn't they be controlled?  Because they had no behavioral inhibitions - they couldn't control themselves.  And why couldn't they control themselves?  Because they lacked self-discipline.  And why did they lack self-discipline?  Because they were never taught its principles by being disciplined as children: you can't impose upon yourself that of which you have no knowledge. 

The goal of discipline is self-discipline.

WHY ELSE would I discipline my child?  To look good in front of my friends?  As a social performance measure?  To get my own selfish way?  To enjoy a power trip?  In response to some rote regulatory framework?

No.  To teach her how to discipline herself.  No other goal is existentially valid. 

Many members of society seem to think that they are giving their kids a "break" from the demands of society by not disciplining them.  It is viewed by many as some sort of loving indulgence, but all it does in the long run is marginalize kids by promoting antisocial behavior.  The sum result of the effort is to make the kids isolated and frustrated. 

My advice: discipline your kids with the appropriate use of force.  Beat the shit out of them if that's what it takes to get the message across.  Follow up by instilling the reasoning behind it, but don't leave out that crucial first step which is the ONLY action that will hijack their immature lack of emotional control.  Ignore the tide of clueless assholes who would judge you for being strict with them - their ilk are among those sitting in Nova Scotia today wondering in abject confusion, "NOW where are my kids supposed to go this Friday?   What am I supposed to do with them now that one more door of childhood opportunity has closed?"

Incidentally, I've never had to use physical force against Cayley; my control was strictly psychological.  She has known since the age of 2 that I stand 100% ready to apply physical force if the situation warrants it, and that knowledge alone was enough to set a boundary that she has never crossed. 

And we are starting to see real dividends emerge in the self-discipline department: she is doing really well in her challenging GT middle school while some of her equally-intelligent but undisciplined peers founder painfully.  The saddest part is, some of those kids don't even know what's wrong with their lives - they just know that they are upset and inexplicably (they think) unable to do well.  Lets hope that those unfortunate children can at least manage to keep control of themselves at this Friday's dance.

No comments:

Post a Comment