Discipline is not only good for children, it is necessary for their happiness and well-being. Discipline is as vital for healthy child development as nutritious food, physical and cognitive exercises, love, and other basic needs. Without discipline, children lack the tools necessary to navigate relationships and challenges in life such as self-discipline, respect for others, and the ability to cooperate with peers.
Contrary to what some parents may mistakenly believe, children who are not regularly disciplined are not happy. In fact, failure to discipline children often results in kids who are unhappy, angry, and even resentful. To those around him, a child who is not disciplined will be unpleasant company, and a child without discipline may find it difficult to make friends.
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Brangelina’s divorce is all over the news. You cannot escape it.
It’s a sad situation for the children. Let’s send them our best wishes and not dog pile on their misfortune.
But, there is an important life lesson here. The news report that, among other things, the parents have sharply divergent parenting techniques: Brad, a son of Mid-Western Baptists, has stricter parenting ideas than Angelina, who is more accustomed to pushing social boundaries. We do not know what happens behind closed doors, but we do know that they had one full-time nanny for each child to take care of the children as the parents jet set to film locations, refugee camps, and other locations to meet professional or social obligations. This does not bode well for the kids.
Who is raising these kids? The parents, or the nannies? Who has the kids’ best interests at heart, the parents or hired hands — be it the nannies they hired or the social workers who are paid by our tax dollars? (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/maryland-couple-want-free-range-kids-but-not-all-do/2015/01/14/d406c0be-9c0f-11e4-bcfb-059ec7a93ddc_story.html. Remember, at the end of the day, the kids’ well-being remain the concern of the parents, while the hired hands leave and go on with their lives, leaving the parents and kids to mend problems.)
Children need routines and a stable home to develop and be happy. Discipline and self-regulation are also important ingredients to their happiness and well-being.
To see what I mean, imagine life without discipline. Let’s imagine you are at a free-for-all playground. The only rule is there-are-no-rules. Kids shove each other to go down the slide. There are no lines. The biggest and meanest kid would simply shove others out of the way when he wants to go down the slide or walk up the slide. How much fun do you think the kids would have at this playground? But, even for the bully, at some point, it becomes boring to simply go up and down the slide. No one would play with him. How much fun do you think is would be for him?
Now, let’s imagine all the kids playing together. They make up rules for themselves and carve out a game where everyone gets a turn on the slide. The game then morphs into another game where the slide is safe harbor for tag. Everyone has fun.
So it is with life. If each of us does whatever we want, whenever we want, it would be chaos. You could not walk down the sidewalk because someone would feel like driving his car on the sidewalk. You couldn’t enjoy the park because people would throw thrash where ever they wanted, and the park would be filthy. People would spit, urinate, and defecate where ever and whenever they wanted. People would steal from each other, and do whatever they wanted so long as the could get away with it. Each of us would have to carry a weapon to protect ourselves the moment we step outside, and be on constant alert for others behaving badly. This would not be a very pleasant life, would it?
Discipline, whether externally imposed or self-imposed, enables an orderly life. Discipline enables us to cooperate with other people for our mutual benefit. Discipline enables us to get along with other people and enjoy each others’ company. (How much fun would you have if an unruly and undisciplined child kept taking your things?)
Below is a diagram I found online about child-discipline. While I don’t agree with everything on there, I like the general idea it is trying to communicate: discipline is necessary for consistency, predictability, security and reward. Without discipline (where everyone does whatever he wants whenever he wants), there would be no predictability, no consistency, no security, and no external reward of friendship, collaboration, kindness, etc.
We used to say “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” The Vietnamese say, “If you love your children, discipline them. If you hate your children, shower them with praise and sweets.” Now, in this age of do-what-feels-good, those lessons of our forebears have fallen to the wayside.
But, if you notice, today’s approach to parenting is really about what feels good for the parent, not about what is good for the child. You see it all the time now. For example, you see parents throwing an iPad at their toddlers to keep the latter quiet at restaurants, in church, etc. That does not help teach the child now to negotiate the experience of dining out, being in church or other social environment. That act simply buys peace for the parents to enjoy themselves. (Not everyone takes this approach to parenting. See, e.g., http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/parenting/what-the-italians-can-teach-us-about-child-rearing/article534265/.)
I set rules and boundaries for you guys because I love you. I limit your screen time because I love you. I bought annual memberships at the zoo, museums, and aquarium; and I regularly took you to those locations, the beach, etc., because I love you. I made you play outside because I love you. It would have been easier for me to let you watch as much TV as you wanted, to give you whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it, to allow you to do whatever you wanted … but that would not have been good for you in the long run. I could have been like your mom and sit and watch TV instead of taking you guys out to your favorite part next door. But, then again, that would be about me, and not about you, right?
Parents who allow their kids to “find their own way”and “discover life for themselves” are lazy parents. Their job as parents is to guide their children. Their job is to discipline their children, and help the children learn to discipline themselves.
I am no longer physically there to help discipline you guys, but I hope I have instilled enough in you during our time together that you can now be self-disciplined. Don’t let your mom’s laziness destroy our efforts. You know what to do, so do it. For example, you know you must do your homework before you watch TV. So, do it. You know if you spend too many hours playing video games, on social media, or in front of the TV, then your eyesight, your social skills, and your physical health would suffer. So, limit your screen time. You know that if you do not floss and brush your teeth well, you will have cavities. So, floss and brush well. You know that if you do not study hard, you will not get into good schools and will limit your future. So, study hard.
I love you, always,