The fact that the maintenance of discipline in children is as much of a concern in the schools as it is at home supports the perception of discipline as a personality attribute. A disciplined person has enough self-control to cope with any enticement to go contrary to prescribed standards, rules, laws, regulations, expectations or the demands of a particular situation. If discipline is measured on a scale, a person’s score indicates how much he can consistently restrain himself from wrongful acts on all issues of life at all times. If indeed a person applies the same measure of discipline on respective occasions, locations and issues, then discipline as a personality trait is not situational but pervasive.
A parent with a narrow perception of discipline as situational would usually present threats and violence, and commands the child into action without involving his brain and heart. No wonder such threats and acts of violence will be required in increasing measure because the child’s conscience and intellect, he would have relied on to guide future actions, are treated with disregard. Such parents usually present themselves to children as ‘masquerades’ to be dreaded through threats of torture and actual acts of aggression.
I have previously described this situation as that which “reduces the human personality to a debased and pitiable level where love, conscience and rational reasoning go into recession, while sadism and coercion predominantly drive actions.” A parenting relationship where this is obtained is unhealthy and replete with negative emotions. The futility of this wrong disposition is evident in the fact that such parents are almost always seen complaining that their children are stubborn.
The children who are exposed to the belligerent child training approach would usually maintain uneasy calm as long as the aggressors are around, but revert to their true selves once they are out of physical parental control. I heard that a mother fainted on sighting her daughter whom she visited unexpectedly in her school hostel, because she did not consider it possible in her wildest imagination that her daughter would dress so indecently. It is possible that her parenting approach at home was such that her children were shackled into submission on issues they are not guided to have understanding on and belief in. The reality that parents are human beings, and so cannot be with the children at all times, should inform the desire for the discipline that endures.
Is it not therefore obvious that the illusory atmosphere of discipline, achieved with the belligerent parenting approach, would likely have difficulty aligning with the child’s enduring personality traits? Is it then not vanity for one to toil for ‘discipline’ that would vanish when the child is a few steps away? Should we not rather adopt the better approach that achieves real discipline which the child is able to apply on all issues of life at all times as he gradually matures, irrespective of whether or not the parents are present?
Effective parenting is the preferred option for achieving enduring discipline in children because it focuses on properly guided and gradual cognitive development which is anchored on love, patience and good conscience. It should be learnt and adopted fully in all parenting methods and relationships.
- Uchenna N. Nduka