The main goal of discipline is to teach children self-control and remind them that there are natural consequences to their actions: by repeatedly associating an unpleasant consequence to an unwanted behavior, the children are able to learn the difference between what is acceptable and what is not.
In generations past, the rearing of children was stricter when compared to the standards our society lives by today, and most of those children grew into responsible and creative adults.
Today, in an era of psychological expertise aimed at telling parents how they should raise their children, parents don’t know how to act any more. A new school of thought teaches that parents should praise their children for good behavior and not discipline them; because all children thrive on praise and acceptance, if rewarded for the good actions, they will try to repeat those behaviors to earn even more positive attention.
Yet, our youth is not thriving. Juvenile crime rates are rising at frightening speed, and our children are caught in a spiral of self-destruction.
As parents are losing their grip on the ability to keep things under control, and feel that society is promoting a new generation of weeping, uncontrolled criminals, new fundamentalist groups are sprouting like poisonous mushrooms on a field. Michael Pearl, the minister who advises parents to beat their children with plastic plumbing supply line, is only one of the radical advocates of parental rights who, sadly, appeal to the weary and frightened parents who no longer know where to turn.
So, parents ask, is there a right way to raise happy children who will become well adjusted, productive adults?
One of the main things to remember is that our children are being raised in a world dominated by societal and peer pressure, and parental skills are compared to those exhibited by theatrical parents on TV sitcoms. Those forever smiling television parents-always available and never losing their cool-are not real and it is unfair to use them as a scale to measure real life parents, who are weighed down by financial burdens and tighter schedules.
Also, the demands on children are doubling with each passing day, as they are expected to behave like pint size adults in a society which no longer allows children to be children.
If a child is rambunctious, he or she is quickly diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD, and is medicated to numb the excess energy which no longer has an outlet through creative play and physical activity.
In the old days, children were able to go outside and play from sunrise to sunset, and were therefore allowed to use the endless supply of energy that they are naturally equipped with. In today’s world, children are increasingly kept inside and forced to channel their energy into indoor entertainment, often with the result of living their childhood through the virtual adventures of video games characters.
With that said, it is important to understand that discipline is just as important today as it was yesterday, and children need limits and boundaries that will control their natural tendency to go overboard.
There has to be a balance of praise and moderate discipline, so that the child will feel loved, accepted and appreciated, but will also understand what areas of behavior need improvement.As parents, we have the responsibility of maintaining the reins of this balance, if we ever hope to set the building blocks of a functional society.