A child is born with no certain pattern of behavior installed inside. He is a clean slate. Through his childhood years he is extremely receptive and learns in great speed.
He will learn how to talk in one language or more, depending on what languages will be spoken around him. He will learn to communicate according to patterns of communication he will copy from the environment around him. It is true each child comes with something of his own into this world, but the affect his family has and the society he will grow up in are so great, even part of his character will be molded and shaped by those: How open and friendly he will be to others, how trusting. How generous. The starting point of his beliefs in every field of life will be affected of those around him: The way he will treat people from other races, the opposite sex, his political views, and on and on.
Among those little pieces of information we inhale all through our childhood and are shaped by, comes in the art of discipline too.
What is Discipline for children?
Imagine you want to build a house. You have great plans for how it will look. How many rooms will be in it, the direction it will be facing, the way it will be internally designed, etc. But your house has one problem – it has no walls.
In some sort of similar way we can say self-discipline is one of the basic MUSTS walls of our being. The better your discipline will be, the better you will be able to control, plan and enjoy your inner home, yourself and your life.
I empathize ‘the better’, as I don’t necessarily mean that the harsher self discipline is, the better. I personally believe that self-discipline at its best should be a mix of firm and strong patterns of behavior combined with the ability to be soft and flexible at times.
Throughout our adult lives we face many situations that require self-discipline from us. This inner ability – to meet the tasks we have taken on or assigned to ourselves at work, school and home – is most necessary for us. Even if we are gifted with great wisdom and talent and consider ourselves extremely creative, if we will not study thoroughly and make it to the final test on time, we will not pass the exam and will not become the Doctor, Teacher, Plumber, Lawyer we so wanted to be.
Having exceptional skills or ability is nice, but not enough. Therefore, even if your child has a particularly high intelligence, do not forget that he has a lot more to learn in order to become a responsible and practical adult, and to successfully lead his life to where he wants to take it.
Self-discipline, as well as the perseverance and responsibility that comes with it, are skills we must acquire in order to conduct ourselves properly in life and achieve the desired results that benefit us.
External and Internal Discipline
Internal discipline means responsibility, that is: the child acts out of choice and out of internal understanding and obedience to the laws embedded in him.
External discipline, on the other hand, means obedience to another person, who may be a parent, teacher, or adult sibling, who decides for the child how to behave.
The big difference is that responsibility is taken and discipline is required. Responsibility cannot be imposed but must be taken, while in external discipline we set rules of behavior that the child is supposed to obey.
What expectations do we have of our children: Do we expect them to have an inner discipline that will make them go to kindergarten or school on time? To behave well even when we turn our heads? To brush their teeth without us reminding them, just because they know how important it is?
How do we, as parents, help create inner discipline in our children? How do we make it so that our child chooses to take responsibility?
There is no question that it is impossible to talk about internal discipline without talking about taking responsibility. Self-discipline and a sense of responsibility are built from a collection of actions, some of which are simple, in the child’s life, through which he assimilates the right social codes, behavior patterns and learning habits that will help him in the long run, becoming a self-sufficient adult.
We must always make sure we give our children responsibility that is adapted to their age and their emotional, mental and physical development.
In my nursery the children are responsible to putting their plates away after they eat. At the young age of 2 – 3 they actually love being given responsibility. It is combined with the magical most exciting understanding that I am growing up. We are always so proud of them when they manage to take a responsibility and keep it up.
Sometimes however, I must insist with a child. For instance when they refuse to go wash their hands before we sit to eat. Or when they wish to get up the second they finished eating.
I believe learning patience is also a great virtue and is well-connected to discipline. I teach the children in my nursery patience in many small little ways throughout the day: When we work around the table there are always many children that want to join. They learn to wait while their friends work. They learn to wait for their turn on the swing. When they are old enough they learn to wait patiently while their friends are talking (they all LOVE telling their little stories).
Throughout each day they learn to restrain themselves a little. Some of it they enjoy, some they enjoy less. In the end I believe that they will either learn these life lessons as children from the people that love them, or life will teach it to them. The second option is very likely to be much less kind. Better we teach them.
Hope you enjoyed. Hope you found some ideas in here that might help you a little in this journey of yours. If you wish to leave a comment, please do 🙂
All the best, Nirit