Is family discipline necessary?


Discipline is a social control mechanism that consists of establishing norms and imposing their compliance. It is one of the highest values ​​in the military field , where the military must obey the orders of his superiors.

As a verb, discipline has three meanings :

  1. Instruct in a profession by giving lessons.
  2. Whip or impose.
  3. Make keep discipline.

Based on this definition, we wonder if discipline is a necessary element in the education of boys and girls or if, on the contrary, we can do without it.

Rules or discipline?

Boys and girls do not need discipline, understood as an imposition of the rules. In the classic studies on parental styles , in which the different ways of acting in the education of sons and daughters are categorized, it has been verified that democratic styles ( even the indulgent or permissive ones, if we talk about Spanish samples ) are more effective than authoritarian and neglectful styles.

The former are characterized by a horizontal relationship in which more dialogic than disciplinary resources are used to achieve the educational milestones that the family sets out to achieve. The latter are based on a hierarchical relationship and the imposition of discipline, while the permissive ones do not establish any type of control over the behavior of the creatures, although they do offer containment and affection. Finally, negligent styles neither set rules nor offer care.

What makes a good son

Under an authoritarian model, minors and adults are defined as good or bad children and good or bad fathers or mothers based on their ability to obey or make others obey. This has obvious effects on both parties.

In boys and girls, what they can do is externally regulated. Autonomy, security to make decisions, confidence in one’s own judgment, or one’s own perception of competence are not encouraged. Therefore, executive functions and self- esteem could be affected.

As for mothers and fathers, following an authoritarian model implies a shortage of educational resources that involve convincing instead of winning. Teaching to resolve conflicts, reasoning about the need to respect and be respected adapting to the cognitive level of the girl or boy, teaching to name emotions and communicate them to others without violence are slow cooker strategies that require time and patience. .

Obedient or critical adults

In this sense, we must reflect on the type of person we want to educate: a person directed from the outside, whatever the norms, or a person who acts according to the values ​​and norms that they have internalized. These norms and values ​​are internalized through participation in relevant activities of their social group and thanks to the trust placed in them, their ability to experiment and their competence to learn and adapt to the context.

We want quiet and obedient children, but critical and decisive adults. Perhaps they are incompatible desires.

Reflection in the military field

Curiously, this reflection has been carried out in the military field in recent decades, after verifying that the true effectiveness of the organization lies in the conviction and commitment of its members.

This cannot be achieved with mere external “discipline”, but with proper motivation and alignment of individual values ​​with those of the organization (and vice versa), with active leadership that allows space for individuals to express themselves and grow.

A soldier who is only used to obeying orders is not capable of developing his own initiative. Why do we believe, however, that it can work as a parenting style?

What is discipline for?

It is convenient to reflect on the objective we have when we impose discipline. Do we do it because it is easier for us or because it is better for the children? The well-known expressions “it’s for your own good” or “it hurts you more than it hurts me” are discursive mechanisms that justify the repressive devices that adults use to control child behavior.

Discipline is a quick way to get the annoying creatures that run, scream, and make a mess while they eat to stop making noise and feel “like people.” With this we do not mean that the families that follow a more authoritarian model only do it so that girls and boys do not bother; This model can be rooted in firm moral, political and religious convictions , even in attachment schemes acquired during our own childhood.

A different society

In the past, the patriarchs and matriarchs of extended families were an authority rooted in tradition who set the rules and determined how things should be done. Now, in our Western culture, the nuclear family has become independent. However, institutional control mechanisms have emerged, such as schools, psychology, medicine or the media that tell them how they should act and how they should exercise authority over their sons and daughters.

Some experts have pointed out that there is no empirical evidence to show that we are living in a time in which permissiveness prevails compared to other historical moments. There is also no evidence that overindulging is harmful. In fact, research on resilience shows how caring and loving contribute to mental health and good social adjustment. The only parental models that have been associated with difficulties in adolescence and adulthood have been authoritarian and negligent .

Interestingly, differences in parenting styles have been found between different social classes . The families with more income prefer to educate their daughters and sons for independence, while the poorer ones encourage obedience, which could be related to the effects that their future behaviors may have when they reach the labor market.

Like adults, our creatures have the right to disagree with arguments and assertively express their desires, emotions and thoughts, even if they are not aligned with those of the adult, and it is good to leave them enough space to learn to assess when it is convenient to obey and when No.

Author Bio: Beatriz Martin del Campo is a University Professor, Evolutionary and Educational Psychology at the University of Castilla-La Mancha