On discipline

I had a sudden, terrible realisation last night. I am undisciplined.

We’d come home from our wonderful meal and adoption-finding-out chat having nattered on until 10.45. I immediately took to bed with all of the information we’d gathered and pored over it all, drinking it in – the door of wonderous possibility seemed open and I quickly found that yes, there were examples of children in amongst the profiles who I warmed to.

And once I’d read everything, I wanted to remember all the things that had been said (including the name of the adoption agency I had such a mental block remembering) so I quickly blogged it all down (and it worked; Cabrini – see?) and then as I am so wont to do, I got lost in the blogosphere reading some lots of the recent (and not-so-recent) posts on blogs I follow.

Husby came and joined me and we sat quite peaceably, plugged into our respective machines and occasionally passing a remark on what we read.

And it got to beyond 2am…and I knew I had to get up early. And I did much the same the night before. So this morning I staggered out of the house in the knowledge that in the last 48 hours, I had spent less than 8 asleep.

The thought that kept turning over and over in my mind was ‘If I’m undisciplined, how can I ever expect to discipline a child’.

The ‘do as I say and not as I do’ has long been renounced as an appropriate form of parenting (well, as the default method anyway – I daresay we all resort to that pattern of behaviour fairly regularly) but I know that unless I mend my ways and develop a sense of responsibility for ensuring my own wellbeing, I won’t be able to parent effectively. I also set a terrible example to anyone who cares to put me into the ‘role model’ category. Not to mention that my lack of discipline is fairly damaging to my own wellbeing and could have further repercussions.

I know it’s *only* lack of sleep, but that could lead to something fairly tragic if I, for instance, wasn’t properly alert/responsive whilst driving.

Anyway, it’s the principle of the thing.

We don’t necessarily like discipline – we might feel it impinges on our ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’ but actually in most cases the intent is to keep us safe. Certainly we dislike when people are particularly undisciplined with regard to personal habits, cleanliness etc and over-discipline is also recognised as a negative, but I do think that good discipline helps us to recognise boundaries (whether relating to personal safety, social acceptability or anything in between) and understand our responsibilities within the freedoms we enjoy.

So yes, I have the freedom and the ‘right’ if you like, to stay up late and wake up in the morning ‘like a biled shite’ (Husby’s colloqualism – gotta love the Irish) but it is my responsibility to make sure that I am fit to drive (I was in the morning but not in the evening – a friend drove me home where I fell into bed and slept for a good hour or so).

Discipline was a hard pill to swallow in my childhood. Some was good, some was bad and some was a set-up for a damaged parent to vent frustration that couldn’t or wouldn’t be dealt with in any other way. However, there was plenty of it to go around, which I think stands me in reasonably good stead as far as knowing that good discipline is, in fact, good. And necessary – I’ve seen the effects when children receive little or no discipline and they constantly push and push, desperate to find a boundary and some security within it.

I slightly feel that discipline is an uncomforatble topic. Particularly with regard to children. There seems to be a public assumption that if you talk about disciplining a child, this must be to do with smacking – a stalwart topic on the ‘contraversial’ list.

My experience with children suggests that discipline is absolutely necessary but doesn’t need to come in form of corporal punishment (goodness knows the coals you’d be hauled over if you smacked a child whilst looking after them professionally! Instant dismissal and prosecution could easily be the future) and will always require a lot of conscious, concerted effort on part of the adult.

Possibly undisciplined adults find it harder to establish and enforce effective boundaries, and this may be a contributing factor to the societal decline we all seem to see but not understand the advent of.

Discipline requires explanation, in my experience. Children are desperately keen to experience everything, and unless they have been told that the ‘no’ is because something could hurt them or cause damage to another person, they’ll still want to try it. To simply say ‘no’ is like turning children loose in a playground with a landmine in the sandpit and telling them ‘don’t go in the sand’. Even as adults we recognise the rebellion that surges up when someone tells us we’re ‘not allowed’ without imparting any other information, don’t we? What chance do children with their barely-there understanding of ‘consequences’ have?

Consequences do seem to be the way forward. I need to consider them in much more depth before I can begin to discipline myself, for there is little to be gained from being disciplined for the sake of it – there have to be consequences which I either want to increase in occurrence or avoid in order to bother – almost a case of environmental reinforcement. And in any case I need to be consciously aware of the consequences before I can undertake the thought process leading to self-discipline. I mean, I *do* know that if I don’t go to bed at a reasonable hour and am getting up early, I’m going to be tired; I’m not daft, I’m just not considering the ramifications of my actions.

Perhaps the idea that I might someday be responsible for guiding and teaching a little person through my example as well as my words and parenting methods will provide incentive for me to change my ways.

So on that note, it’s nearly midnight, and I’m going to bed.


2 thoughts on “On discipline

  1. You are correct. Discipline is absolutely imperative when raising children. It is important in our own adult lives, too, but in a different way. The days before we had children, we weren't all that disciplined, and we look forward to the day when we can be that way again. But for the season that we are raising our children, we stay disciplined. You will, too, I have no doubt.
    I'm not going to comment on all of your posts, but know that I have read them all and am touched by your honesty and your beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing this journey.


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