Before I became a parent I was convinced that discipline would be one of the easiest tasks of being a Father. After all it was a matter of me laying down the law, creating a loving environment and then determining whether they kids had met my requirements. The reality has been very different and I have that discipline has a much higher calling than merely creating guidelines for my children’s behaviour. Discipline’s purpose is all about finding the potential that lies in our kids and finding the keys that unlock that potential.
Steve Biddulph tells of an experiment was conducted with rats in which they were place in a number of rooms. The first room contained food and a small movie screen that was rigged to operate whenever a lever was pulled. The second room just had food and drink. And the third cage had food and drink but gave the rats an unpleasant electric shock.
Firstly the rats were placed in the room with food, drinks and movies and soon worked out the lever made the movies come on. The rats soon made themselves very busy working hard at the lever pressing it to keep the movie in view. This lead the observers to their first principle: intelligent creatures like to have something interesting to do.
They then placed the rats in the second cage with food and drink but nothing else to do. The rats were content for a while but then started misbehaving. They chewed the walls, fought with each other, rubbed their fur off and generally misbehaved. This led them to principle two: Intelligent creatures will do anything to keep from being bored including things that are self destructive.
Finally they were placed in the room where they could receive the electric shocks. Every time the rats ate they were shocked. To conclude the rats were given a choice between the three cages. What one did they prefer the most?
- The food, drink and movies?
- The electric shocks?
- Only food and drink?
The rats ended up preferring the electric shocks. What do we conclude from this? (that we will do the things that get the most response)
To further back up this point Biddulph tells the following story about an exasperated family trying to deal with their boys constantly fighting. This family was very busy, the father an up and coming professional who put in long hours trying to get ahead. They enlisted the help of a group of psychologists to observe their children’s behaviour and hopefully come up with some solutions.
The boys had their own playroom that was full of soft drinks, had every toy that had been invented at that stage. However the parents discovered that in spite of everything they provided they couldnt stop their boys from constantly fighting. The boys didn’t matter if there were others present.
The evening of a cocktail party was chosen as the time to evaluate the boys behaviour. After the guest arrived and the parents left the children playing downstairs they played quietly for a short time. Soon they began making a lot of noise, but the psychologists noted that it looked more staged than real.
Quickly their father appeared on the scene and began berating the boys for their behaviour. The psychologists noted something that they had never seen in rats, the boys looked chastised except for a curious twist to their mouth. It was named the Mona Lisa smile.
They said that this smile is a secret message from kids that says, I should be feeling bad, and I should look sorry, but I am kind of enjoying this. Parents don’t really understand it but it The psychologists prepared their report which basically said the father needed to spend more time with his sons. The parents dismissed this report took the boys to a psychoanalyst who analysed their dreams for a couple of years with little result. They eventually gave up on this and the father took up golf with his boys and they were miraculously cured.
There are three reasons for most kids misbehaving
- Children play up because they’re bored
- Children play up because they feel unwanted
- Children play up because it gets them noticed
What are the most common circumstances where you need to apply discipline?
- When you are busy
- When they are locked up in the house (our kids love day care)
- When they are left alone
Most of us would possibly say it happens at the worst possible moment. That is why it is important that we ensure that firstly that the problem is not because of their circumstances or something that is not really their fault and secondly that we make the time to discipline. Discipline is not just the immediate response to something that irritates or annoys us. It is all about the nature of our ongoing relationship with our kids. Discipline is perhaps one of the highest expressions of love and one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children.
It is very tough work but allows for the possibility for our children to be able to stand on our shoulders and see just that much further than we are able to. It is through good discipline that our children are able to develop the character that will help them through life’s sometimes difficult journey and allow them to have the resilience to meet the uncertaintities that lie before them. It is the job of parents to provide this platform through the hard work that they put into building these qualities in the life of their children.