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Spare the rod and spoil the child. Discipline and punishment – is it the same thing?

Spare the rod and spoil the child. Discipline and punishment – is it the same thing?

DISCIPLINE is arguably one of the most difficult and ‘dangerous’ concepts since just about every professional -ologist, learned tutor, liberal parent and educator would jump on their hind legs, ready to defend their ‘exclusive right’ to have the last say on this word.

However, discipline is required in all extensions of learning, of organised activity, knowledge, study, observation, authority and the self. Discipline is not the lone lien of the teacher, parent or minder, but each one of us has the responsibility to uphold the norms and standards of the society we live in, for the good of all.

However, parents and minders would, certainly, immediately react to anybody who would dare to speak out against unruly behaviour of an offspring and, naturally, they would believe that it is their prerogative to defend their brats.

Nowadays, teachers and minders are cautioned by law to exercise extreme control in disciplinary actions so as not to aggravate an incident where a scholar or pupil must be called to order. And speaking of law, parents also, are to exercise utmost caution and restraint when chastising their under-aged and arrogant minors who even have the right to lodge an action against such a parent.

Every little, and even not so little, scoundrel or delinquent is always the parents’ complete charge and responsibility!

So…., let me immediately retract my grievance about the rightful responsibility of parenthood, and instead focus on self-discipline, which indeed widens our scope of being offended by others, including miscreant children.

Discipline of the self should be our everyday motto to attain and practise a way of life that will lead to fulfillment, happiness, joy, achievement, success, doing what you know to do and doing it. This is not an easy happy-go-lucky existence but is a trained, necessary and improving process and skill to create a life of freedom from the wicked and unsustainable purposes of harmful, degrading and destructive attitudes which history and hindsight have shown us, reside in all human beings.

Except for some exclusive sectarian religious cults, and non-believers who preach that a baby is born without sin, all mainstream religions and likeminded, accept the notion that man has an inborn inclination to sin and wrongdoing, and for the grace of God or Spirit, human beings must constantly counteract and be aware of this innate malice, to achieve a life of inner peace and tranquillity. Discipline is, therefore, an act of kindness and caring rather than punishment.

Animals, other than humans, act and react only on instinct and hunger and have no necessity to exercise their right of space and place except for their strength, cunning and ability to protect their own. Even the majestic lion is at peace with all around him and only comes into action when hungry, defending his territory or safeguarding his clan’s existence.

Even the antics, playfulness and annoyance of his young are controlled by ignoring them, slightly moving or turning away, growling gruffly, and only as a last resort, giving them a slight whack with his paw which sends them scattering.

I think this observation of natural behaviour provides a tangible clue that discipline and punishment are two opposite concepts, but with the same result: teaching, learning, coaching and achievement!

Richard S.


About The Author

Richard S

Richard S. is a retired business manager. His career of more than 40 years took him from clerk to director of international programme marketing in the television broadcasting sector. During his career he has witnessed several large-scale transformations, first in radio services, then in television programme procurement and TV scheduling and presentation. He also successfully tried his hand at retail business and property development. He is a pre-digital professional but has lately adopted some of these new technologies although he is reserved about their application and functionality. He believes that digital is only in its infancy but that in the future intelligent design age it will still become the only form of public communication. He lives with his wife in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was educated at the University of the Free State and of Natal.