I had the distinct pleasure of having a fairly in-depth and lively conversation with Dr. Laura on her book’s blog tour. You can also down-load the transcript of the conversation, here by scrolling down to GOOD JOB AND OTHER THINGS.
This is how it came about:
A few months ago, I emailed Dr. Laura:
Hi Dr. Laura,
(some pleasantries)What is discipline, exactly? What would be another word to use instead of discipline? Is there another more accurate word to use?The top google searches tell us that the most common understanding of the word is “training to obey rules through punishment to correct disobedience” and variations thereof. That being the case, I think saying “positive discipline” is like saying light black. It just doesn’t make any sense because black is always dark.However, I know that you are against punishment. I also know that you have explained “discipline” to mean “to teach.” Not surprisingly the Webster’s dictionary says this is an obsolete definition. That rings true to me. At some point it meant to teach, but it now is synonymous with punishment.You write “Here’s how to use discipline that works, so you can get out of the discipline business altogether.”You advocate for “alternatives to discipline” but if you believe it means to teach, you wouldn’t advocate for alternatives, no? Or for people to get out of the discipline business altogether, right? That’s the goal. And I agree. If you use the term “discipline” strategically, as in a way to capture the interest of those who do punish their kids, in an effort to reassure them that their kids will indeed still be disciplined, I can definitely understand that. But is that the case? It seems to me there can be another umbrella word to describe all of the alternatives you talk about.
Alfie Kohn uses the term “work-with” parenting because he believes in working with children, not “doing to” them. And I think implicit in the word discipline, even when used as to teach, still is a form of doing to, instead of working with. I do know that you use the term POSITIVE PARENTING and likely that is your equivalent to his WORK-WITH PARENTING. Would you say the Positive Parenting approach is what you mean when you say “discipline”?
I’m curious about your thoughts on this. I believe it is more than semantic. I believe our language has real power. And I am so grateful for your work, agree with most everything you say and you have helped me so much, but when I see the word discipline, I cringe.
Am I missing something? I am not a permissive parent. I set limits and enforce them. I talk with my children. I explain. I try to understand what drives their behavior. We work things out. But I never discipline them. I honestly don’t know what that means if we’re not talking about time outs, hitting, taking away privilege, consequences etc.
Thanks so much for writing. You are completely right. Discipline actually means to teach, but no one hears it that way. In my book I go into this in detail. The word I use these days is Loving Guidance….
(she goes on to talk about how she’s changed her language over the years)
I have an idea. Why don’t you and I do an interview about this as part of my blog tour when my book comes out in November? Would you like to be part of my blog tour?
Actually it is more a of a conversation. About loving guidance. About setting limits with empathy. About the importance of connection. About how really discipline really becomes besides the point.
Take a listen! Would love to hear your thoughts!
And many many thanks to Dr. Laura for taking this time to talk with me about what I consider THE important topic of our time.