“Positive” discipline – what is that? Why is it needed? For what?

June 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

What is the whole notion about discipline based on? Based on what kind of presumption?

That we need to be disciplined? That children need to be disciplined? Because it is something in our/their character that needs to be disciplined? The idea about inborn drives “disguised in a new dress”?

Is there maybe really some fundamental flaw in the human nature? Do we need to be fixed? And/or corrected?

These thoughts were triggered by an article I read recently, with a heading that would be something in the style “Subtle border between pressing and supporting” in English, and that the “Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment” also includes “Promoting Positive Discipline”.

The article refers first to the Swedish pediatrician Lars H. Gustafsson who says that children shouldn’t have to realize their parents’ own dreams. And then to the Swedish psychologist Eva Hoff who says that children’s creativity isn’t developed by threats or rewards.

Gustafsson’s advice:

  • Always think well of the child!
  • Respect your child’s integrity, don’t demand full control of the child’s life, dreams or plans.
  • Have rules that are as firm as possible, but show lots of patience.
  • Be mindful of the child’s right to feelings of dignity and value, never use punishment that violates those feelings.

I think I object to what he says about punishment (if he has said this). I would say NEVER punish – ever!

Gustafsson mentions the heated discussion on the net after Amy Chua’s article in The Wall Street Journal, where she writes how strict discipline is the road to successful children and he sees this as prolongation of the debates about nannies and curling-parents we have had earlier here in Sweden.

One day the parents are too lax, the next they are criticized for curling – for smoothing the way for their kids too much. On the other hand current ideas are that children should be drilled hard and play less; parents shall push and have demands hard as bricks on results.

“It’s easy to feel that if my child doesn’t succeed it’s reflected onto me; that I as parent haven’t pushed and supported enough.”

As a school doctor he has seen both extremes: parents who have been pushing their kids too hard and those who have been totally absent in their children’s lives.

“If it’s possible to say something positive about the debate surrounding neo-authoritarian methods, it’s that they indicate engagement. They’re carried out by parents who prioritize their children, who see them as important and want the best for them.”

But he doesn’t like the methods. He says that he has seen so many young people, especially young women, succumb under demands to achieve. He says the risk is that they “walk straight into the wall” (as we say about exhaustion and burn-out).

I don’t like the neo-authoritarian methods at all and don’t see anything positive in them.

“What we see in Japan, for instance, are worrisome numbers of suicides among young people.”

Articles in Swedish about Amy Chua’s ideas here and here.

See another video with Chua here. And here is her home page with her description of how she was raised and from what kind of family she comes.

Addition June 6: Lars H. Gustafsson’s blog. Where he for instance is writing about “Ellen Key and the free play”. She was very critical to that time’s pedagogy in kindergartens, with emphasis on order and dicipline, and detered by the obedience culture she had seen in Germany (and what did that lead to?). Key lived between 1849 and 1926, thus before WWII.

She has been called the freedom’s apostle, and by many considered to be one of Sweden’s most interesting societal debaters.

The American woman Mamah Bortwick came in contact with Key, learned Swedish and started to translate Key, because she wanted Americans to come in contact with Key and here views (in this case on marriages, if I remember right):

“In 1911, Borthwick began translating the works of the noted Swedish feminist thinker and writer Ellen Key.”

They also met.

You can read about poisinous pedagogy here and about The Roots of Violence here.

Gustafsson is also writing interestingly about communication in “Lost in Translation”.

Yes, so true:

“What good fortune for those in power that people do not think”

– Adolf Hitler, as quoted by Joachim Fest.

S. and I visited Taliesin last summer (2010). The last two pictures are from there.


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