“Discipline vs. Punishment”
Julie Jenkins Sathe
Author of “ENLIGHTENED DISCIPLINE”
I walked into the room and heard a teacher say, “So, I know you don’t believe in discipline, so what do you do when…..”
The rest of the sentence was lost to me. We don’t discipline? I don’t discipline? What?
It occurred to me that this is not really a question of practice, but a question of semantics. I must admit that I even hesitate to use the word discipline when speaking about my book. Originally the title was, “Safe, Kind and Clean: Behavioral Education”. Behavioral Education was a phrase that I liked, a phrase that I coined and used for the past 20-something years. I spent hours teaching my preschool staff to use it. I spent hours enrolling parents in our program and used that term to clearly underline the unique difference between our child care center and so many others. But, people are creatures of habit and it takes a long time to change people’s perceptions. When I wrote “Safe, Kind and Clean” I thought that would be a turning point to the readers hearing it and getting it. Then, I realized when people asked about my book and topic, I struggled to pitch the concept to them while shaking their hand.
You know how it is; someone shakes your hand and asks, "What you do for a living?". You have a two second window to cordially respond, “I’m a contractor" or "I’m a fourth grade teacher.” Similarly when people shake my hand and say, "What is your book about?" They want a response like “Quantum Physics" or "Remodeling the Farmhouse”. But when people asked about my book my response was unclear, too lengthy and not easy to introduce. I wanted to convince the listener of this new concept of Behavioral Education. What I heard was the rambling of my voice that never really answered their question, took much too long and left me feeling less competent than I know myself to be.
A year or so later, I was at the wedding of a friend and colleague. He, one of the two grooms, introduced me to a table of his colleagues. They all worked for the Department of Education and would certainly be people I would want to know. My friend Norman said, “This is Julie Jenkins Sathe. She has written a wonderful book on DISCIPLINE.”
Internally I felt the swell of objection begin to rise within me. But externally, I saw comprehension, respect and poof…..I was shaking hands and done with the awkward introduction. Wow. This was a Zen moment. Go with the flow. Be here now. All of those lines I know began to fill my mind.
It didn’t take long for me to recognize that others must understand and label your ideas into something familiar before they can give them their due individuation. Even my friend, Norman at his wedding was one of the grooms. His partner, yes, a man was the other groom. Someday this will not be rare. Today it still is. But it is still a wedding. They are still grooms. We understand these roles and identify with the terminology. Then, we can modify the uniqueness of the situation as is required.
Needless to say, it was time to rename the book. So, I did. The new name came very easily for me, “Enlightened Discipline: the Safe, Kind and Clean Philosophy and Techniques". Those couple of zen moments led me to the title, itself a bit zen.
So, I will clearly state that we do discipline children in our care at my preschool, Caring Connection Children's Center. We use Enlightened Discipline. I state with confidence that my book is a discipline book, teaching adults a new set of techniques and a new philosophy of discipline. The title? "Enlightened Discipline: Safe, Kind and Clean".
Staff meetings continue at my preschool as we teach incoming teachers the nuances of Enlightened Discipline and massage and correct our own skills all the time. Parents continue to enroll their children and I have given myself permission to explain to people in the language that they understand the uniqueness of our discipline philosophy. I will say, “Our discipline philosophy is so unique, I like to call it Behavioral Education, as we teach children a way to behave that serves themselves and others.”
Perhaps the reason that the word discipline bothered me so much is that people tend to mix and match discipline with the word punishment. Enlightened Discipline will not ever be confused with punishment. There are consequences and there is punishment. Allow me to share my definitions: Punishment is imposed by someone else, someone in a position of power, authority or rank.
Consequences occur. Consequences are the responses that the universe, laws of science and laws of society and humanness provide without provocation. When you throw something, it will come down. How successful you are -and you feel- is determined on where and when you throw something. If you speak unkind words, you may have an unfavorable response from the person whose feelings have been hurt. If you cause another person harm or property is damaged the harm or damage must be repaired or remain damaged.
In the Enlightened Discipline environment, the teacher or parent is able to use the consequences to teach the child how he/she can better work this life to avoid unfavorable results. Also, they can teach the child how being a participant in the outcome they will feel a sense of personal success. Ahhhhh! That’s the enlightened part.