Disciplining a Child Demands Ongoing Assessment of Underlying Values

DRAFT FORM (needs clean-up)


Assertion: Choosing how to discipline a child is a declaration of your personal value set. Thus, discipline is difficult to enact not so much because the procedures are difficult to implement but the personal value set is unknown or its translation into disciplinary procedures is unknown.

Discipline is primarily about shaping a set of habits in accordance with a set of values. I.e. Moving a person along a spectrum of habit acquisition, ultimately toward internalization of the value set:

-2. Actively opposes desired behavior
-1. Performs undesired behavior without thinking (bad habit)
0. No habit, no knowledge of desired behavior
1. Knows about desired behavior
2. Performs desired behavior under supervision
3. Performs desired behavior without supervision
4. Performs desired behavior without thinking (Habit)
5. Actively improves and sustains habit (Internalized Values)

E.g. Daily exercise is a habit. It is not a value. The values underlying the habit of daily exercise might include Personal health (live longer, better), Work ethic (reduce resistance to work and make manual tasks easier), and Sport enthusiasm (be a better athlete).

Example Habit #2: Saying “please” and “thank you” and other pleasantries. Underlying values: Relational harmony (it reduces interpersonal friction), Courtesy & Respect protocols (it signals awareness and trustworthiness), Conversational aesthetic (it sounds nice).

An old adage (perhaps more often a joke) justifies discipline in the following way… “That’s how my parents did it, and look how I turned out.”

This is a shortcut — training a habit without assessment of its underlying value set.

This same shortcut is often applied in management… “This is how my manager did it, and look how I turned out.”

In coaching… “This is how my coach did it…”

John Wooden famously trained his basketball players at UCLA on how to put on their socks and tie their shoes. UCLA took home 10 NCAA Championships in the 12 years Wooden coached. Wooden retired in 1975, and UCLA didn’t win another national championship for 20 years.

The value which shaped the players’ habits during practice was a meticulous attention to detail… each technique performed precisely according to a design — and drilled until unconsciously perfect.

Do parents want to succeed at child-rearing the way John Wooden succeeded at basketball coaching?

It’s cliche for parents to want “the best” for their child.  Their values determine the “best” they aim for.

Basketball is simpler than childrearing.  No college basketball coach will argue that “10 NCAA Championships in 12yrs” isn’t a peak of excellence.

In child-rearing, there is no “10 NCAA Championships in 12yrs”.  In school, there’s “college and career-readiness”, but that’s more like “NCAA Tournament Round of 32 readiness”. 

There is no singular goal in child-rearing.  No championship trophy.

For my part, I’ve come to see child-rearing as something like 100 different trophies of varying heights, under 8 main capabilities.  Each capability is staged below, roughly according to their first appearance during human development and somewhat mirroring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:

  1. Physical
  2. Self-Sufficiency
  3. Cognitive
  4. Relational
  5. Artful & Expressive
  6. Self-Knowledge
  7. Reputational
  8. Leadership

Each main capability then has a set of sub-capabilities:

  1. Physical
    1. General Manual Dexterity, Eye-Hand/Foot Coordination
    2. General Strength, Mobility, Conditioning, and Recovery
    3. Sport
    4. Musical Instrument
    5. Tools
    6. Somatic stimulation of mental state (Body-Mind Coordination)
    7. Body Language & Communication Protocols
    8. Self-defense and Survival

And, of course, each sub-capability has specific skill sets and developmental stages.

The relative heights of each trophy in each domain is determined by the amount of time dedicated to practice x the quality of that practice.  And the quality may actually have an exponential effect.

The amount of time dedicated to practice, and the quality of practice demanded, are functions of the personal value set, resources available for allocation to child-rearing activities, and the capabilities of the parents.

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