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WHAT IS DISCIPLINE? According to Dr. Sears

  • Giving your child the tools to succeed in life.
  • Doing whatever you have to do to like living with your children
  • Discipline is based on building the right relationship with a child more than using the right techniques.
  • Helping your child develop inner controls that last a lifetime.

One day I was watching a family in my waiting room. The child played happily a few feet away from the  mother, frequently returning to her lap for a brief emotional refueling, then darting off again. As he ventured farther away, he glanced back at her for approval. Her nod and smile said "It's okay," and he confidently explored new toys. The few times the child started to be disruptive, the mother connected eye-to-eye with him and the father physically redirected him so that he received the clear message that a change in behavior was needed. There was a peace about the child and a comfortable authority in the parents. It was easy to see that they had a good relationship. I couldn't resist complimenting them: "You are good disciplinarians." Surprised, the father replied, "But we don't spank our child."

Our understanding of the word "discipline" was obviously different. Like many other parents, they equated discipline with reacting to bad behavior. She didn't realize that discipline is mostly what you do to encourage good behavior. It's better to keep a child from falling down in the first place than to patch up bumps and scrapes after he has taken the tumble.

Discipline is everything you put into children that influences how they turn out. But how do you want your child to turn out? What will your child need from you in order to become the person you want him or her to be? Whatever your ultimate objectives, they must be rooted in helping your child develop inner controls that last a lifetime. You want the guidance system that keeps the child in check at age four to keep his behavior on track at age forty, and you want this system to be integrated into the child's whole personality, a part of him or her. If your child's life were on videotape and you could fast-forward a few decades, what are the qualities you would like to see in the adult on the tape? Here is our wish list for our children:

  • sensitivity 
  • sense of humor
  • confidence and solid self-esteem
  • ability to focus on goals
  • wisdom to make right choices
  • honesty, integrity
  • ability to form intimate relationships
  • healthy sexuality
  • respect for authority
  • a sense of responsibility
  • skills to solve problems
  • desire to learn


Links To Other Websites For More Information About Positive Discipline

Positive Discipline Network

Positive Discipline Methods

Parent Education Program

Ask Dr. Sears About Positive Discipline

The material in this website is provided for information purposes only. This information is not a substitute for, medical diagnosis, medical advice, or medical treatment prescription. Consult your health care provider for more information. If you are in Pittsburgh and need a midwife, send email to PghMidwife (at)
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