Discipline, whether through time-outs or the removal of privileges, is a consequence that comes after a child has done something they should not. It is an external force administered with the intent of correcting the internal desires. It is a best-you-can-do, reactionary band aid attempting to motivate a child to choose differently.
If a child trips on his shoelace while running on the playground and severely scuffs up his knee, the best thing is to clean the knee and apply a band aid. The skinned knee is a painful, natural consequence of running with a shoe untied. It will probably motivate him to learn to tie his shoe before he falls again.
If he had been taught before hand to tie his shoelace, (something that takes time) as well as the importance of keeping it tied, perhaps the fall could have been prevented.
So it is with behavior. Preventing bad choices is far better than trying to correct them. A parent does that by instilling into the heart of the child a desire to live correct principles. It is the difference between motivation and inspiration.
A teacher who tells a Sunday School class, “I will bring you a treat next week if you sit quietly today,” has motivated the class to be good. For a day. They have not influenced their character. But a teacher who talks to them about reverence, about ‘love of God’ and ‘trying to be like Jesus,’ reaches to inspire the child’s heart.
Motivation is the method by which Pavlov got a dog to salivate. Inspiration is what led Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to reach the summit of Everest. Motivation may serve the needs of a kennel dog, but inspiration will provide children with the desire to achieve great heights. Motivation is of man; inspiration is of heaven. Motivation works external to internal, trying to correct a behavior. Inspiration works internal to external, shaping a character.
A wonderful tool is a weekly gathering with your children where you sit down and in a loving, relaxed atmosphere and teach them about principles such as honesty, obedience, kindness, and diligence. Tell stories to reinforce the principle. Use object lessons, and learn a simple song about it.
Will it prevent all childish mis-steps?
As a child it seemed I fell down often at school, (even though my shoes were tied). My knees still have pale reminder scars of those encounters with the rough playground surface. One time the lady in the office applied gauze and tape. She said, “Susan, you have run us out of band aids.” I’m not sure if anything short of knee pads would have protected me. And padded gloves.
These weekly lessons, with daily reminders, are not something that can be done one time. It takes a child’s lifetime of repetition and reminder. And consistent, gentle lessons given to inspire his heart.