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Discipline… The Lost Word

I was perusing through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a meme that said “the distance between dreams and reality is called discipline”. I replied back to the friend that posted it “Or, the distance between smart, well adjusted, contributing members of society and tantrum throwing, obnoxious brats is DISCIPLINE!” One word, two connotations, both lost on society today as a whole.

I looked the word “discipline” up in Merriam Webster, and it has a few definitions. The first is “punishment” and that’s the one that gives progressives the willies. A second is “a field of study; training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; control gained by enforcing obedience or order; orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior; or self-control.”

This word, originating from the Latin disciplina (teaching, learning), and discipulus (pupil), and the ideas that it conveys are sorely lacking in society today. A glance at the news on any given day is highly illustrative of this very point: petulant politicians slinging mud; even more petulant groups slinging hate at anyone who dares to disagree with them; people shooting, beating and berating others… and why? I dare say it might just go back to the idea of discipline.

I grew up the oldest of four children, raised by a father in law enforcement and a mother who was a teacher. My mother was also a “stay at home mom” until my youngest sibling started first grade, at which point she went back to teaching. My parents expected much from us. We were taught from a very early age that there are certain situations where being disruptive and obnoxious was not welcome: church; social events; concerts; restaurants (the very few times we could afford to go); waiting rooms; school; stores… in other words, in public we were to behave, period.

We were expected to learn and do well in school and if we didn’t it was most likely our fault, not the teacher’s. We were taught that other people were to be afforded respect, and even if they did something to lose that respect we were not to be hateful towards them. We were also taught that family loves, respects and sticks up for each other, and this, we learned as we grew, should be extended to others that we meet and befriend. If you notice, “respect” was a big part of what my parents taught us… as it should be.

How we were taught these things embodies another aspect of the word discipline: the teacher/student definition. My parents were the teachers and we were the students. It was their job to teach us how to become contributing members of society, to use the gifts and intelligence that God gave us to better ourselves and help others. They had no fear about instilling these things through discipline; whether that discipline was corporal, or through the loss of privileges/favorite items. After a few whacks or times being bereft of our favorites, we quickly learned and all it took was a “look” and we fell into line! We didn’t like discipline, but it made us feel safe, loved and gave our world structure.

Flash forward to almost 18 years ago when I became a parent for the first time. As my son, and four years later my daughter, grew and began to test me, using discipline in all its forms was challenging. Parenting books advised us to allow our children to express themselves without restraint, not acceptable in my book. Societal pressure not to punish, corporal or otherwise, had changed almost a full 180º from when my parents raised me, also completely unacceptable. The mere threat made out loud to spank my child if they didn’t behave could mean I would find social services at my door.

How could we, as parents, enforce the rules that we laid down, or instill discipline in our children in a society that made doing so incredibly difficult? Worse yet, how can we expect children to learn in a classroom setting when many were never taught to sit and listen? We managed, and I am happy to say that my children, now entering their freshmen years in college and high school, are respectful, intelligent, creative people.

The rest of society seems not to have fared as well. Other parents, judging from the utter lack of respect I see daily, decided that discipline was a dirty word. Go to any grocery store and watch the mother (usually) of a small child try and reason with them as they throw tantrums or hit others… “No sweetie” (said in a syrupy sweet voice) “don’t do that”.

What they fail to comprehend is that without anything to back up “don’t do that” the child learns that parents are just total pushovers and they get whatever they want just by screaming louder. Why are we surprised that adults today feel it’s perfectly ok to call people vile names for disagreeing with them? Is it any wonder that they feel perfectly justified in screaming at or assaulting other people when they don’t get their way? It worked when they were two, why not now?

Discipline, focus, education and yes, even punishment, should be welcomed. Allowing the tantrum throwers control means nothing less than wishing failure on us all.

Suzanne Olden

Suzanne Reisig Olden is a Catholic Christian, Conservative, married mother of two, who loves God, family and country in that order. She lives northwest of Baltimore, in Carroll County, Maryland. She graduated from Villa Julie College/Stevenson University with a BS in Paralegal Studies and works as a paralegal for a franchise company, specializing in franchise law and intellectual property. Originally from Baltimore, and after many moves, she came home to raise her son and daughter, now high school and college aged, in her home state. Suzanne also writes for The Firebreathing Conservative website ( and hopes you'll come visit there as well for even more discussion of conservative issues.

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