Note: This post is part of a series I’m writing on Child Discipline.
Part Two – Good Kids Are Voluntarily Good
It’s nice to have an obedient, well-behaved child – it sure is convenient – but we as parents should agree that our efforts to raise a well-behaved child are about more than mere convenience or expedience. We have a loftier goal in mind, and that goal is to raise a socially functional, emotionally well-adjusted person. A child who behaves well isn’t merely a pleasure for us to be around. We at least operate under the assumption that a child who exhibits good behavior is a child who will grow up to be a good human being. As parents, we all hold his assumption, whether or not we ever formally articulate it. This raises the question: What is a good human being?
Well, that’s a very broad question, and out of scope of the present discussion, but one thing is clear at least: A good person chooses to do good things, and does so voluntarily. In light of that fact, and our three conditions above, a corollary condition starts to emerge. A successful disciplinary philosophy will produce a child who voluntarily chooses to engage in good behavior. This fourth condition is a natural extension of the previous three. A child who voluntarily chooses to behave minimizes punishment for himself or herself, minimizes contentiousness (by maximizing cooperativeness), and is actively engaged in exhibiting more good behaviors and fewer bad behaviors.
In short, we want doing the right thing to be a voluntary choice, such that it doesn’t have to be a question of discipline at all.
People have all manner of motives for making voluntary choices, from rational self-interest, to punishment avoidance, to social signaling, and more. In order for someone to voluntarily choose good, ethical behavior, he or she must have motives in place for doing so.
This brings me to my next big point, which I'll discuss in the next post.