Discipline vs. respect

We live across the street from two NYC high schools;  Martin Luther King Jr. High School and the LaGuardia Performing Arts High School (or the “Fame” high school).   Every day at around 3 and 3:15, the schools let out, and for a little while there is bedlam on the street.   Police officers keep the kids moving so that they don’t loiter in groups on the corners.  (That’s a whole other post that I won’t get into tonight.)  The kids are universally loud, obnoxious and all over the place, literally; jumping, running, mock-fighting, crashing into each other and anyone who is unfortunate enough to be walking by at that second.

My kids think they are crazy, but I get it.   They’ve been cooped up all day, forced to sit at desks and ‘pay attention’.  They have lots of pent up energy and possibly anger at their forced attendance and as soon as that bell rings and those doors open, they let it out.

On Facebook today, someone I know posted that parents need to make sure they teach their kids discipline at home, or it will become a huge problem (and that as far as they can tell, parents aren’t doing a good job).    One person agreed and commented that they should bring back the paddle in school.

The implication here is that disciplining kids will instill a sense of respect in them.  But make no mistake, this is not about respect but control.    When the people commenting on Facebook speak of “discipline”, what they really mean “getting the kid to do what I want him to do, when I want him to do it.”    The only reason to bring back the paddle to schools would be to keep kids in line the old fashioned way.   Today they use drugs to achieve the same effect; docile, obedient children who will do as they are told.  Who are disciplined.

But think about it.  A kid sits in school all day doing as they are told and often bored.   Do parents really think that what a kid wants to do is then come home and spend their time doing as they are told, being docile and obedient and never “acting out”?   (I love that phrase.   It’s so theatrical.)

Doesn’t the definition of “kid” include something about boundless energy?  If not, it should.  Kids are not designed to be quiet all the time, to sit at desks and to follow orders.   The nature of a child is that of an enthusiastic explorer.  If the impulse to run and jump and explore is constantly beaten down in the name of discipline and obedience, rebellion will ensue.

I wonder if those who preach discipline and who talk almost gleefully about how to “handle” a rebellious teenager have ever bothered to sit down and ask the kid what they want.   To practice respect with their child.   Children are great at doing as we do, not as we say.  Is it any wonder then that when treated with so little respect by adults, kids are loathe to give it in return?

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