The word "discipline" is derived from the Greek word "disciple" or the root word "disciplinare," and suggests education, instruction, teaching and training. Discipline teaches children "age appropriate behavior and self control." A lack of discipline leads to behavioral problems, but conversely, too much discipline may lead to resentment and cause one unfavorable behavior followed by another (Leung, Robson, Lim, 1992). To discipline a child is to teach and show them what is acceptable behavior and what is not. It is to set limits but not to oppress the development of the child. Limits are established to protect children from harm and to keep them from harming themselves, others, or property.
There are several different methods and strategies parents can use to discipline a child, but all share the same basic goals: helping the child to achieve competence, self-control, and self-direction (Howard,1996). Successful discipline promotes age appropriate behavior that is socially acceptable and promotes respect for others as well. Exploring the various methods of achieving these goals will aid in a better understanding of ways to guide a child and encourage parents to evaluate their own styles of discipline to determine which methods will be most effective for the individual child.
Discipline is not as simple as "To spare the rod is to spoil the child." Discipline encompasses a complete system of expectations and role modeling, as well as positive and negative attention. There are three equally needed fundamental components that should be used to improve a child's behavior: promoting the parent-child relationship, providing positive reinforcement for desired behaviors, and punishing undesirable behaviors (Howard, 1996).
Parents can promote the parent-child relationship by being appropriate role models. Parents who are good role models make the best teachers of children because they are people that the children care about and want to imitate and please (Howard, 1996).