Sunday, March 01, 2009

Discipline and Mentoring, Part Two: Discipline Verses Mentoring

On Wednesday I wrote an essay about imparting discipline to very young children. I purposefully never used the word "discipline". But that was the overall theme.

Now that I finally have a moment to write the second and third parts of this series I have changed the title of that previous post. Time to continue this exercise in vocabulary and philosophy.

What do I mean by discipline? (Remember, I'm defining words as I need to, not using the standard dictionary definitions.)

Discipline is when a learner lacks the self-control and/or skill to succeed and so the teacher must compensate for this lack.

Such a lack usually is present only with very young children. In previous essay the examples included:
  • being trained to not touch something dangerous
  • being taught how to stand in a straight line
  • being corrected after hitting a friend.

, in contrast, is when a learner has the prerequisite self-control and skills to be successful and the teacher only provides supervision and occasional guidance.

To continue with examples:
  • a toddler now has the self-control to not touch dangerous objects and is taken on an exploration of the back yard
  • a child now has self-control and skill to mimic how an adult stands or moves and enrolls in a kids' karate class
  • a preschooler now understands that hitting is wrong and requires apology, and normally has the self-control to not hit, but just did hit during an unusually heated conflict and now that conflict needs adult mediation

The third post in this series will provide more detail about mentoring and relate it to discipline.

There is no specific age at which a young child matures from discipline to mentoring, nor does it usually happen all at once.

I once was the Head Start teacher for a three-year-old who overnight developed the maturing to switch from discipline to mentoring in almost every area. I called his mother to compliment his progress from a surly and uncooperative child to cheerful team player. She told me she had just delivered a baby. The three-year-old had been taught roles of "the baby" and "the big boy" and made the transition as soon as mom was back from the hospital with the new baby!

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