Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline

Wisdom I Learned from My Teacher, Avatara Adi Da


6. Discipline is a process not an instant of success.

From the time of rapproachment (~18 months), when the toddler begins his or her assertion to the time where a child can readily change his or her reactive behavior to the relational is at least a three year project. (Indeed, it covers a lifetime of spiritual work.) We come to see that an act of discipline is not an instant success, but a process in time. Deep-seated discipline problems require persistence (that is failures, adjustments, and persistence) over time. A discipline may have to be consistently enacted or enforced for months or years until the child goes through the next developmental transition whereby the obligation is adapted to and understood. In other words, don't always look for instant results to see if the obligation of relationship is working. If we are, it is.

Discipline is neither an adult abstraction nor an immature idealism. The child must feel the pleasure of our intimacy and care, and see behavior in terms of such inclusion. Relationship is the power of our primary unity and empowers discipline with fundamental force. May the force be with us.

Imperfections and failures are inevitable and necessary. If we are involved in our own process of continual growth, we will have the necessary compassion for ourselves and for our progeny when failure overtakes us. When we fail to feel and love, it is quickly forgiven and washed from the fabric of our soul when we begin to feel and love again.

Children learn much from our failures and apologies, from our own difficult learning. In other words, it's OK to lose it, yell too loudly or too quickly some time. Life is too difficult to always be perfectly loving in the midst of intense frustration. And since knowledge of frustration is not limited to adults, children easily understand and readily forgive errant adults if we ask them to. Such vulnerability further empowers the adult to demand and call their children to the obligation of harmonious relationship.

This soulful attention is stronger than any psychology, simpler than any complex. When we worry that our mistakes cause the children harm, we take heart that all hurt can be washed and healed by our own vulnerability, apology, and openness. Children need to feel us as continual growers like themselves, they need to hear our struggle to maturity, hear our apologies, and hear our thanks. Then they more easily join us in the spiritual work of maturation; children can understand discipline in depth.

Every classroom goes through adaptation to requirements and creates its own culture of expectation. This adaptation takes time. Patience and graciousness are as essential as challenge and demand and will be found in nearly equal measures. The art of a teacher is found in her or his ability to challenge graciously, demand patiently, and always nurture the ability to respond rather than react. Response-ability can be learned and taught. By such work, children are acculturated to go from divided to undivided attention, from feelings of exclusion to a commitment to participation.