Ten Spiritual Principles of Discipline

Wisdom I Learned from My Teacher, Avatara Adi Da


7. Behaviors not persons are the subject of

our discipline (and praise).

When we must discipline a child, we must be vigilant to address behavior, not the person. The person (child) is not in trouble or unloved; their misbehavior, however, must be seen to be unhappy.

This leads to an important point in the use of discipline's language, the use of "good-bad" speech. "Good-bad" speech with children is bad! It has no room for the grey areas, and it idealizes the good and makes the bad behavior into a bad person. Eliminating "good-bad" speech and substituting "happy-unhappy" lends itself to process and orientation rather than static and didactic judgments, while being quite firm and clear. "Hey, hitting is not acceptable and obviously unhappy; are you happy now? No, the hitting didn't work. One of the hardest things to learn is to not hit back. It's very hard, but it's happy....)

This principle applies to good behavior as well; e.g. "I love the way you served your room, it feels so bright in here ..." (As opposed to: “You are such a good boy/girl, you helped!”) Target behavior (and highlight the effects of behavior), not persons. Persons are always acceptable; behavior is mostly acceptable, so long as a basic harmony is attended to. Eliminate "good boy, good girl, bad boy, bad girl" from your vocabulary.

We must explicitly educate our children as to what behavior is acceptable and what are the requirements for social participation. In its Latin etymology, "education" means, "to lead out." It does not mean, "to put information in." Skilled teachers lead students out from ignorance to knowledge, lead students out of misconception to wider views, and lead behavior out from self-possession into participation; great teachers lead students out of data and information into the art of understanding; and a few teachers lead souls to stand outside themselves (Gr. ek-stasis) in ec-stasy. Understanding and ecstasy are the highest purposes of education.