C.V. Narasimhan

            Discipline is a much talked about subject in schools and colleges, but it seems to mean different things to different people. Parents at home feel their child is disciplined if it keeps regular hours for study and play, keeps its dress and books in order and generally does all desirable things on its own initiative instead of being asked or compelled to do them. Teachers feel the child is disciplined if it does its homework properly, is regular in performing the allotted tasks, maintains silence in the class and generally avoids situations of confrontation and argument in the school premises. The Principal's expectation from a disciplined child is its sustained work for getting laurels for the school in inter-school competitions and praiseworthy behaviour in school gatherings, specially during VIP visits. In all these situations the discipline of the child causes satisfaction to somebody, the parent, the teacher or the Principal. But if we examine whether the child's action in each case has been of some help to somebody, the answer may not always be 'yes'.  It is this aspect that deserves a closer look for a proper understanding of discipline, as it ought to be.

            Any act of real discipline always implies a measure of self denial for the person who does the act. A person standing in the queue and patiently waiting for his turn denies himself the advantage he may have by his physical prowess or other influence to push the others behind and walk away with what he wants. His standing in the queue helps others to get their turn without having to fight for it. A boy, who is normally given to late rising at home, is said to have acquired discipline if he develops the habit of getting up reasonably early. By doing this he denies himself the pleasure of staying longer in bed but this act of his helps the early and timely completion of tasks at home by his mother and others before he leaves for school. Punctual attendance at a school gathering is an act of discipline because it helps timely commencement and completion of a pre-arranged programme. Wearing a smart uniform and marching erect may be impressive to watch, but these acts by themselves do not constitute discipline unless they are accompanied by a mental condition in which the participant puts aside his individual importance and feels he is part of a team engaged in an exercise for promoting unity and strength for achieving some common good. Maintenance of silence inside the class room is an act of discipline, not so much because it indicates respect for the teacher but because it helps all students in the classroom to listen attentively to the teacher. It will be a very good exercise for the teacher to analyse each act of discipline from this angle and make the children identify the component of self denial for them and the component of help to others in each such act. Children may also be encouraged to maintain a note book for noting down such acts performed by them at home or in the school or elsewhere. After the children get familiar with the concept of self denial in various small situations in daily life, they can be led to the higher concept of sacrifice, which is an important element in our philosophy and culture. Narration of stories from our mythology like King Sibi's sacrifice to help a dove and events from the lives of great men like Gandhiji describing the sacrifice they had made on different occasions will further strengthen the idea in the child's mind.

            Definition of discipline gets indirectly clarified when acts of indiscipline are correctly identified and brought home to the child. Unfortunately, situations of indiscipline tend to be viewed differently by the school authorities on one side and the parents on the other. Teachers are sometimes inclined to be over influenced by notions of prestige when describing an act as indisciplinary. Parent's view of the same matter may be coloured by affection for their child and an assumption that their child would do no wrong. It is very important that in all such situations the parents and the teacher take an objective and unbiased view of the whole matter, identify the element of indiscipline and take appropriately strict and corrective measures to make the child realise the mistake and avoid it in future. It is not the mere frequency but the quality of mutual exchange of assessment between the parents and the teacher about the child's performance that counts for the real development of the child.