Discipling: What is it?

To discipline is to be Disciple-ing. It is teaching by example and many other methods. It creates self-control and discipline within a person. Both positive and negative reinforcement methods can be used in discipling. Creating the concept of consciousness of one’s impact on themselves, others, and their world based on their thoughts and behaviors is key.

It is easiest to teach the young the importance of correct/right behavior and the consequences of poor or wrong behavior. As we age, we are more set in our ways and sometimes bad habits. Good and bad habits/skills are often equally easy to form, so why not train good ones from the beginning. In that way, we don’t have to do the extra work to break bad habits/skills and then try to add and form new and better habits/skills.

There are no rights without responsibilities, and that is something I see missing in training and teaching today. Dr. James Dobson taught in regard to negative reinforcement (punishment) that the only time for this is with deliberate disrespect and/or deliberate disobedience. Consequences for one’s actions whether good or bad happen. Most of the time, negative consequences for bad behavior has the effect of discouraging continuing on that path. Encouraging and rewarding good/right behavior reinforces that behavior to continue. No reinforcement at all for one’s good or bad behavior is also not good, and some teachers do not realize this. Sometimes one will do almost anything for any kind of attention at all whether it is good or bad just to be seen or heard. Disregarding or ignoring someone is disrespectful and hurtful. Those discipling need keep this in mind in order to properly reinforce the behaviors they want to see continue and discourage the behaviors they desire to be minimized or eliminated.

Training in righteousness or how to do any task or skill requires practice and repetition. That in mind, there are often mistakes and accidents along the way to proficiency, competence, and mastery. A good teacher will not inflict negative or punitive measures or consequences on their student for unintended mistakes and accidents. Accidents, mistakes, and even wrong behaviors or thoughts can also occur when one doesn’t understand or know the right behaviors and thoughts to uphold. Some of these failures can result in naturally occurring negative consequences, but unless it accompanied by deliberate disrespect and/or disobedience, the accident or mistake should not incur to the student additional punitive measures.

The key to discipling is to know one’s subject/student/child and from that knowledge, to develop plans to teach them the way they should go based on their age, developmental levels, skills, talents, bents, needs, and other factors. We must show/teach a student/disciple what to do before expecting correct behaviors from them. We must tell them the rules before enforcing them. They can’t obey what they don’t know is a command or expectation.

Remember that many times a break, rest, or even a brief walk is needed to help the disciple assimilate and learn, so patience with perseverance until the discipling is done and mastery is achieved is important as well. Repetition is important for the teacher as well as the student/disciple.

Consistency in the rules and expectations along with support for and from the chain of command all along the way is also important. A teacher can not hope to succeed in discipling if his/her partners and others in the chain of command are not on the same page and seeking the same goals. When the goals are garbled or inconsistent, training in a particular way or skill is at a minimum compromised and can be completely sabotaged. Unity and consistency bring peace to the learning process.

We, as humans, will generally ‘do as you do – not as you say,’ so it is essential to make sure that our walk as teachers matches our talk. If our walk doesn’t reflect or match our talk, all credibility is lost and sometimes even the compliance of the student to follow, accept instruction, and learn. Without a clear vision or example of what one wants for the outcome, there can be no success for the one discipled and disrespect and disobedience will be engendered for the teacher.

Lastly, we must personally pursue what is true, right, good, and excellent. We must act with good character, love, and kindness to train what is honest, right, and good. We need to shine the light clearly to make it easy for our disciple/student to see the way they should go. And as our students/disciples move forward and grow beyond our training and care, let us never cease to encourage their continuing pursuit of excellence and hope that they will exceed even our greatest expectations.

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