What does it mean to discipline?

What does it mean to discipline?
Source: Shutterstock
Jonathan Winch
Jonathan Winch Executive Director of Westminster Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
21 November, 2022 9 min read

A knock on the door, and Michael walks in. Not, I observe, quite as sheepishly as might have been expected. He’s here to explain to me how he managed to lock a group of students in the toilet, and why he kicked over a bucket of water as he ran off.

Michael is not alone. In comes Mum, and behind her a man I don’t recognise.

‘Mr Winch, this is Dr B__,’ Mum’s mouth is set in a terse line, ‘Michael’s consultant psychiatrist.’

A locksmith might have been a more helpful addition to the party, but Dr B is clearly well-briefed, and I assure him of my readiness to listen.

‘Michael suffers from ADHD. I’m here to explain his behavioural needs.’

The meeting is as long as it is bewildering. It appears that Michael is not to be disciplined because Michael couldn’t help it. Michael is, I discover, the victim of an unhappy condition that deprives him of self-control. The bucket was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And so were the children.

I venture an alternative opinion. Is it in Michael’s interests to be labelled as a victim? Is that going to prepare him for adult life? Apparently it is.

As I recall, I held my ground and discipline was duly administered. But the damage was done; Michael endured his detention with self-righteous indignation.

May God grant that in an age in which so many – young and old – are yielding the bitter fruit of self-expression, we may so nurture our children that they bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
New: the ET podcast!