Disciplining with dignity

Staying home, physical distancing, washing hands—the pandemic has spawned many rules. Math reveals why these are needed to minimize infection rates (See “The math behind the virus’ dangerous spread,” May 21), while science searches for a cure.

For many of us, these rules have become instinctive. But some mindlessly or deliberately flout them. For quarantine to work, everyone should follow consistency—as my mentor, National Social Scientist Maria Lourdes “Honey” Carandang describes it.


Rules should be clearly, consistently, fairly implemented, Carandang says in her webinar “The Need for Clear and Consistent Limits” on the MLAC Institute’s YouTube channel. “Whether people are rich, in high positions, or in whatever situation, rules should be applied fairly.”

The foremost clinical psychologist in the country today, Carandang, in her book “Back to Basics,” draws from a lifetime of experience and discusses our seven basic psychological needs: personal significance, unconditional acceptance and affirmation, clear and consistent limits, competence, affiliation, self-expression and transcendence.


We focus on the third: discipline. It is not the thoughtless, impulsive, physical imposition of unreasonable, cruel, unfair punishments.

Instead, genuine discipline is done out of and with care, to instill not fear but a sense of security in children and adults.

Carandang shares a personal story: When she was doing her thesis years ago, her toddler son placed a dirty shoe beside her on the table. She glanced at it and went back to work. Her son then placed another dirty shoe, scuffing it loudly, and told her, “Mom, tell me to stop. You should scold me.”

Her son, wise beyond his years, instinctively craved limits. His mother heeded him and responded to this need. She firmly told him to stop.

“Discipline is not only a child’s need. It is also a child’s right. When children are not given limits, many become tyrants. They have freedom, but ironically, they feel emotionally insecure,” she says. Such insecurity may later on lead to bullying, harm to self and others, and much more.

Discipline with dignity, Carandang adds. Avoid physical, verbal, emotional punishment that may at times veer toward abuse.

“As long as you are firm, you can be kind and still be effective. When people violate the law, then give the consequences. But do not violate human dignity. Often people say, ‘Bakit ‘di mo ginawa iyan (Why did you not do that)?’ and then continue with a pahabol: ‘Ang tamad mo naman (You’re lazy).’ Why is there often an irresistible impulse to add an insult at the end? We can discipline more effectively without insults, because the lesson is then better absorbed,” she says.


Care is necessary.

“When you discipline out of anger, it becomes a power play. When you spank your child, you think you are effective, but he obeys out of fear. If you are absent, he will revert back because he has not integrated desired behavior inside him.”

Consistency, care, consequences are three of Carandang’s six Cs for effective discipline. The others are conviction, clarity and communication.

Before laying down any rule, ensure it is necessary. Then act with conviction.

“Children smell tentativeness like dogs smell fear. They have a knack of knowing kung sino ang malulusutan (they know who they can trick),” she adds. “The rule may be clear to you, but is it clear to them? The barangay enforces curfew, but do residents understand? Communicate clearly and consistently so people will absorb your message.”

The ultimate goal is self-discipline for reasonable rules to become self-regulated habits for the benefit of all.

Discipline applies to how we treat ourselves, too. This includes the imperative to recharge regularly.

“Rest is a moral obligation,” Carandang says.

“When you are tired and irritable, you make others miserable. Take care of yourself so that you do not project your frustrations onto them.”

Next week: the need for competence and affiliation.

Get Carandang’s “Back to Basics: Seven Psychological Needs” and a book we cowrote “The Filipino Family Surviving the World” at www.anvilpublishing.com or www.mlacinstitute.com. View Carandang’s webinars on YouTube at the MLAC Institute channel.

Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at www.lazada.com.ph or call National’s Jennie Garcia at 0915-421-2276. Contact the author at [email protected]

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