Discipline is not a bad word | Inquirer Business

Discipline is not a bad word

How do we discipline our son from checking NBA and YouTube when he is supposed to be in an online class?” “How do we encourage our children to exercise? My daughter just wants to do social media. My son just wants to play games.”

“How do I instill discipline in my 11-year-old for online learning? I will be away at work, just like in the old normal. This concern also applies to my son in college.”


These came from worried parents in webinars I did in the last weeks. As the mother who asked the last query noted, discipline was already her main concern even before the pandemic—even for her college son.

Most parents’ concerns cannot be blamed on the pandemic—many children have unfortunately not acquired solid habits to foster self-learning.


Discipline (initially learned from parents and later imbibed by the self) is key. Even if it has negative connotations for parents who find it difficult to set boundaries for their children, discipline simply means instruction.

“Discipline merely means to teach and instruct the child to behave constructively and appropriately,” my coauthors and I say in “Helping Our Children Do Well in School,” based on a 2003 study of more than 600 Ateneo student achievers and their families.

“Discipline encourages him to be considerate of others, to be responsible for himself and to function well in society. Discipline is not punishment, threat, or humiliation. With good discipline, children grow up feeling confident, conscious of their actions and responsible for them.”

It is easier to develop study habits when appropriate discipline is fostered while young. Children aged 1-7 are in the age of regulation. Parents are expected to clearly and firmly but lovingly tell the child what to do.

Tell your Grade One child: “Your teacher will discuss math online from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., then the class takes a break. You will have English class from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., then another break. Then it’s mommy’s turn to talk to the teacher. You will be at the computer for a short time, but after, you will do the exercises in the workbook. We will have lunch at 12 noon and you can take a nap. At 3:00 p.m., let us all dance in the living room for exercise. We Skype with lolo and lola on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Since school has started, you can play computer games only on Saturday and Sunday. Monday to Friday is school time.”

Older children may resist such direct instructions if they are used to getting their way. Children aged 8-12 are in the age of imitation. If you impose rules and do not follow them yourself, children deem this unfair.

Tell your Grade Five child: “Your school requires you to be online from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon for classes. You and I agreed that you need an hour for online research, which means no cat videos or gaming. The Wi-Fi will be open for you till 1:00 p.m., then all of us will have lunch. Last year, you already had issues with focusing on lessons, even before the pandemic, and I want to support you in developing concentration now. Social media are a major source of distraction, so your counselor recommends that you go offline in the afternoon. Do your art projects, read the science textbook, solve the math exercises. Since I have Zoom meetings for work, I still have to be online till 6:00 p.m., but after this, we will play with the dog or do exercise. If you finish assignments early, we can watch Netflix together for 30 minutes before bed at 9:00 p.m.”


Students in high school and college who cannot yet self-regulate and self-study find it a lot harder to develop effective routines. Teens aged 13 up are in the age of inspiration, and parents need to inspire them through words, actions and demeanor.

Discipline is essential for leaders and successors of family businesses.

“The best tip for family businesses,” says Olivia Limpe-Aw, fifth-generation leader of Destileria Limtuaco, “is not to spoil your kids.” (See March 10, 2017 column.)

Next week we look at a real-life case of a recalcitrant teen and a worried parent who runs a family business.

For 200-plus practical strategies for learning, get “Helping Our Children Do Well in School” at the Anvil Publishing website.

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. Contact the author at [email protected]

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