Tonight, after much pointing, ordering, and time-outs, I decided there are three big topics I’m going to focus on with my Cub Scouts: physical fitness, practical and outdoor skills, and discipline. And, like the title suggests, it’s that last topic I’m going spend a few paragraphs on tonight.
Let me start out by defining “discipline” as I interpret it. Discipline seems to contain both actions and behavioral characteristics: it’s what you do and what you say. It indicates a certain self-control, a commitment to do what one says, to see something through to the end, and to maintain a certain comportment in the presence of others. Those who are disciplined in their behavior do not lose control of their emotions. They respond appropriately and effectively to the given conditions.
With my Bears it’s not a question of being forced to sit and pay attention and do something boring, some of my kids can’t even sit still while they wait to do push-ups. At that point they’ve crossed the line from natural exuberance into bad manners. What I’ve come to see in the short time since I was “elected” den leader is that the discipline issue is inextricably linked to understanding social boundaries. It’s not just about controlling yourself for yourself, it’s about controlling yourself out of respect for others with the goal of maintaining order. To a certain extent discipline is a social good. Undisciplined behavior can be disruptive and potentially harmful. By behaving in such a manner my little Bears are feeling for the invisible boundaries of what’s socially acceptable. And each time anyone (including me) let’s them get away with undisciplined behavior they feel out a little farther. It’s my responsibility to indicate when they’ve pushed too far and crossed the boundary into socially unacceptable behavior. I help delimit their world so they can function smoothly within it. Which I believe is actually a significant relief to them. Life is quite simply easier when you know where you stand and you don’t have to face the angst of limitless choice. That isn’t to say that as we get older we should no longer test the boundaries of social etiquette or that we don’t come to understand that social boundaries are an illusion and that we really are radically free in the terrifying Sartrean sense. (Some of us might come to that understanding, at least 🙂 ). It does mean that living with less choice actually causes less stress. In short, it makes you happier. I know I feel more fulfilled when I am behaving in a disciplined way. When I am accomplishing things and when my interactions with others are respectful and complementary it just feels…good. And I believe my Bears will come to understand that as I work with them. Being disciplined feels good.
Being disciplined also creates good. This is true in everyday social interactions and in the world of work. Being disciplined about how I do my work and about how I interact with others is as important as being disciplined with myself in terms of what I eat and how often I work out. And they all result in positive outcomes. It’s also a simple fact that discipline earns respect. Which in the business world is never not a good thing. It’s pretty useful in other social contexts as well.
So, this is all to say that I’m going to work with the boys on discipline. Because I want them to be happy. And because if they’d just chill for a minute they’d realize how much fun they’re actually having. Because I’m a damn good den leader, yo!