What is “Discipline” in the Age of Children’s Rights?

In: The International Journal of Children's Rights
Joan E. Durrant Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Canada

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Ashley Stewart-Tufescu Applied Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Canada

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While the word “discipline” has come to connote control, punishment and obedience, its historic roots are in notions of learning, understanding and gaining knowledge. We trace concepts of discipline through time – from extreme violence to behaviourism to constructivism to relational neuroscience – and arrive at a reframing of discipline as a process of optimising children’s understanding and fostering their evolving capacities to actualise their rights. Drawing on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we set out a framework for rights-based discipline that is founded on five principles: (1) non-violence; (2) respect for children’s evolving capacities; (3) respect for children’s individuality; (4) engagement of children’s participation; and (5) respect for children’s dignity. We provide examples of evidence-based approaches that implement these principles. Finally, we call for the reclaiming and restoration of the true meaning of “discipline” in order that all children may thrive.

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