An article from the book ‘Your Child is Your Parent’ by Manoj J Lekhi (Amrut Vivek).


Before we understand the concept of ‘discipline’, we should understand the concept of ‘conditioning’. We normally subject our children to three major types of conditioning:

  1. Social Conditioning
  2. Religious Conditioning
  3. Gender Conditioning
  4. Social conditioning

Consider a family sitting at the table to eat, and the child saying, “Mummy, give me dal.” Flabbergasted by her son’s tone and way of talking, the mother says, “Now, now, how should you say that? Say, ‘please give me dal’”; the child does not pay any heed to what his mother just said as he is just not in the mood for advice. She gives the dal anyway, but after giving it, there is the same point again, Say, ‘Thank You’”.


Don’t be in a hurry to teach all this. Explain the importance of politeness when he is in a softer and receptive frame of mind.


I was getting a haircut in a salon and there was a boy seated next to me, about 4 years old. The child was just sitting casually. The mother suddenly struck him on his head and said, “Sit properly”. From then on, till the time the mother–child duo left the salon, the child’s face was full of tension.


Thus, due to societal pressures, just to appease one and all, we condition our child socially so that he is acceptable and appreciated by all so that we can be proud parents; however, what we are forgetting here is that, in the process, we are killing the self-esteem of the child. By this, we are also suppressing all his spontaneity. 

In doing so, we are instilling only fear and hypocrisy in the child’s mind. All his creativity gets lost.


We force the child to respect the adults. We order him, “Dadaji has come to visit, touch his feet”. The child will touch the feet, but this may be without any feeling of respect. We tell him, “Dadaji aaye hai! Abhi abhi aapne jo poetry seekhee hai, woh sunao!” (“Your grandpa is here. Recite to him the poem you just learnt.”) The child must be mumbling in his mind: Aap hi kyun nahin suna dete! (“Why don’t you only recite for him?”). We treat him as if he were a machine or a toy!

  1. Religious conditioning

We, as parents, also tend to force on the children religious issues, such as, they must accompany us for bhajan (hymn) or to the temple or church, or that they must follow certain religious practices. If the child does so on his own, then we can conclude that it is due to his love for God, but if he does so only mechanically, because you have always been asking him to do so, then it is not faith in God that drives him but just the necessity to follow a ritual.

Most of us want our children to have faith in God and follow certain religious rules, but this should not be the result of any kind of compulsions from our side.


You go to the temple and he too will take interest if you have explained to him the ‘why’ behind it sensibly. Again, when we want him to bow down, we say our famous statement: “Jai Jai Karo”. We even hold his hands and make him do it. I am not saying that we shouldn’t want him to do ‘Jai Jai’. All I’m saying is let’s not force it on him. You do the ‘Jai Jai’, and he will follow suit, soon. Just have a little patience.

  1. Gender conditioning

It is sad but true that even today gender conditioning is prevalent not necessarily only in the bigger walks of life but also in the most casual of circumstances. For example, if a boy plays with a doll, then, most often, one of the family members will tell him that this is a girl’s toy and boys do not play with it. Similarly, if a girl climbs a tree, we immediately call the act tomboyish.


Thus, negative conditioning of any type completely ruins the self-confidence and self-worth of the child; we should avoid falling into that trap. As parents, always remember that what we think is good may not always actually be so.


Most of us want our children to visit the temple regularly, bow in front of the deity, touch the feet of elders and take their blessings etc. This can be made possible only when the parents follow these practices on a constant basis. If trust, love and conviction exist in you, these qualities will surely be transmitted to the child, and sooner or later you will find him bowing before God, touching the feet of elders and observing all the other religious practices out of genuine love and reverence and not simply out of fear, habit or because of social pressure. 


Children loving discipline is unheard of but, believe me, it is absolutely true. Try this: Leave the child to do whatever he wants to do and you will find him coming back and grumbling to you that he is bored.


However, if you give the child a structured time table containing a variety of tasks, he will absolutely love it. One should change the activity every 30 minutes or an hour, depending upon the age of the child. The smaller the child, the higher should be the frequency of change. Give them the timetable beforehand. Tell them, for example, that the slot of 10-11 is for painting, 11-12 is for some particular reading, 12-1 is for playing a particular game etc. 

Try doing this and see how much they love it and look forward to doing the next item on the timetable.


The next step is to ask them to make their own timetable for the day. They would be most happy to do this. You should tactfully add into their timetable all that you want them to do, as well. 


Although the child has to be trained in discipline, it is we who have to learn some spontaneity, some indiscipline, from the child. I have used the word indiscipline in a special way, meaning that it is only with a child that one gets the chance to be totally crazy and carefree, and to dance, shout, sing and do whatever one wishes to. Your child is a Guru when it comes to teaching you the art of indiscipline!