Discipline is the self-control that is gained by requiring that rules or orders be obeyed, and the ability to keep working at something that is difficult.[1] Disciplinarians believe that such self-control is of the utmost importance and enforce a set of rules that aim to develop such behavior. Such enforcement is sometimes based on punishment, although there is a clear difference between the two. One way to convey such differences is through the root meaning of each word: discipline means “to teach”, while punishment means “to correct or cause pain”. While punishment might extinguish unwanted behavior in the moment, it is rarely effective long-term, while discipline usually is.[2]

Disciplinary techniques


Time management


Disciplined time management includes removing distractions—the author of No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs recommends treating time as a precious resource.[3] Achieving positive outcomes hinges on a supportive environment of disciplined behavior that requires and rewards good actions.

Discipline rooted in obedience centers on valuing hard work, diligence, adherence to authority, and self-discipline for job advancement.[4] Reminders can be provided to guide members in meeting performance indicators, organizational objectives, adhering to rules, or following instructions. The downside to this model is that disobedience can occur when there are no punishments or rewards in place and when there is no one there to administer the member since obedience-based discipline is whether trouble[clarification needed] is detected or not.[5] An obedience-based model uses consequences and punishments as deterrents,[6] whereas the responsibility-based model shifts away from using rules, limits, and consequences, as well as punitive measures like detention, suspension, expulsion, and counseling. Students have demonstrated improved academic success and better behavior management in schools with responsibility-centered discipline, where teachers use a five-step rule-based technique to resolve conflicts:[7]

  1. Support – makes the student feel valued
  2. Expectation – reinforces what is expected
  3. Breakdown – communicates how the expectation broke down or where there was a failure to meet
  4. Benefit – relays to the student how important it is to meet the expectation and how it benefits them
  5. Closure – determines whether the situation has been resolved or if the conversation is at a place where the student can move on



Responsibility-centered discipline, also known as responsibility-based discipline, is a classroom-oriented technique that empowers students to find solutions to organizational issues.[8] This approach involves fostering appreciation and warmth among students, embracing their interests, recognizing their efforts, encouraging feedback, achieving consensus on ground rules, and engaging them in rule-making and problem-solving, all while maintaining dignity and well-defined boundaries. Concepts like remorse and empathy are taught through actions like apologies, restitution, or creating action plans. Limits express a teacher's beliefs, demands, and expectations within clear values and goals that help create a learning environment. The essence of responsibility-centered discipline is making choices that embody core values such as integrity, perseverance, respect, and responsibility rather than simply enforcing rules.

Conduct grades reflect a student's willingness to develop and internalize responsible behavior.

Larry Thompson developed responsibility-centered discipline as a framework to empower educators with the necessary skills and strategies for fostering a culture of student self-responsibility within schools. This approach shifts the onus from teachers to students, encouraging them to take ownership of their behavior. This represents a shift in organizational culture. In contrast to an obedience-focused "rule-based" approach, where rules can be contested, dismissed, or overlooked, responsibility-centered discipline focuses on nurturing responsibility, not punitive measures or consequences. It cultivates students' self-control and empowers them to assume responsibility for their actions and to devise solutions.[7]



Lee and Marlene Canter developed the assertive discipline model. It blends obedience-based principles with responsibility. It establishes certain truths within the classroom. Students are entitled to an environment free from distractions, which means the teacher has the right to discipline students if that would benefit the class. A peaceful working environment means the right to work comes at the expense of a student's rudeness or misbehavior. Safety and education are guaranteed only if the duty to control is upheld.

In this approach, teachers get all students to consent to the rules. They highlight appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, clarifying the necessary corrections if a student exceeds these limits. Assertive discipline reinforces positive behavior, upholds rules, and underscores the importance of respectful conduct. Teachers acknowledge repetitive behaviors, maintaining a consistent appreciation for good conduct. Consequences correspond to actions taken; although maintaining a positive focus is preferable, it might not always be feasible when boundaries are crossed. Disciplinary action must be applied throughout the classroom so all students believe that the rules matter. Simply offering rewards and consequences is not always sufficient; teachers must earn students' respect and trust.

Assertive discipline involves modeling appropriate behavior to help students understand its principles. Teachers guide students in adhering to specific behavioral expectations. According to Canter[which?], all students, including those with special needs, respond positively to this approach.[citation needed] Proactive discipline is emphasized over reactive discipline: having a plan, addressing misbehavior as it occurs, highlighting rules, and acknowledging positive behavior with praise. Lee and Marlene Canter emphasize building trust by greeting students, using their names, having one-on-one conversations, acknowledging birthdays and special events, and maintaining communication with parents.[9]

The model does not concentrate on individual students. It does not address the root causes of misbehavior, nor is it based on the needs of the students.[9]



Team-building is part of corporate culture that involves a group of people improving on working together as a team.[10] This includes aligning around common goals, establishing effective working relationships, clarifying team members' roles, and collaboratively addressing team-related issues

Planned activities within corporate culture provide a platform for employees to share their perspectives on that culture. These organized activities encourage "thought, discussion, and employee buy-in into the company leadership philosophies".[11] Organizations may focus on the processes behind team-building activities to explore what happens when the organization confronts challenges. Engaging in challenges that exceed the difficulty of daily tasks fosters team cohesion.

Examples of team-building strategies include promoting workplace civility; implementing group guidelines; sharing stories, management wisdom, or past achievements; and icebreakers.[12]



Micromanaging can lead to an improved relationship between an employee and their manager. Micromanagement can be beneficial in certain situations, especially when a manager's task performance falls short of expected quality or compensation levels. This could include instances where the manager spends excessive time chatting, misses deadlines, or fails to respond to urgent emails.[13] The employee adapts their approach to align with the manager's perspective. If a step goes against company ethics, the plan can be abandoned. It is important for employees to verify if competence requirements are met, and if so, they can inquire about changing positions to gain more autonomy. Transparent communication can positively reinforce managers, as micromanaging can demonstrate that a self-reliant worker does not require constant oversight.



Habit trackers are a practical self-discipline method. Often, there's a time lag before receiving feedback on time management, making it challenging to visualize expected habit changes. Activities like running, meditation, or exercise demand significant effort for delayed rewards, yielding minimal satisfaction during the activity. Habit tracking offers short-term motivation for desired outcomes. It triggers action, encourages timely goal completion, and fosters sustained commitment by delivering immediate satisfaction for each achievement. Each entry keeps people engaged and assists in habit formation or cessation.[14][15]



Precommitment is a technique for enhancing self-control. It involves putting limits or tolls on what one will do in advance to prevent distractions.

Three pact variations exist: effort, price, and identity. An effort pact ensures focused work by deterring distractions. A price pact adds an accountability partner who enforces a penalty when mistakes are made during goal pursuit; a self-oriented price pact uses donations or offloading items as penalties. An identity pact alters self-perception and behavioral habits. All three approaches prove effective, especially for those seeking to bolster self-discipline without relying solely on willpower, according to Nir Eyal.[16][17]

Dichotomy of control


Another self-discipline technique is the Stoic Dichotomy of Control.[18] In this technique, one writes down influences judging on how much they can control those influences. This practice directs time and attention toward manageable aspects while acknowledging those beyond control, aiding in problem-solving without undue concern for unchangeable factors.[citation needed]

Corporal punishment


Corporal punishment is a technique of discipline that includes spanking, slapping, whipping, deprivation, or hitting with an object using force. It aims to enforce immediate compliance by reminding the individual of consequences for their actions, thus deterring further misconduct. Corporal punishment is used in the military to punish unacceptable behavior. This form of punishment provides a disincentive for not acting when required to act.

Success spiral


A success spiral involves achieving consecutive small goals, leading to increased motivation. Each completed goal enhances confidence in one's capability to accomplish tasks. Success spirals start with breaking habits into manageable routines, then picking simple goals to help gain momentum. Progress is tracked, and reflection guides the decision to tackle more challenging objectives as confidence is established.[19]



Other techniques:



Self-discipline revers to one's ability to control one's behavior and actions to achieve a goal or to maintain a certain standard of conduct. It is the ability to train oneself to do things that should be done and resisting things that should be avoided. This includes setting goals, staying focused, and making sacrifices to those goals. Self-discipline requires practice and effort, but it can lead to improved productivity, better decision-making, and greater success in life.[25]

Self-discipline can also be defined as the ability to give up immediate pleasures for long-term goals (deferred gratification).[26] Discipline is grounded in the ability to leave one's comfort zone. Habit is about wanting to change for the better, not for pain. To forego or sacrifice immediate pleasure requires thought and focused discipline. Self-discipline is about one's ability to control their desires and impulses to keep themselves focused on what needs to get done to successfully achieve a goal.[27] It is about taking small, consistent steps of daily action to build a strong set of disciplined habits that fulfill your objectives. One trains themselves to follow rules and standards that help determine, coalesce, and line up one's thoughts and actions with the task at hand.[27] Small acts allow one to achieve greater goals. The key component of self-discipline is the trait of persistence or perseverance.[28] Daily choices accumulate to produce changes one wants the most, despite obstacles. Self-discipline, determination, and perseverance are similar to grit.

Discipline is about internal and external consistencies. One must decide on what is right from wrong (internal consistency) and adhere to external regulation, which is to have compliance with rules (external consistency).[29] Discipline is used to "expend some effort" to do something one does not feel motivated to do.[30] Discipline is an action that completes, furthers, or solidifies a goal, not merely one's thoughts and feelings. An action conforms to a value. In other words, one allows values to determine one's own choices.

Self-discipline may prevent procrastination.[31] People regret things they have not done compared to things they have done.[32][33][34] When one procrastinates, they spend time on things that avoid a goal. Procrastination is not always caused by laziness or relaxation.[35] One can procrastinate due to failure or inability to learn.[36]



A life-changing habit enhances health, working life, and quality of life. Habits are established in three stages:[37]

  1. Trigger (the thing that initiates the behavior)
  2. Behavior (the action one takes)
  3. Reward (the benefit one gains from doing the behavior)

To effectively utilize this three-step process, it is essential to recognize emotional triggers and maintain a consistent reward. Identifying one's emotional responses helps pinpoint behavioral patterns that prompt learned routines and outcomes. These patterns might hinder goal achievement. Transforming these responses involves finding alternative ways to fulfill emotional needs and adopting preferred behaviors. Discovering the required emotional state requires effort, as does establishing new, healthier habits that satisfy one's needs.

There are connections between motivation, self-discipline, and habits:[38]

Motivation is the initial emotional drive or inspiration to help one develop one's goals and actions.

When motivation begins to waver, it is a self-discipline that makes one continue despite one's emotions and thoughts.

Over time, self-discipline diminishes as one's behaviors and actions become habits.[citation needed]

It takes two months for a new habit to form, according to research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues.[39] Making a mistake has no measurable impact on any long-term habits.[40][citation needed] Habit-making is a process and not an event.

When one is developing habits to overcome impulses that represent easy paths to short-term gratification, they need control over their mind.[41] Gaining control over one's minds, and taking a proactive approach, enables them to navigate challenges without becoming overly fixated on failure, financial strains, or anxiety. Mental anxiety, in particular, can contribute to heightened sensitivity to our surroundings, possibly leading to unnecessary alarmism.[18] Chronic stress can be detrimental to the development of the executive function, and may make us perceive problems where they do not exist, as outnumbering the solutions, according to Hauser-Cram Heyman.[18][42]

Brett McKay recommends to focus on one's circle of influence—what one can control—rather than one's own sphere of concern, which encompasses things beyond one's control. Self-discipline can be as straightforward as tackling a challenging task before bedtime or during other moments of the day; it is about carving out a portion of one's day to cultivate self-discipline.[43] It involves resisting the temptation of opting for the easiest route (primitive urges) to achieve long-term goals.

A person's actions are a product of one's ability to control themselves, both positively and negatively. Habits are automatic mechanisms that conserve one's willpower energy. About 40% of a person's actions are driven by programmed habits.[44][45][46][47] The longer one holds to bad habits, the more difficult it is to break free from them.[48] As one resists temptations, one's desires get stronger.[49]

Choices often involve a trade-off between with short-term pleasure in exchange for long-term pain (immediate gratification) or short-term pain and long-term pleasure (delayed gratification).[50] Discipline entails executing habits precisely as intended, enhancing the likelihood of accomplishment and overcoming competing behaviors. Acting promptly exemplifies discipline, while habits are built on preparedness and inclination. This requires a suitable level of buffering against competing behaviors.

There are three ways to learn to build discipline, according to Sam Thomas Davies:[50]

  • self-assessment
Determine the underlying reason for requiring discipline. Address resistance by identifying its source and counteracting it through commitment instead of making excuses or yielding to peer pressure.
  • self-awareness
Learn why oneself does not break their habits, mostly due to a lack of awareness about the ease of succumbing to impulses rather than staying committed. A remedy is to eliminate any distractions.
  • self-celebration
Celebrate and reward daily accomplishments, even if one fails to live up to one's expectations. Each outcome provides an opportunity for learning and growth.

There are two types of goals: active and passive.[51] Passive goals are ideas, while active goals are concrete plans with specific measures and steps. This includes setting long-term objectives and planning daily tasks. Creating active goals provides direction and helps prevent distractions by outlining precisely what needs to be done.

In religion


Self-discipline is an important principle in several religious systems. For example, in Buddhist ethics as outlined in the Noble Eightfold Path, both Right View and Right Mindfulness have been described as a moral discipline.[52][full citation needed]

For some varieties of Christian ethics, virtues directed by the Beatitudes were preceded by ascetical theology and obedience-based discipline. This shift transformed the focus from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit to one of authority, which, though blessed, did not carry the same happiness as that derived from adherence and observances. During the Middle Ages, spirituality and morality were closely intertwined.[53] The Beatitudes gained prominence as an organizational principle after Saint Augustine. However, Christian ethics as a form of discipline did not fully emerge until the Late Middle Ages. Alongside Lutheranism and the post-Enlightenment era, obedience-based discipline coexists.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "[t]he object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three 'sources' of the morality of human acts."[54] The Holy Spirit is essential for comprehending "the eternal Word of the living God, [and] must... open (our) minds to understand the Scriptures."[55]

Self-discipline is how self-control is gained, and the way hope is maintained.[56]



Gaining self-control involves managing reactions. External events or outcomes in one's life can never be controlled, yet reactions and attitudes can.[29]

Maintaining a disciplined mind leads to effective reactions. Firstly, boredom can be created if one is not occupied. Secondly, lack of discipline may cause problems for social, mental, and academic performance, as excessive worry about future events consumes time. Thirdly, discipline helps preserve peace and order. Lastly, the disciplined person understands the consequences of their actions.[citation needed]

Self-control includes avoiding impulsivity, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors.[57] Overcoming such tendencies is an initial step for personal improvement. The ability to regulate one's emotions and behavior is a key component of the brain's executive function that helps to plan, monitor, and attain goals. Succumbing to immediate impulses hinders both internal growth and external impact. Self-control entails resisting certain actions, whereas discipline involves adopting routines to cultivate positive habits. Self-control means effective decision-making amid competing choices, while discipline fosters the accumulation of habits to bolster success; thus, self-control and discipline may overlap. Anyone can benefit from healthy habits and can take measures to control their behavior.

Four strategies are:

  • situation selection, avoiding situations where one will be likely to confront temptations
  • situation modification, doing what one can to reduce the pull of the temptation in the situation that arises
  • distraction, trying to distract oneself with better alternatives
  • reappraisal, changing the way one thinks about a bad habit[58]

Child discipline


Child discipline is the methods used to prevent future unwanted behaviour in children. The word discipline is defined as imparting knowledge and skill, in other words, to teach.[59] In its most general sense, discipline refers to systematic instruction given to a disciple. To discipline means to instruct a person to follow a particular code of conduct.[60]

Discipline is used by parents to teach their children about expectations, guidelines and principles. Child discipline can involve rewards and punishments to teach self-control, increase desirable behaviors and decrease undesirable behaviors.[61] While the purpose of child discipline is to develop and entrench desirable social habits in children, the ultimate goal is to foster particular judgement and morals so the child develops and maintains self-discipline throughout the rest of their life.

Because the values, beliefs, education, customs and cultures of people vary so widely, along with the age and temperament of the child, methods of child discipline also vary widely. Child discipline is a topic that draws from a wide range of interested fields, such as parenting, the professional practice of behavior analysis, developmental psychology, social work, and various religious perspectives. In recent years, advances in the understanding of attachment parenting have provided a new background of theoretical understanding and advanced clinical and practical understanding of the effectiveness and outcome of parenting methods.

There has been debate in recent years over the use of corporal punishment for children in general, and increased attention to the concept of "positive parenting" where desirable behavior is encouraged and rewarded.[62] The goal of positive discipline is to teach, train and guide children so that they learn, practice self-control and develop the ability to manage their emotions, and make desired choices regarding their personal behavior.[63]

Cultural differences exist among many forms of child discipline. Shaming is a form of discipline and behavior modification. Children raised in different cultures experience discipline and shame in various ways.[citation needed] This generally depends on whether the society values individualism or collectivism.

Positive discipline


Positive discipline (PD) is a discipline model used by some schools and in parenting that focuses on the positive points of behavior. It is based on the idea that there are no bad children, just good and bad behaviors. Practitioners of positive discipline believe that good behavior can be taught and reinforced while weaning bad behaviors without hurting the child verbally or physically. People engaging in positive discipline believe that they are not ignoring problems but dealing with the problem differently by helping the child learn how to handle situations more appropriately while remaining kind to the children themselves.

Positive behavior support (PBS) is a structured, open-ended model that many parents and schools follow. It promotes positive decision making, teaching expectations to children early, and encouraging positive behaviors.[64]

Positive discipline is in contrast to negative discipline. Negative discipline may involve angry, destructive, or violent responses to inappropriate behavior. In terms used by psychology research, positive discipline uses the full range of reinforcement and punishment options:

However, unlike negative discipline, it does all of these things in a kind, encouraging, and firm manner. The focus of positive discipline is to establish reasonable limits and guide children to take responsibility to stay within these limits, or learn how to remedy the situation when they do not.

School discipline

A Harper's Weekly cover from 1898 shows a caricature of school discipline.
This Punishment Book, from the school attended by Henry Lawson, is one of the earliest surviving examples of this type of record.

School discipline relates to actions taken by teachers or school organizations toward students when their behavior disrupts the ongoing educational activity or breaks a rule created by the school. Discipline can guide the children's behavior or set limits to help them learn to take better care of themselves, other people and the world around them.[65]

School systems set rules, and if students break these rules they are subject to discipline. These rules may, for example, define the expected standards of school uniforms, punctuality, social conduct, and work ethic. The term "discipline" is applied to the action that is the consequence of breaking the rules. The aim of discipline is to set limits restricting certain behaviors or attitudes that are seen as harmful or against school policies, educational norms, school traditions, etc.[65] The focus of discipline is shifting, and alternative approaches are emerging due to notably high dropout rates, disproportionate punishment upon minority students, and other educational inequalities.[citation needed]

See also



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