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Trevor Smith | Potential disciplinary pitfalls

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

You are a stickler for discipline. You are alert to undesirable behaviour. You take decisive action to address it.

Yet, to your frustration, your actions have not produced the desired effects. They even seem to be producing unwanted complications.

What are you missing?

We identify potential pitfalls from DISCerning Communication and Parenting principles that apply when disciplining children and adults.

(Access a quick reference guide to identifying and relating to the different styles here:

Today, we will deal with disciplining D-Style individuals... Direct, dominant, driven, dogmatic, independent, wants to win, willing to challenge authority, speaks out, daring.


Disciplining D-Style Individuals





There will be a strong desire to justify their action. The more respect they have for you, the more important it will be for them to get you to accept their justification. They could get animated in doing so, resulting in the raising of their voice. You might get cut off in mid-sentence and listening to you might be diminished.

This is often regarded as being disrespectful. So, you make a firm call to order. You demand a halt to their utterings or else...

That shut down might achieve silence in the moment. But does it end there?




In response, you might be viewed as being unwilling to listen and guilty of exercising power because you have the upper hand.

The D-Style individual likes to win and hates losing. At the low end of their response scale, they may refuse to subject themselves to the discipline mentally. That is, while they may do what you require, there is no buy-in. They are totally non-compliant in their minds.

That mindset can easily be escalated to passive resistance. They may get back at you by taking some other action that would not please you. Or they may deliberately repeat the behaviour in defiance, being willing to endure the punishment.

The bigger challenge is when the failure to be heard is channelled into sneaky, sabotage activities. Like damaging property. Or encouraging others to exhibit negative behaviour. Or undermining your authority.




D-Style self-talk: I am winner. We would not be having this discussion if your instructions were clear. You are saying that is not what you asked me to do. I would not have wasted energy doing what I did if I did not think that is what you wanted. You really could have been clearer with your instructions.

Don't quickly dismiss this as making excuses. D-Style individuals receive instructions in a unique way. They can easily confuse your instructions with what they think is needed. They might be listening through a focus on what they deem to be the desired result and their views as to how to get there.




`Famously, Moses lost the opportunity to enter the Promised Land when he confused the need to produce water with the importance of obeying God's instructions. He used a method that worked before and struck the rock instead of speaking to it.

A student might ignore the instruction to show the workings of problem and make a fuss about being marked down despite getting all the right answers.

The order and methods use to complete tasks are also areas that are ripe for contention.

D-style Self-talk: This is crazy. I am getting it done. What's the deal? I am not a robot. Do you want the results or just want me to be a puppet?

Spend time explaining the rationale for the instructions and the implications for having them completed as instructed. At the same time, keep your mind open to the possibility that alternative approaches can achieve the desired results.




An appeal to not knowing what to do or having the resources to complete assigned tasks is not unusual.

Before you get upset, reflect and investigate whether the claim has merit.

It is shocking how little mastery there is of the skill of giving instructions. So much time is wasted, and re-work required because of poorly crafted and delivered instructions. That is why, "Giving and Receiving Instructions" is a key component of our leadership training and certifications.




Exercising discipline is not as simple as it appears on the surface. The fact of being a parent or being in charge does not automatically equip you to be good at it. As with many other competences, training and coaching is required.

Parents especially have an awesome responsibility to learn how to effectively discipline each child. It will make a difference for good or bad for the rest of their lives.

Get further insights on DISCerning Parenting here: