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  • Writer's pictureAerin Holt

Discipline — not a bad word

“Discipline is not a bad word.” Writes Ms. Sarah Spina, a professional dancer turned blogger and former guest dancer with California Contemporary Ballet. “One of the most important things you can instill in your child is discipline. When most people hear the word 'discipline' they think ‘punishment.’ That form of discipline is only the 3rd definition in the dictionary. The first definition is, ‘training to act in accordance with rules,’ and the second is, ‘activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.’”

When enrolling a child in an activity such as dance or music, many parents forget that these “activities” are also considered “disciplines of the arts”. While dance, drama, music and painting should be fun, there should also be an expectation that the student will eventually make improvements in their skills and abilities. In ballet for instance, there are rituals for starting class with specific exercises, ending the class with another set of exercises, and thanking the teacher. There are rules for dress and hair style, a correct way to stand at the ballet barre or in line to take turns with other students, and there are other general rules of good behavior.

Good habits are developed by going through the structured routine of each class where movement is progressively built into the next level of difficulty. Executing each set of movements rely upon knowledge of the previously learned movements. In other art forms, there are specific methods and techniques for holding a paintbrush or instrument to achieve a clear image or sound. In the field of dance, there are techniques for jumping high into the air, turning gracefully and holding positions that require physical limberness and strength. As the student becomes more disciplined by practicing the methods and techniques of the art, the improvements in the student’s abilities will follow.

As a professional dancer, Ms. Spina knows how important discipline is in the field of the arts. She herself has been trained to understand that the rules matter. She has carried her dance discipline beyond the dance studio to create a successful life. She now builds discipline into the daily structure of her family.

“The word discipline is a positive one in our house. The girls are not scared of it. They don’t associate it with punishment. Discipline to them is following a routine, getting their work done, practicing their ‘disciplines,’ such as dance, cheer, reading, math, etc. Practice is a discipline. By teaching them at a young age that hard work is in fact good for them, that they will be smarter, or better at something with a little discipline each day, I am setting them up for success in every area of their lives.”

Creating discipline in life is a matter of creating good habits. Abiding by specific times for waking up, doing homework, developing manners at the dinner table, and rituals such as prayers before bed or preparing and getting organized for the next day goes a long way in creating and developing good life skills.

Disciplines of the arts are really the building blocks of life. Art is a method of building self-esteem, self-discipline, and goal-oriented behavior which is important for every aspect of life.

Parents like Ms. Spina are wise to provide art disciplines for her children while reinforcing the value of discipline at home. She states, “When my girls get older and school gets much harder, and dance (or whatever other discipline they choose to pursue) isn’t so fun anymore because ‘it’s so hard,’ or ‘it hurts,’ they will hopefully be disciplined enough to weather the storm and come out on the other side without quitting. Discipline is setting a goal and reaching it, not giving up when something gets hard, learning the feeling of success and continuing to practice to get better, because while you can never be perfect, you can always get closer to it.”

From the Bible, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” The discipline and training you instill in your child now will determine the type of adult they will become”


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