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The Effects of the Military on Child Discipline

by Rachel Pancare

Children of military families may experience a different kind of discipline than other children. The military values loyalty, duty, respect, selflessness, honor, integrity and courage, and many military parents strive to instill these principles in their children through high expectations and firm disciplinary action. Some military parents utilize an authoritative style of discipline, emphasizing clear rules and consequences while still building in flexibility and collaboration with their children. Other military parents lean toward an authoritarian parenting style, which is characterized by strict standards with little explanation and a focus on absolute obedience. Authoritarian parents seek more control over their children and tend to provide harsher punishments. In either case, the military can have a positive or negative impact on a child's discipline, depending on his personality and experiences.

High Expectations

The U.S. Army explains the importance of living the army values in "Soldier Life" on goarmy.com. The military expects that its soldiers will uphold values such as loyalty to their country, fulfilling their duty, showing respect -- especially to authority -- and showing courage in the face of fear. Children of military parents may find that their mother and father hold them to similar standards. They may experience pressure to do well academically or in sports. They may have heavy household responsibilities and chores. Their parents may expect them to be consistently polite and well-behaved. The parent in the military is held to high expectations himself, and oftentimes that parent seeks to integrate such high expectations into parenting as well. As a result of strict discipline, some children become well-mannered, obedient high achievers while others become rebellious or overly stressed.

Stern Punishments

WebMD defines discipline as the process of teaching your child what type of behavior is acceptable and what type is not. Many parents teach their children right from wrong through the implementation of consequences. For some children of military parents, the consequences for misbehavior or failure may be more rigid or even severe. Soldiers sometimes face punishment in the form of physical drills, and some soldiers may incorporate physical forms of punishment in disciplining their children. In addition, some military parents may be more apt to consistently follow through on their punishments since integrity and responsibility are important values in the military. Children of such parents can expect that misbehavior will be met with punishment and that negotiation is not possible.

Negative Effects

The military can have significant negative effects on a child's discipline. According to the Science Daily article "Military Children Face More Emotional Challenges as Parental Deployments Grow Longer, Study Finds," "Children in military families may suffer from more emotional and behavioral difficulties when compared to other American youths." Extreme pressure, combined with multiple moves around the country, can result in frustration, anxiety and exhaustion. If a parent is deployed, a child may also suffer depression, anger or fear. These difficult emotions can lead a military child to rebel. In her ABC News article "Military Deployment Stress Seeps to Children," Lara Salahi also reports that military children may be more likely to suffer from mental health disorders, which impact their discipline. In the Huffington Post article "Military Children Face Greater Academic Challenges Due To Relocation And Emotional Stress," Gabrielle Canon also reviews the negative influence military life can have on a child's educational experience.

Positive Effects

In other cases, the military can have powerful and long-lasting positive effects on children's behavior, especially if they have developed respect and pride in their parents' roles in the military. These children may strive to uphold the principles of their family. They may have impeccable organization, high attention to detail, strong listening skills and impressive manners. They may also follow directions well and be more inclined to keep trying when something feels challenging or even impossible. When children grow up in a family that emphasizes the importance of abiding by rules and achieving what you set out to achieve, they can become more motivated and therefore more successful in the future.

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

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