Internal Vs External Discipline

Discipline has got a bad rap.  Often, discipline is thought of as a negative consequence, but there is a lot more to it.


1. The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct bad obedience.

2. Controlled behavior resulting from discipline.

3. An orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior.

There are two types of discipline: internal and external.  External is when someone else tells you what to do.  Internal is when you choose to do something.  

Our kids are working on their self discipline (we’re hoping our adults already have this…).  


Here’s a good example:

Nick & Tim are best friends – but they have different kinds of discipline.  Nick would make his bed and straighten his room every morning before breakfast.  Tim would wait until his mom scolded him and wouldn’t let him play until after his room was clean.  When they played in the evenings, Nick would notice when it was getting dark and would excuse himself from playing to go home.  Tim would continue to play until the second time his mom called for him.  When the teach gave our assignments, Nick would write them down.  Tim tried to remember them.

  • Which one got the better grades?
  • Which one had more people (teachers, parents, etc) mad at him?
  • Which one had self-discipline.

External discipline often comes with consequences because you are depending on others to control your behavior.  

Internal disciplined is filled with great opportunities to grow and to have positive experiences.  


Help your kids to learn self discipline.  If you make it too easy for them, they won’t really learn anything.  Encourage and give positive feedback, but don’t make excuses or reward them when they haven’t actually done anything. You’ll only be undermining their progress.