Chapter 6, “Discipline,” describes how discipline was practiced in Centerville families, and includes illustrative vignettes from recorded observations. Discipline was a delicate matter within the social imaginary of childrearing and self-esteem because negative feedback was construed as damaging children’s self-esteem if not handled adroitly. Although parents believed that discipline was important, they did not want to be too harsh or discipline in the wrong way. They sometimes cast children’s misdeeds as preferences or self-expression, thereby sidestepping the need for discipline. And when parents resorted to punishment, they often used humor, endearments, or expressions of love to soften their criticism and mitigate the psychological impact on the child. The most negative messages directed at the focal children came from their siblings. This chapter also describes variability across families; parents often drew on their own personal experiences and considered their child’s individual temperament when disciplining. Stressful life conditions posed additional challenges.
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