Bosco reminded his Salesians that supervision was the responsibility of all and that no one was exempt, and again, in 1885, he told his teaching colleagues that supervision involved friendliness and familiarity between educators and educands. If friendliness was removed, he warned, there would follow a loss of confidence of the pupils in the teachers, and then no joy. Bosco believed that they who wanted to be loved, must be shown through a form of paternal assistance, that they were loved.’

Discipline, too, was to be based on reasonableness, and played a vital role in Don Bosco’s preventive system. It consisted of obedience to an objective order of rationality which was applicable to all: in practice, obedience to the rules, regulations and traditions which governed the Salesian family. "By discipline," he wrote in 1873, "I understand a way of conducting oneself which is in conformity with the rules and customs of an Institute. Therefore, in order to obtain good results from discipline, it is first of all necessary that all the rules be obeyed by all ... This observance must be found among the members of the Congregation as well as among the boys entrusted to our care."’

Hence, in the Salesian Congregation all were equal before those laws which were framed in a setting of justice and charity. Teachers assumed parental roles and made friends of their pupils who in turn saw their educators as friends; friends who were under the same law as they, sharing, according to age and experience, in a fatherly and brotherly authority in an atmosphere of charity. The aim of Bosconian discipline, therefore, was akin to a family discipline based on respect, obedience, confidence, self-surrender, self-dedication, fatherly and brotherly love. Each school became a home: the Rector or Headmaster its father, the staff its brothers, the pupils its children.

This family spirit was to be based on the four principles of: reason, religion, fatherliness and cheerfulness, the single overwhelming factor being that of ‘agape’ or brotherly love. In this charitable atmosphere Don Bosco, although never relinquishing his punitive authority, seldom had to use it because his boys respected him "with the love of those who know they are loved in return." Chiosso, a boy who frequented Bosco’s Oratory in 1847, for instance, declared that the boys’ feelings were always on Don Bosco’s side because of this: he rarely punished."

In such a family atmosphere, Bosco’s discipline was seen as reasonable, purposeful: "In cases of insubordination the policy was to be lenient; punishment was to be replaced with friendly, frequent and effective admonitions." And the methods of correction were said to be effective "because they appealed to the conscience and not to fear of reprimands or punishments."


Morrison, J. (1976). The Educational Philosophy of St. John Bosco. Privately published