The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

We’ve all been there.  Your patience has been tested to its limit and your tolerance level has reached its max.  This is usually when consequences for your child’s bad behavior come flying out of your mouth that are extreme, impossible to manage and even more impossible to sustain over time. But when action flows out of that emotion it is guaranteed not to be one of your finest parenting moments.  So what do you do? Recognize the value of discipline and the harmful repercussions of punishment.

Punishment produces some very negative characteristics in your children: guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, regret, self-pity, fear, and more. Because it’s focused on the past, children feel helpless. They can’t undo what they’ve already done, and they can’t change the circumstances that their behavior has produced. Punishment doesn’t give them a means to right their wrongs.  The tools they need to understand how to right a wrong aren’t included in the punishment pack­age. It is simply retribution that leads to a lot of negative emotions.

Discipline, on the other hand, is future-focused, always pointing toward future acts. It has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with righting what was done wrong. The purpose of punishment is to inflict a penalty for an offense, the purpose of discipline is to train for correction and maturity. The origin of punishment is the frustration of the parent, the origin of discipline is a high moti­vation for the welfare of the child. The result of punishment is fear and shame, the result of discipline is security. Discipline always holds the child’s best interests, not the parent’s anger, in the forefront. It is never out of control.  Consider this:

Parenting Myth: Discipline requires parents to penalize their child as payback for an offense.

Parenting Reality: Discipline means applying appropriate consequences to encourage a child to make better choices in the future.

What messages are you sending your kids? Few parents will bluntly declare that they’re penalizing a child for his misbehavior. We don’t express punishment in terms of vengeance. But when the veins are popping, the voice is escalating, and the parent towers intimidatingly over their children, the message is easily confused. You may have discipline in mind, but your children probably inter­pret your outbursts of anger as pure punishment. It needs to be clear in their minds that you are imposing boundaries for their good because you love them.

Written by Lisa Smith

 

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