I recently read a question posted on a parenting site by a mother asking about the right way to punish her child. That question conjured up a rather negative picture in my mind, although I assume she meant “discipline.”
It occurred to me that many parents likely get the terms discipline and punishment confused. They’re often used interchangeably, but they really mean two totally different things.
We’re going to explore the differences in a little more detail.
In the Heat of the Moment
I’m sure all of us can think of a moment – or perhaps several moments – when we’ve been frustrated with our children. They’ve spilled milk all over the floor. They refuse to pick up their toys even though you’ve asked nicely a hundred times. They do things that, frankly, make you wonder how they’re even your kids.
It’s in these situations that the difference between discipline and punishment becomes really clear. Whichever one you choose to use in the heat of the moment can either help your child learn appropriate behavior or kill her spirit and compromise the relationship between you and her with resentment, fear and deception.
Definition of Discipline
To discipline actually means to teach, guide and instruct. It focuses on correcting future actions and behaviors.
It really has nothing to do with punishment. Instead, it teaches your child life principles and how to behave or react appropriately in whatever situation she finds herself. Discipline is done out of love and concern and leaves the child with a sense of security.
Discipline often incorporates logical consequences which when used properly:
• Respect a child’s dignity
• Show a child how to correct his/her mistake
• Ensure internal understanding, self-control
• Show a child how to learn from their mistakes
• Result in a child’s desire to follow the rules because instruction is given in a supportive atmosphere. (2)
Lots of things can be implemented as logical consequences, or loss of privileges. Take the crayons away when a child throws them or refuses to put them away.