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The Difference Between "Punishment" and "Discipline"

"You talk about discipline is better than punishment. What’s the difference?"

Here are some characteristics and results of using a “punishment-based” parenting style (rather than “discipline-based”):
  • Children learn that they better not get caught when misbehaving, and if they don’t get caught there will be no punishment.
  • Children who are usually punished have a hard time trusting. They may react with anger and isolate themselves from their parents.
  • Consequences are inconsistent and unpredictable. As a child, my wife was never sure if she would get into trouble for a certain behavior. As a result, she took the risk, because in her words, she had a 50-50 chance of getting away with it. When she was caught, the punishment was often severe - or not enforced at all. A week grounding usually only lasted two days before her parents forget or grew tired of her being around the house and sent her off to play.
  • In punishment-based parenting, few words of explanation are given by the parent, often leaving children confused and unsure of the behavior that warranted the punishment.
  • Parents do not recognize the difference between mistakes and misbehavior. Both receive punishment.
  • Punishment is given out of anger or frustration. It is often excessive - and the parent is not in control.

And now here are some characteristics and results of using a discipline-based parenting style:
  • Children learn values that are generalized to other situations. For example, treating a sibling nicely at home carries over to classmates at school.
  • Discipline-based parents realize the difference between mistakes and misbehavior or challenges to their authority. Mistakes are not disciplined. For example, a child should not be punished for accidentally spilling food on the floor or tracking mud in the house.
  • Parents and children communicate. When the child misbehaves, the parent explains why the child is being punished and asks for a reason why the child misbehaves.
  • Parents are consistent. When a child misbehaves, he always receive consequences for his behavior. When possible, the consequences are pre-determined and match the misbehavior.
  • The results of discipline-based parenting include closeness and trust between parent and child.
  • When a parent disciplines, they are still in control of their emotions. I remember being spanked by my dad as a child. He would take me in the living room and calmly explain why I was being spanked. Then he would lay me over his knee and swat me on the rear. Then he would tell me he loved me. He was always in control.

Hope that clarifies!

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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