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Discipline Versus Punishment

by Teresa, The CuteKid™ Staff


Discipline and punishment are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing. Punishment is considered the consequences of a child not following the rules. Discipline is the teaching and making a child to obey the rules. Some parents are discipline-based, others punishment-based, and many are a combination of the two.

The results of the disciplining or punishment types of parenting can also bring about different results. According to Dr. Ed Wemberly, author of A Parentís Guide to Raising Great Kids, discipline-based parenting works better at changing a childís behavior and bringing about long-term results. Punishment-based parenting causes more immediate results in behavior but the motivation is temporary. It can also hurt a childís self-esteem and create feelings of anger or insecurity.

Here are some characteristics and results of using a discipline -based parenting style.

  1. Children learn values that are generalized to other situations. For example treating a sibling nicely at home carries over to classmates at school.
  2. Parents are consistent. When a child misbehaves they always receive consequences for their behavior. When possible the consequences are pre-determined and match the misbehavior.
  3. 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.
  4. The results of discipline-based parenting include closeness and trust between parent and child.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
Here are some characteristics and results of using a punishment -based parenting style.
  1. Children learn that they better not get caught when misbehaving and if they donít get caught there will be no punishment.
  2. Consequences are inconsistent and unpredictable. As a child my husband was never sure if he would get into trouble for a certain behavior. As a result he took the risk, because in his words he had a fifty-fifty chance of getting away with it. When he was caught the punishment was often severe or not enforced. A week grounding usually only lasted two days before his parents forget or grew tired of him being around the house and sent him off to play.
  3. 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.
  4. Children who are usually punished have a hard time trusting. They may react with anger and isolate themselves from their parents.
  5. Punishment is given out of anger or frustration. It is often excessive and the parent is not in control.
  6. Parents do not recognize the difference between mistakes and misbehavior. Both receive punishment.
After reading these characteristics, what type of parent are you? If you find that you lean more towards punishment you might want to reevaluate your system and learn some new techniques to better discipline your child.