Discipline and punishment are two words that evoke strong emotions from parents. But there’s a world of difference between the two.
Discipline is like a ballerina- moving with silent grace and effective precision (a delicate balance that keeps one on their toes). It’s all about teaching your kids how to do things like make responsible choices and manage big feelings. Punishment, on the other hand, is like watching my husband dance to Don’t Stop Believing- a bit all over the place and often takes out everything in its path. It’s often about inflicting fear and pain to keep your kids in line (okay perhaps that’s not my husband’s dancing intention but I do hide when that song comes on).
Discipline promotes self-control, responsibility, and yes, accountability, while punishment is a consequence imposed for a wrongdoing or a violation of a rule or norm.
Understanding the difference between the two is essential for effective, science-backed, parenting. Discipline is also proactive, positive, and preventive. It involves setting clear expectations, modeling desirable behaviors, providing feedback and guidance. It focuses on the development of skills, habits, and attitudes that enable individuals to make responsible choices.
Punishment, on the other hand, is reactive, negative, and punitive.
Punishment aims to deter transgressions by making a child suffer. The main difference between discipline and punishment is the focus and the intention behind them. Discipline is about promoting learning, growth, and improvement, while punishment is about enforcing compliance, obedience, and deterrence.
Discipline seeks to empower individuals to make better choices, think critically and take responsibility for their actions, while punishment seeks to control individuals’ behavior through fear and coercion. As I talked about last week, discipline is more effective in the long run than punishment. Studies have shown that discipline leads to better academic performance, higher self-esteem, and stronger social skills, while punishment can lead to resentment, defiance, aggression, and emotional difficulties. Discipline builds trust, respect, and empathy, while punishment erodes them.
Discipline is an investment in the future, while punishment is a cost in the present. It is a process, not a one-time event. It takes time and effort to teach your kids the skills they need, so don’t give up. Be patient and keep at it. Remember, their brains don’t fully develop until their 20’s! They are going to trip over their own development. So, enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to have fun along the way!
Playful parenting is one of the best discipline strategies!