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“What’s the difference between Punishment and Discipline?”

i-will-not-whine“Punishment” only refers to decreasing negative behavior, while “Discipline” not only refers to decreasing negative behavior but also to increasing positive behavior.  Therefore, parents should avoid becoming trapped in a negative cycle of punishment.  Instead, parents should of course try to stop negative behavior, but always strive to remain positive in their efforts to teach more appropriate behavior.  The word discipline has roots in the word “disciple,” which means “to learn.”

Punishment refers only to decreasing a negative behavior.  Discipline is a broader term that includes punishment, but goes further.  Discipline means decreasing a negative behavior and increasing a positive behavior.

Pick up many parenting books and the so-called experts will scoff at the concept of “punishment.”  Of course, it is much better to “teach” than “punish,” but parents must not sacrifice the strength to swiftly stop negative behavior.  The fact is that while “punishment” has somehow become a politically incorrect word (e.g., even prisons have become known as “correctional facilities”), punishment remains an important part of the parenting behavior management toolbox, as long as punishment is used in a humane, consistent, immediate, and appropriately powerful manner.  Indeed, parents in general (and society at large) would be hard-pressed to function efficiently without some form of humane punishment.  For example, imagine living in a society without police and where laws (from traffic violations to felony crimes) have no consequences.  It would be anarchy.

Somewhere along the way, the so-called experts in parenting have confused the concepts of “abuse” and “punishment.”  Abuse is never okay, but punishment has a valuable place in effective and humane parenting. Similarly, the so-called experts have confused the concepts of “aggression” and “dominance.”  To be aggressive (physically, verbally, or emotionally) with your child is not okay, but to be dominant in certain situations is perfectly appropriate, and indeed expected (e.g., when your child tries to run into the street, when your child is disruptive/disrespectful).