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The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Some parents let their kids do whatever they want, while coddling them well into their teenage years, whereas other parents simply don’t have effective discipline. Then there are parents who use more punishment than discipline, while other parents just aren’t around at all.

There is a difference between discipline and punishment. Discipline is when we plan, organize and have structured routines. With discipline, children are guided and taught that positive and negative consequences will come as a result of their doing positive or negative things. While discipline isn’t a “bed of roses”, punishment is more hurtful to kids and can make them resentful toward their parents. The reason I say this, is that punishments usually occur when the child’s behavior is “the last straw”. At that point parents can become outright aggravated with the child, perhaps because they don’t know what else to do, which would lead to the child receiving some type of penalization— with no form of re-direction.

As parents, we sometimes forget to take “baby steps” with our children. We can get so caught up in our fast-paced world and trying to manage it all that we forget what it was like to be a kid. Sometimes, we don’t realize certain things that we haven’t taught them, until a situation arises when they have done something wrong. Then, at that point, aggravation can set in, and punishment may be deemed the only option. I’ve been there. But when we create a planned structure early on, our children will know what to expect, which will save parents a lot of trouble in the long run. With discipline there are expectations, but with punishment there are none.

According to psychotherapist Ann Morin,

“In order to teach self-discipline, there should be consistent consequences for misbehavior. There should also be positive consequences, such as reward systems or praise for behaving responsibly.” (Morin n.d.)

Here are some additional points from her article that I felt were important to mention, because they are very relatable to the content of this book and to the way this kit works:

“Kids should learn self-discipline in regards to money, chores, homework and time management.” (Morin n.d.)

“Positive Discipline is a great way to ensure that kids learn how to have confidence.” (Morin n.d.)

“It’s essential that parents make sure their discipline is not only effective today but is teaching kids skills and instilling the values that they will need to become successful adults.” (Morin n.d.)

While implementing discipline in the daily lives of families is important, there are many reasons a parent may not follow through with the discipline of their children. For example:

  • Many parents tend to do things for their kids just to get it done, or to avoid going through the hassle of teaching or arguing with them.

  • Some parents may give in to a child who is screaming and throwing a fit, because they want them to “just shut up”.

  • Other parents will try to smooth over or even avoid the fact that their child has done something wrong, because they are in denial and feel as if their child could do no wrong.

  • Some parents don’t want to deal with the problem, or they don’t know how to deal with their child’s behavior, or whether the discipline is too little or too much

  • Sometimes, a parent may be dealing with overwhelming life stresses and feel as though they just don’t have the time to think about it, or deal with it.

  • Then there are parents who are uneducated themselves and may not understand the importance of self-control and independence.

  • Almost all parents feel guilty and, therefore, will allow their child to get away with way more than they should.

If you have experienced any of these situations, you are not alone. I have experienced almost all of these, especially the “guilty parent syndrome”— always feeling bad for not providing more, or doing better. Because of this, I would let my children get away with things as a way to make up for my insufficiencies. But through my studies and experiences, I discovered that when parents operate out of guilt, they are operating more based on the way they feel, rather than giving thought of the definitive outcome for the child. When we do this, here is the problem: We are not making up for our insufficiencies. In fact, we are creating another problem for our children, thus doing them an injustice.

When we turn a blind eye or avoid the problem at hand, we are making the situation worse and acting as “enablers”. Even when a parent has the best of intentions, covering up or avoiding the fact that their child has an issue or has done something wrong, will further intensify the problem. Once this goes on long enough, he or she will eventually become an out-of-control monster. If we give children what they want when they throw tantrums, they will continue throwing tantrums and getting what they want, plain and simple.

When a child is not held accountable for his or her behavior, it prevents psychological growth. No one likes a spoiled child, but a spoiled adult is even worse. This is why it’s important to start teaching them self-control and accountability as early as possible. You should never wait until their teenage or early adulthood years to start instilling these values; if you do, it will be an extremely difficult and, quite possibly, out of control situation to tackle. Therefore, we must take action NOW.

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