8 Ways Discipline and Punishment are Not the Same
Discipline is used to teach and guide.
Punishment is used for the purposes of controlling and retribution. Young children do not commit crimes. Their mistakes call for a corrective disciplinary response.
A study on the moral development of children found that children who feared punishment tended to have less guilt, were less willing to accept responsibility, were less resistant to temptation and had fewer internal controls than children who were not punished.
Punishment interferes with the development of internal controls by teaching children that it is someone else’s responsibility to control them and decide what behavior is “bad” and what the consequences will be. Children may then conclude that it is OK to misbehave if they can avoid getting caught or if they are willing to accept the consequences.
Discipline teaches children a particular misbehavior is bad because it violates the social order, thus promoting the development of internal controls.
A 1985 study shows a correlation between corporal punishment and stealing, truancy, aggression, hostility, lying, depression and low self-esteem.
Punishment causes children to focus their attention and anger toward an “unfair” adult rather than on learning to be responsible for their own actions.
Violence perpetuates violence. In a recent landmark study, 41% of parents believed that a child should be spanked for hitting.
Punishment validates fear, pain, intimidation and violence as acceptable methods of resolving conflict. Corporal punishment denies children equal protection under the law – the rules of our society say you should hit children but may not hit another adult. Sweden and five other countries have outlawed spanking children.
Physical punishment can escalate into battering and can result in permanent physical, mental, spiritual or emotional harm. It also confuses the issue of love and violence, teaching that violence can be an expression of love.
Punishment creates a final solution with the adult acting as judge, jury and executioner.
Discipline creates dialogue and communication with the adult acting as teacher.