Discipline instead of Punishment

Many of us think that discipline and punishment are the same. They are not.

What is discipline?

Discipline is guidance and teaching. It is the parent’s job to discipline their children. When we guide children towards positive behaviour and learning, we are promoting a healthy attitude. Parents need to teach standards, values and appropriate behaviours to respond to various situations in life. Discipline requires thought, planning, and patience. Positive guidance will encourage a child to think before she acts.

What is punishment?

Punishment is just a type of discipline. However, this is ineffective and mostly thoughtless. Punishment is usually hitting, spanking, or any form of behavioural control. There are normally 4 type of punishment:

Physical - Caning, slapping, spanking, hitting etc with a belt or ruler and so on.
Verbal - Shaming, name-calling, criticism, insulting or using derogatory words.
Remove incentive - e.g. "You can't go play with your neighbours if your homework is not done."
Penalty - e.g. "You can't have your pocket money because you didn’t get a perfect score for your spelling test."

Punishment causes three main reactions in children: I term it 3F.

  • Fright – the child feels frightened of you and may, in the short term, comply. Parents should guide children to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. Definitely not because doing it because they are afraid of us.
  • Flight – a child might leave home. Or she might flee psychologically by not talking to parents. They will often choose to stop conversing with you.
  • Fight – a child might fight back trying to save her face. This will lead to arguments and power struggles.

Why then do we still use punishment? This is usually because it's quick and easy. It also asserts authority, or simply we do not know of other better methods.

None of these punishing acts will encourage cooperation or improve the parent-child relationship.

On the other hand, discipline – teaching, modeling, guiding, training etc. – can influence and shape children’s behaviour. It encourages cooperation and improves the parent child relationship.