Do you know the difference between discipline and punishment with their
Latin roots? Punishment implies “inflicting pain,” while discipline means
“to teach.” Parents who use punishment are missing important
opportunities to teach their children better behaviors and help them
learn self-discipline. Children can actually be taught responsible behaviors
to help them get the things they want without breaking the rules.
However, when parents are only interested in compliance, they often
impose strict and severe consequences to stop or prevent the behavior.
This generally leaves the child not thinking about how they were wrong
and need to develop more appropriate behavior, but leaves them instead
thinking about how unfair their parent is.
Punishment generally teaches children to become better at not getting caught, rather than stopping the undesirable behavior.
All behavior is purposeful. We don’t engage in behavior—responsible or
not—for no reason. Everything a person does is that person’s best
attempt to get at least one of his or her needs met in the best way
available at that time. Children do not set out to be intentionally
“bad.” The “bad” behaviors they engage in are helping them to meet a
need they have, which is why they do it.
Punishing children for attempting to get their needs met does not stop
them from needing to get their needs met. If a child is attempting to
get their need for freedom met by being with people of whom the parent
doesn’t approve, that freedom need does not go away by punishing the
child. In fact, often punishment restricts the freedom need even
further, making it more likely that the child will engage in more
severe and desperate ways of meeting their freedom need.
For example, if the child is grounded for being with people the parent
disapproves of, then he or she may end up disrespecting the grounding and
attempting to go out anyway. Then, it will become necessary for parent to become more severe in their punishment to attempt to gain
The interesting thing about control is that we really don’t have
control over our children. We cannot be with them 24/7 and thus, we
really don’t know what they are doing when they are out of our site. We
may think we are controlling them by grounding them, but are they
sneaking out? If not, what happens when the grounding is lifted?
In my next post, I will talk about discipline and how it fits in. In the meantime, to get a free Empowerment Parenting Tip Sheet, just click on the link and sign up for our email list in the upper right-hand corner of the page.