Discipline vs Punishment

Many persons use the words discipline and punishment interchangeably. However, the two are not synonymous. Let me explain. The word “discipline” is from the Latin word disciplina, meaning “instruction and training”. It is derived from the root word discere, meaning “to learn”. Discipline is a process that enables children to become social, productive and responsible adults who contribute positively to society. Discipline positively contributes to child development.

On the other hand, punishment is about imposing external controls by force on children to change their behaviours. Punishment has some immediate satisfaction for the punisher, but this is offset by long-term disadvantages for the child. It entails physical and emotional ill-treatment that harms the child’s health, development and/or dignity.

This article will contrast positive discipline and corporal punishment. Corporal punishment seeks to inflict pain or discomfort intentionally and/or using physical force to stop or change behaviour. Examples of corporal punishment in homes are: flogging, beating, hitting, spanking, kicking, caning, pinching, squeezing (hand or other body parts), and “conking” (using knuckles to hit on the head). Corporal punishment also includes forcing children to: kneel for extended periods, stand/kneel in the sun, and deprivation of basic needs.

The following are some effects of corporal punishment:

• Corporal punishment erodes a child’s basic trust, stimulates mistrust, anger, and resentment.

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• Corporal punishment slows the development of autonomy and produces some degree of shame and doubt.

• Corporal punishment is demeaning, inhibits initiative, and stimulates the development of shame, guilt, anger and the wish to retaliate.

• Corporal punishment interferes by producing in the child feelings of inferiority, helplessness, and inability to accomplish.

• Corporal punishment causes the child to see himself or herself in relation to the person punishing him or her.

On the other hand, positive discipline has the following benefits and outcomes:

Positive discipline uses misbehaviour as teaching and learning opportunities.

It involves adults setting positive examples in their actions and eliminating negative communication (such as shrugs or commands) and replacing it with positive/engaging communication (such as “how could you do it differently?”).

• Positive discipline is proactive and presents choices.

• Positive discipline focuses on choices

• Positive discipline teaches what to do.

• Positive discipline preserves mutual respect and dignity

• Positive discipline raises self-esteem.

• Positive discipline leaves children feeling good about themselves.

• Positive discipline teaches self-control by explaining reasons.

• Positive discipline teaches life skills.

Reread the article. Compare and contrast positive discipline and punishment. Ask yourself: “What results do I want for my child/children?” Now choose!

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