Teaching kids right from wrong and that actions have consequences aren’t easy tasks to take on. It’s even harder when your kids are behaving like anything but angels. It’s essential to ensure that your child understands that their actions aren’t appropriate while providing context for why and helping them understand that this isn’t appropriate behavior in future situations. Though discipline and punishment often get put together, it’s important to understand the difference in educating your kids.
So, what is punishment? “Punishment is focused on compliance, not teaching,” says Aliza W. Pressman, Ph.D. Punishment is a way to discipline through making a child regret their behavior. The approach also adds an element of using fear as a way to prevent future unwanted behavior. Punishment is what you do as a response to a particular action. Thus, punishment isn’t usually implemented with a specific structure of context to help the child learn and develop. In addition to this, punishment isn’t always intentional; it’s a reaction that isn’t still rational and won’t allow the child to produce the skills for the desired behavior or how to change their behavior.
On the other hand, discipline stars before bad behaviors are ever expressed. Your kids will understand what you expect of them, and why you expect them to act in a certain way. When you discipline your child, you teach them what the real-life consequences to their actions are, and what they should expect if that behavior is not met. Discipline is all about structure and context; the same two aspects that punishment lacks.
The Bottom Line
For kids to understand and change their behavior, they need the structure to do so. Establishing clear explanations for what their actions mean and real-life consequences help children acquire boundaries and help them grow into responsible, thoughtful humans.