Discipline v Punishment

The issue of punishment and discipline of children has been coming up in parenting disputes so I decided to look at the difference/s between the two.

It concerned me when a parent thought it was OK to harshly punish a child, as they had been and there was nothing wrong with them. Not only that, but there was confusion as to what discipline and punishment are or mean.

Are they the same thing? In a word, no.

I went to dictionary.com as that is an easily accessible site for people to use. Below are the definitions of “discipline” and “punishment”.
DISCIPLINE
noun
1.training to act in accordance with rules; drill:military discipline.
2.activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill; training:A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
3.punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
4.the rigor or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.:the harsh discipline of poverty.
5.behavior in accord with rules of conduct; behavior and order maintained by training and control:good discipline in an army.
6.a set or system of rules and regulations.
7.Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of a church as distinguished from its doctrine.
verb (used with object), disciplined, disciplining.
10.to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
11.to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
12.to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.

PUNISHMENT
noun
1.the act of punishing.
2.the fact of being punished, as for an offense or fault.
3.a penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, etc.
4.severe handling or treatment.

The definition of discipline does refer to punishment, but the emphasis is on training and correction. By contrast, punishment has no element of training or correction. It is obvious that whacking a child with a belt several times on the legs for spilling a drink is punishment. It is also clear that to allow a natural consequence to take its course and discuss that with a child is discipline. But there is a fine line in many cases when teaching a child not to do something.

How do we know whether what we are doing is discipline or punishment?
I can think of a few things that would indicate where we are, things such as:
1. am I in control of my emotions and actions? If so then discipline is easier to ensure
2. is what I’m doing proportionate or in line with what the child did?
3. does my response to the child help him/her?
4. does what I’m doing just make the child frightened?
5. what am I teaching my child?
6. how do I want my child to parent his/her own children?
7. discipline can happen any time when there is a teaching opportunity

Always ask yourself these (or any other questions that would work for you) in training your children up in the way you want them to go. I hope this info is helpful!

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