Discipline helps children learn

I recently had someone ask me, “Lori if you say I can’t punish my child aren’t you really telling me that they should be able to do whatever they want?”.   Thus started our conversation on the difference between punishment and discipline.

Earlier this month we defined both punishment and discipline. We found the definition of punishment to be: to deal with roughly or harshly, to inflict injury on. While the definition of discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character.

In parenting, our goal should always be to mold and correct as opposed to inflict injury on. I understand where the question about punishment came from. Obviously, we don’t want to imply that inappropriate behaviors in children should have no consequences or that children shouldn’t be held accountable for their actions. What we do want is children who trust that we have their best interests in mind as we guide and teach them appropriate ways to act and behave.

We know that guiding children takes time but it also takes a trusting relationship. Children learn to trust us through our consistency with them. They learn from us when we are consistent with our expectations of their behavior and when we take time to talk and model the behavior we want them to have instead. When we guide their appropriate choices we instill a sense of trust in them. They understand that even though we may not be letting them do what they want, they trust us because we have been loving and consistent.

My answer to the original question then was “Discipline is always about helping children learn the consequences of their actions. Punishment is about instilling fear”.

Lori Korthals, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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8 thoughts on “Discipline helps children learn

  1. I agree with you on the consistency end. That really helps children understand. When you aren’t consistent they struggle to grasp what to do. Thanks for sharing!

    Naomi at Parenting Pod

  2. I think there is a thin line between discipline and punishment. How kids will learn consequences of their actions for that sometimes you have to give punishment. I have also mentioned in one of my post parents stop giving empty threats of punishment to their kids. So how they can understand the consequences

  3. This is an topic I come across often. What I have noticed most is that people often see the words discipline and punishment as interchangeable words (when they are not). Once parents understand the difference, it is easier for them to then correct negative behavior in a positive manner. Consistency is absolutely key. That you for such a positive response!

  4. I must say I agree with your entire philosophy and the way u brought out the message I must say I am strongly appreciative of the post good read.

  5. Thanks for this informative post. I might agree on this point and the discipline comes from childhood.

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  7. Hi there

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