• Is Discipline the Same Thing as Punishment?

    Discipline and punishment are related. Both can be used in response to undesirable behaviors expressed by children. However, the goal of discipline is to teach. The goal of punishment is to…well, punish.

    When children act out, parents must respond quickly and effectively, but may feel stuck on what to do. When addressing disruptive behaviors, think about what you want your child to learn. Skills like problem-solving, self-awareness, empathy, and impulse control all can be built through using a situation as a teaching moment instead of a punishing moment. One such way of teaching is through natural consequences.

    Natural consequences may look like:

    – Your child breaks a toy in a fit of anger, so they don’t have it to play with anymore.

    – Your child doesn’t listen to your warnings to stop running, so they fall and hurt themselves.

    You can help your child recognize the connection between their actions and consequences by approaching them with an empathetic observation, and offering to help them problem-solve. For example, “You’re upset you broke that when you got mad. What can you do the next time you’re angry, so you can keep your things safe?”

    Not all behaviors have natural consequences that deter instances from repeating. Another way of teaching is by using logical consequences.

    Logical consequences may look like:

    -Your child gets angry and makes a mess with their toys. They must clean up their toys before they can move on to the next fun activity.

    – Your child hits and insults their sibling in an argument during a shared activity. They lose the opportunity to participate in the activity. Instead, you remove them and remind them how to express themselves without emotionally or physically harming someone.

    Both of these examples involve a consequence that is directly related to the behavior. This is different from removing unrelated privileges long after the behavior, which may not be as effective since the child may not connect the behavior to the consequence.

    In the long term, we want children to be able to think about a potential behavior, stop themselves, and consider alternatives. When parents use natural and logical consequences, it sets children up to learn and have more self control. Over time they will rely less on you to guide them through this process and be able to make great choices on their own.