Do you ‘punish’ your children or ‘discipline’ them? If you ‘punish’ your children, you are using methods that are retaliatory, illogical, and often arbitrary. You are using punishment to enforce your power over your child. If you are disciplining them, you are giving logical consequences for your children’s behavior. A logical consequence has a relationship to the misdeed. It is an effect arranged by the adult rather than the result of the child’s own acts. A choice is given between two or more alternatives. If a misjudgment is made, the child would prefer that the adult accept responsibility for the consequences. For example, the child or the parent can pick up the toys; however, if the parent picks them up, they will be stored in the attic for a while. Compare this to a ‘punishment’, where a parent may say: “You are so messy. All of your toys are left on the floor – no ice cream for a week!”
In the following section, I would like to point out the differences between ‘consequences’ and ‘punishments’. Obviously, I think providing logical consequences if a more effective method of parenting. Perhaps you can use these comparisons to evaluate your own methods.
Expresses the reality of the social order or the situation not the person.,Expresses the power of the personal authority.
Logically related to the misbehavior and designed to teach., Not logical – only an arbitrary connection between misbehavior and consequence.
Involves no element of moral judgment., Inevitability involves some moral judgment.
Concerned only with what will happen now., Deals with the past.
The relationship and atmosphere are friendly. Resentment is minimized., Often anger is present either overtly or covertly. Resentment is frequent.
Develops intrinsic motivation and self discipline., Depends on extrinsic motivation.
No submission or humiliation., Often requires submission or humiliation.
Freedom of choice within limits., No alternative or choice.
Thoughtful and deliberate. ,Often impulsive.
Child feels important. ,Child feels belittled.
Choice given only once. ,Often involves endless nagging.
Uses action. ,Uses talking and coercion.
The child accepts responsibility for his own actions. ,The adult takes responsibility for the child’s actions.
The adult is disengaged from negative involvement with the child. ,Involvement is always negative.
Based on the concept of equality of worth between children and adults. ,Based on superior-inferior relationships between children and adults. Fear of punishment from a superior.
Implies the child can work out his problems. ,Implies that only an adult is capable of solving the child’s problem.
1. Punishment expresses the power of personal authority.
P. Jim, turn off that TV. Your Mom and I are trying to sleep!
C. Jim, I realize that it’s Saturday morning and you’re enjoying your cartoons, but Mom and I are trying to sleep. So either turn down the TV or play outside; you decide which you would rather do.
2. Punishment is arbitrary or barely related to the logic of the situation.
P. Susan! I’ve told you a thousand times to keep your room straightened up! I can’t vacuum the carpets with all that mess on the floor, so you can forget about the movie on Saturday.
C. Susan, I’m going to vacuum the carpets today. I can’t vacuum your room if there are toys and clothes lying around on the floor. So, I’ll place them in bags and put them in the basement if you decide not to pick them up.
3. Punishment is personalized and implies moral judgment.
P. You took my hammer without permission! Don’t you know that’s like stealing? You know that stealing is wrong. And now you’ve lost it! Your allowance is cut off until the hammer is paid for.
C. How will you replace the hammer?
4. Punishment is concerned with past behavior.
P. Ralph! It’s six o’clock. You’re always late! How many times have we gone through this? You never seem to care. You can just stay home for a week and forget about that bike we talked about.
C. (The next time Ralph asks to go out.) I’m sorry, but you’re not ready to take responsibility for coming home on time. We’ll try again tomorrow.
5. Punishment threatens the “offender” with disrespect or loss of love; it is a put-down.
P. You did not feed Champ, so you may not play with him today. Maybe this will teach you the value of your pet.
C. Charles, you haven’t taken time to give him his food and water today. We’ll try again tomorrow.
6. Punishment demands obedience.
P. You two knock it off right now or you’ll go to bed without dinner!
C. You may settle down or leave the table until you’re ready to join us.