NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Discipline vs Punishment: What's the Difference?






By definition, discipline is what people do to guide, encourage, and otherwise help others learn what acceptable behavior is, what it looks like, and how it is done.  This definition applies to the relationship between a parent and child, of course.  Without being too much of a stretch of the imagination, it perhaps can also be applied to adult relationships and relationships between employers and employees. 


On the other hand, punishment is a reaction to misbehavior.  Punishment usually hurtful and may even be unrelated to the misbehavior. In the short term, punishment may prevent a repeat of the behavior, but in the long run it is ineffective because it does not teach appropriate behavior or help the child or other person learn "what to do instead."

In parenting situations, punishment may release the parent’s angry feelings, but it can create fear or humiliation in the child.  Punishment in families and work places rarely leads to the creation of respect-based or respectful relationships.

When children misbehave, parents and other adults need to help the child learn appropriate behaviors. Punishment may give immediate results, but it does not help the child develop the self-control they will need in other settings and situations when the parent or adult who delivers punishment is not present. Research supports the conclusion that discipline is more effective than punishment and that children who are punished become very different people than children who are disciplined.

Using the guidance approach to discipline means using developmentally appropriate guidance. That means having a clear understanding of the stage of development that the child is in, and knowing what can be expected for the age. With this in mind, we choose to use a discipline strategy or technique that best fits the child and the situation. Perhaps the greatest advantage of this approach is that it is based on open communication, positive discipline and that the techniques can apply to a child of any age.

With practice and patience, positive results are achieved by using a guidance approach to discipline.  Seven principles outline the basics of such an approach:   

                1 - Children are in the process of learning acceptable behavior.
                2 - An effective guidance approach is preventive because it respects feelings
                     even while it addresses behavior.
                3 - Adults need to understand the reasons for children’s behavior.
                4 - A supportive relationship between an adult and a child is the most critical
                     component of effective guidance.
                5 - Adults use forms of guidance and group management that help children
                     learn self-control and responsiveness to the needs of others.
                6 - Adults model appropriate expression of their feelings.
                7 - Adults continue to learn even as they teach.

Next week’s blog will dive into the role of the parent and highlight several specific techniques parents can use to effectively guide their child’s development and behavior. 

Source:  The Guidance Approach to Discipline, NDSU Extension Service.

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