Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Punishment VS. Discipline.

Is it just me, or has anyone else ever wondered which is which? I know I blogged about this a while back, but it seems like a topic we can visit more than once... Do you agree?

We use these words interchangably, when in fact, they are complete and total opposites. Let me explain.

The word "punishment" means pain, suffering, or loss that serves as retribution.

The word "discipline" means training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character.

Basically, "punishment" is how we react when we are unprepared, while "discipline" doesn't catch us off guard. Let me 'splain.

I think, as parents, we spend WAY too much time trying to catch our kids doing something wrong and not NEARLY enough time looking for them doing something right. As a result of that, we have our finger on the punishment trigger most of the time. We are physically exhausted, mentally stretched, and our kids pay the price for our own lack of management. The LAST thing we want is another set of rules to structure or another situation to monitor. However, since we haven't clearly explained to our children what's expected, blow ups happen on their part and certainly on ours.

Is it possible to make a rules system that covers every single scenario before they actually happen? No. But what we CAN do is create a basic structure of functioning that all behaviors should fall under. Here's our own structured guidelines that we operate within in our household. They are not by any means "one size fits all," but they uphold our core beliefs and help us become the family we want to be.

1. Tell the truth at all times.
2. Use respectful language and tones.
3. Be responsible with your own property.
4. Be a team player.

Notice, these guidelines are for our ENTIRE family. It's important to not make the rules completely child centered. They need to see US modeling the behavior we desire to see in them!

Every action falls either inside or outside of these parameters. When the behavior is less than acceptable, discipline comes into effect. It's just basic cause and effect, peeps! Punishment, however, is a knee-jerk reaction, that never, EVER helps the situation, but creates more pain for everyone involved.

One of the cornerstones of my parenting beliefs is that if boundaries are communicated, there is no room for chaos. Do I mean that if I communicate the boundaries, there will never be bumpy roads or rules broken? (Insert insane laughter here) Um, no. Our kids are a little bit of us, and a little bit of our spouse, after all. But what guidelines do for us are provide a game plan, so that there are no foggy areas anymore, and reactions are lessened.

Still unclear on punishment versus discipline? A couple more examples. Kid does something wrong and you can't wait to set him straight? Punishment. Kid does something wrong and you know you MUST deal with it because it will shape who they are as a person? Discipline. Kid disobeys and you fly off the handle? Punishment. Kid breaks a rule and your heart is broken when you have to implement the consequence? Discipline.

Dealing with our children is a heart matter. As best we can, we need to be aware of the motives within our hearts BEFORE dealing with the hearts of our little ones. Once those words are out there, we can't get them back.

Thank God for mercy!


  1. So true! Every time I've made the mistake of knee-jerk punishment, we've both been hurt and upset by it. It's so much better to interrupt whatever you're doing and take the time for one-on-one discipline and explain the consequences of disobedience...they actually learn and desire to obey next time. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Thank you for this post. This is something I struggle with and I have to pray for strength and patience, and take a deep breath before I deal with things. God recently showed me in my devotions that, "A gentle answer turneth away wrath" also applies to dealing with your children.