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Punishment vs. Discipline

Below are some excerpts from an article by Melody Schuman, a leader in applying principles of childhood development to martial arts programs. She describes some strategies on setting expectations for children and some ideas for disobedience once standards are set. Since we use most of the techniques she mentions I thought it would be a good read for everyone :).

Let’s compare two words and what they really mean:

Punishment – means to inflict pain or suffering as a penalty.

Discipline – means to teach.

It’s understandable we as parents can get very frustrated when a child misbehaves, specifically when they make the same poor behavior choices over and over. At the same time, if we have clear goals to teach good behavior skills, then we can respond better. The better we respond, the better the results.

What are our goals for our children when they misbehave?

• Our first goal is to get them to cooperate. This is primarily short-term.

• The second goal we don’t always consider is more long-term, and is for our children to make better choices without the threat of punishment or consequences.

• To see progress  we need to consider both goals as often as possible. To accomplish this requires us to be patient, present, and intentional.

3-steps of discipline:

1. CONNECT – this doesn’t mean to be permissible or passive, but to ensure as you begin to set clear expectations, your child calms down emotionally and feels your sincere approach. When a child is upset, they are less likely to hear what you are saying. You must be patient so you remain as calm as possible during the process, which is the hardest but most stress-free way to discipline.

2. RE-DIRECT – list out what the poor behavior choice was as well as what the proper behavior choice is. This requires you to be present so you can clearly calculate the desired outcome.

3. REPAIR – discuss necessary steps on how to solve the current behavior problem, review better choices, and set ground rules should the poor behavior choices continue. This requires you to be intentional in your actions so your long-term goals start to take shape.

When are consequences effective?

• Only after you’ve you have worked through the 3 steps of discipline and still, your child intentionally disobeys the ground rules.

What type of consequences is effective?

• One which matches the behavior. For example: if the child throws her iPad in an impulsive rage, then taking away her iPad for 48 hours is a considered a reasonable consequence. (A week is a long period and could potentially trigger more anger and rage. The goal is to teach her, but also empower her to self-correct her behavior in the future. The smaller time frame will teach her throwing things is not acceptable, but at the same time, you trust she will re-correct this behavior within the next few days.)

• If you throw something, then you lose a personal item for 48 hours.

• If you show poor manners, then you must re-enact the proper manner if you are younger, or write a letter about having better manners. All of this should be pre-framed.

• If you wake up late for school because you stayed up late the night before, then you must go to bed an hour earlier for the next two days.

• At the same time, if you want consequences to work then you also need rewards. Reward your child when she goes a week without misbehaving. (This time frame may be shorter or longer depending on the child.) Also, the best rewards are not material things, but more relationship-building rewards. For example, she can pick to go to a family movie or a special place for a family dinner.

Bottom line, the three biggest takeaways from this are:

• Discipline is the better, more positively-productive method for instilling long-term behavior skills.

• Connect, re-direct, and repair is the 3-step method for developing self-discipline skills.

• When necessary, the consequences are more productive than punishments. Avoid consequences that are retroactive or decrease morale. Be sure to add rewards as well.

I hope this article sheds some positive light on how to help your child make better behavior choices!