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Discipline vs. Punishment

Discipline

Four factors of Effective Discipline:

Effective discipline that is safe, healthy, and promotes childhood learning and skill building includes four interconnected factors:

  1. Supportive parent-child relationship
    Building a positive, supportive parent-child relationship is essential for effective discipline. We want to spend our energy building a positive bond and relationship with the child. Early childhood relationships impact brain development and shape behaviors. Choose to invest your time with your child. Through a relationship, adults have the opportunity to model the use of appropriate behaviors, build up a child through words and form a relationship of trust.

  2. Provision of a safe, learning environment
    Building a positive, supportive parent-child relationship is essential for effective discipline. We want to spend our energy building a positive bond and relationship with the child. Early childhood relationships impact brain development and shape behaviors. Choose to invest your time with your child. Through a relationship, adults have the opportunity to model the use of appropriate behaviors, build up a child through words and form a relationship of trust.

  3. Teach behaviors and skills appropriate to the child’s age and development
    Discipline means “to teach”. Children are not born knowing what behaviors to do or not do. Positive discipline empowers children by providing long-term of social and emotional skills needed throughout their lifespan. Primary caregivers are models, guides, and teachers of appropriate skills so children develop the ability to redirect their own behavior and gain confidence in making the right choices. The learning of any new skill involves mistakes and improvements. Children repeat the behaviors that work and eliminate the behaviors that don’t work. We need to make sure that children get our attention when they behave appropriately in positive ways.

  4. Respond to challenging behaviors with safe, healthy, and effective strategies
    Effective discipline is more than the use one strategy to change in behavior; in fact, effective discipline includes a focus on growing the parenting tool belt with many strategies. Success for the parent and child is increased when a parent has the opportunity to select a discipline strategy that best fits the situation, needs of the child, and learning goal as projected outcome. Physical punishment is harmful to a child’s social, emotional, and mental health. Center for Effective Discipline encourages parents to learn effective alternatives that grow safe, healthy and resilient children.

    Effective discipline includes early intervention and consistency in parental responses to challenging behaviors. The parental approach during discipline should be calm and supportive, yet direct. Parents should evaluate the effectiveness of the discipline strategy used to guide next steps for working with the challenging behavior. Parents who learn alternative discipline options and build their parenting tool belt have the ability to use different strategies to promote child learning. Challenging behavior is viewed as a learning opportunity through which the parent can help their child practice, learn and grow!

Punishment

What is Punishment?

Punishment includes the following ways of dealing with misbehavior:

  • Verbal punishment: yelling, threatening, name-calling and put-downs
  • Physical punishment: spanking, pinching, twisting arms, pulling ears, etc.
  • Irrational consequences: this includes consequences through over-reaction or under-reaction
  • Inappropriate and overuse of time-out

Unlike discipline, punishments are often punitive and focus directly on the problem behavior. Punishment does not teach the child how to change the behavior as a discipline focus does. Therefore, punishments can lead to embarrassment, anger, humiliation, fearfulness, anxiety and alienation from the caregiver. While punishment may have short-term effects, punishment is less effective than other forms of discipline.

Five Reasons Not to Use Physical Punishment

  1. Punishment Blocks the Learning Process
    A child who is spanked or hit is no longer in a frame of mind to learn. He has to do something with the anger which will either be turned inward against himself or outward into retaliation, both which are damaging. Harsh discipline fails to teach appropriate behavior. When we use harsh discipline, we pass up the teachable moment, which is the window of opportunity for helping children reflect on their reactions and learn a better way.

  2. The Adult is Modeling Aggression
    When you spank or hit a child, you become a role model for aggression and the child thinks it is OK to hit or retaliate when they are angry. You are giving them license to hit. However, when we provide a connection and bond with children, they will want to please us, imitate us, to be like us. When we speak respectfully and show children kindness, they will return the kindness and respect to us.

  3. The Memory Lasts a Lifetime
    "Smacking a child to quiet him will startle him and shame him into either tears or silence. Whatever the momentary gain for the disciplinarian, for the child, the lesson in shame and anger is lasting." (Drs. Kindlon and Thompson, Ph.D. authors of Raising Cain – Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys)

  4. The Goal of Discipline is Self-Discipline
    Instead of fostering the development of internal controls, harsh discipline reinforces the idea that discipline comes from external forces. Instead of leading a child towards better decision- making, it prevents him from internalizing strong values and learning the lessons of empathy and respect that lead to responsible, moral behavior and emotional accountability.

  5. It is Against the Law
    Hitting anyone other than a child is called "assault and battery" and is punishable by law.
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