The following is an excerpt from Parenting with Positive Guidance:
Consider these two words: Discipline and Punishment.
I’m not trying to argue over semantics here, but I would like to offer a change in perspective. To many people, the two words above carry the same meaning. But let’s think about that here.
Read more in Parenting with Positive Guidance.
Top photo by Howie Le.
Zina :: Let's Lasso the Moon says
Thank you for sharing. This line really stuck out, “When we choose proactive discipline, we teach moral decision-making. Instead of trying to control our children, we teach them to control themselves.” This is my number one goal as a parent. I hope your eBook sales go well.
I like it, well written and thorough. I will however like to disagree with “…children see little or no connection between their actions, and the adult’s…”. My children as young as 2 or 3 can explain to you why they were sent to time out, or punished. Too many people discredit small children, they are very smart!
Candy Lawrence says
I love the way you lift the curtain on a word that has acquired a new and negative meaning. No, ‘discipline’ doesn’t mean ‘punishment’ (if you look at the word, it’s based on the same root as ‘disciple’- think about it!) any more than ‘diet’ means ‘deprivation’.
Jennifer Lehr says
This is SUCH an important issue and one i’ve been thinking a lot about lately.
It seems to me, and please correct me if I’m wrong, that the way you are using the term discipline in this article is “self-discipline” as in self-control, having control over your impulses. In other words, as a noun, not a verb.
To punish someone and to discipline someone are, whether we like it or not, in today’s culture synonymous (as you point out.) As a matter of fact, webster’s dictionary lists as the first definition of disicpline, “punishment” and the second it says is OBSOLETE (antiquated, out of date) and that is “instruction.” Many who advocate for what is sometimes called “positive discipline” think of the word in terms of instruction, even though in our culture in 2012 it literally does NOT MEAN THAT ANYMORE. Therefore what one is actually saying when they say “positive discipline” is “positive punishment” and that is inaccurate. People who advocate for positive parenting (that goes by many names) guide their children, listen to them, try to find what caused the behavior, set limits firmly but gently, work with kids to find solutions etc. all of that may result (hopefully) in self-discipline but it is not discipline resulting in self-discipline it is what it is “guiding” teaching, working with, talking about, boundary-setting, empathy etc. we do NOT need to call that stuff discipline, just call it what it is. I think the positive discipline crowd just may use the term DISCIPLINE to appeal to those who do punish via time outs, threats, taking away toys and priveleges and hitting their children (that is to say trying to control their behavior via fear) to assure them that they still have the upper hand and that things will not be out of control. If people feel that need to be strategic, than I can understand that argument however, I don’t agree with it.
This is a complicated topic. And I think that it really needs this kind of discussion and reevaluation. I appreciate this post and hope to have further discussion.
I agree with you that we parents ought to teach discipline proactively in our children, but thatvdoesn’t mean there isn’t a place for punishment. Because here’s the thing–in the real world, people are not proactively disciplined by the authorities. I think is very important to teach our children that if they mess up, they will have to pay for it somehow. The key is communicating to them why they are being punished and letting them know that if they stop doing the thing that got them in trouble, they will be happier. My parents spanked me, but they always did it in a very cool, relaxed way. And they always talked to me, and explained everything. They never seemed angry, so I never learned to fear their “wrath”. I only wanted to avoid being punished again. That desire to avoid punishment taught me some of the discipline you speak of.
You make good points, Erich. As this post comes from an excerpt of a much longer ebook, it only tells a part of the story. I do — very strongly — believe in consequences. I don’t, however, believe that physical punishment is a healthy tool to use as a “consequence”. Later in the ebook, I write at length about consequences, but in this section, I’m largely addressing spanking as a broken tool. I – like you – was spanked now and then and hold no ill will about it and don’t feel I was abused or mistreated. I have great parents. But they taught much more frequently by enforcing consequences than by forceful punishments of a physical nature. That’s the tool I personally prefer to use.
Whatever Emily says
Typical article never offering the how to do it. Only tells you the much repeated “discipline out of love or with love” and make it sound all sweet and nice but offer nothing as to what to do in different common situations. Exhausting.
True, positive guidance does take a great deal of effort. Both to implement and to explain. This article was not intended to be an all-inclusive text. As the title implies, it is a comparison of the perspectives and philosophies of discipline and punishment. If you’re looking for more information, this philosophical comparison is part of a larger text as linked above (it was a broken link earlier – apologies), which, at over 100 pages, goes on to give many specific techniques and practices. But the “what do we do” question always begins with “why we do it”, otherwise there’s a lot of misdirection and misuse. Positive guidance is not a quick fix, and is therefore not a quick answer. Because the platform here calls for brevity, you will find that full, long answer, broken into digestible pieces in separate posts. If you’re looking to dive into a more comprehensive approach, there is the full body of articles here and elsewhere, as well as ebooks, books, and courses, not only from myself but a variety of other sources I’d be happy to recommend.