Are You Punishing or Disciplining Your Child? Know the Difference


Are you disciplining your child or you are simply punishing him? Is there even a difference between the two? Yes there is!

To discipline a child is to teach and train him to follow a set of rules or instructions. Punishment on the other hand is inflicting pain and suffering on a child, as a consequence of  disobedience/wrong doings.

While discipline is usually constructive and positive, punishment takes a more physical form like hitting, slapping, beating, frog jumps, or making the child do excruciating chores around the home etc. Punishment could also be psychological. For example, insulting and shaming the child or depriving him of food.

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Many parents in the bid to discipline their children to teaching them appropriate behavior and responsibility have punished them instead.   

How Do I Discipline My Child Without Punishing Him?

You must first of all understand that, to discipline someone is to teach them. You do not need to use physical force or psychological torture to make a child understand and follow an acceptable pattern of behavior. Many times, when physical force is mete out to a child, it causes that child to become resentful, rather than learn the lesson intended.

Physical force also breeds fear. They may obey your instructions but only because they are afraid of being punished and not because they really understand why it is important for them to behave in such a required manner. That kind of obedience is superficial. As soon as they are away from your reach, they could indulge in that wrong behavior knowing you are not there to punish them. This shows they never understood the real consequences of their actions.

READ ALSO:How To Identify A Sibling Bully & What To Do

To train your child without using punitive measures, you should:

1. Lead By Example: Children learn better by observing. As they grow older, they emulate their parents’ behaviour and that of the people around them. Therefore, if you want your child to learn how to speak to people kindly, let him always see you speaking kindly to others.

2. Be Patient: Little children are very curious beings. They are adventurous and approach things without fear. They don’t know know the danger in touching a naked wire, neither do they know that emptying the bottle of powder all over their body would offend you. Generally, they do not know that they are supposed to behave in a certain way until you teach them. This takes a gradual process and involves constantly repeating your instructions until they “get it”. So the next time your child misbehaves and you want to slap him, resist that urge and think of a more impactful action.

3. React Reasonably: It is easy to get frustrated with kids and hit them before you realise that you went overboard. When your child misbehaves and you want to correct him or her, use consequences that match their misbehavior. For example, if your child litters a place you’ve just swept, make him pick up the items he littered on the floor. And if your child shoves another kid off the couch, make him forfeit that couch for the child he shoved and sit on the floor instead. That way, it would register in his mind not to shove off anyone from a chair another time. You can also withdraw the things that the child enjoys like, a toy, forfeiting TV etc., but definitely not food.

READ ALSO:7 Ways To Discipline A Toddler Without Spanking (Part Two)

4. Avoid Insulting Words: You can communicate your disapproval to your child without using insults and hurtful words. Not only are you leading a bad example as they are most likely to repeat the things they hear you say, you are also damaging them psychologically. Children do not take very kindly to harsh words and if you call them, “useless”, “idiot,” they will start to see themselves that way and would remember these hurtful words for a long time. You can make your points without insults.

5. Set Clear Boundaries And Consequences: Let your child know what is acceptable and what isn’t. Communicate clearly what the consequences of disobedience would be, this way, they know what to do and what is coming should they fail to do what is required of them.

Remember, your consequences should be reasonable and age appropriate. The goal is to build a responsible child, a child who is well behaved and aware of what is right and wrong, not a child who is full of fear, doubts and bruises.

2 Discussions on
“Are You Punishing or Disciplining Your Child? Know the Difference”
  • A lot of African parents punish their children and call it discipline. Inshort, they abuse their children. Thanks MIM for stating the differences between both.

  • Thank you for this article, it is encouraging. It feels like too many people rely on corporal punishment here 🙁

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