In our classrooms, we aim to use discipline rather than punishment.
The point of discipline is to teach a child to make better behavior choices. The point of punishment is to MAKE a child do a certain behavior or stop a certain behavior.
Discipline emphasizes what a child should do while punishment emphasizes what a child should not do.
Discipline is an ongoing process while punishment is a one time occurrence (or if it occurs more than once the child is berated that he/she hasn’t changed his/her behavior yet – “I’ve already told you…”)
Discipline sets an example to follow while punishment insists on obedience and often contradicts what the child sees the adult(s) doing (e.g. “Don’t hit!” as the child is spanked or “Stop yelling!” is screamed at the child.)
Discipline helps children change, while punishment is more of a release of anger or frustration from an adult – thus, helping the adult relieve stress (while creating more stress for the child).
Discipline fosters the child’s ability to think while punishment tends to encourage obedience without thinking.
Discipline bolsters self-esteem (because it lets children learn from the decisions they make and the consequences they sometimes carry; it shows children you think they are capable) while punishment tends to lower self esteem (because the message is “you can’t control this without me”).
Those who discipline look at misbehaviors as opportunities to learn while those who punish tend to look at misbehaviors as a personal affront or a mistake made by the child.
Punishment tends to be aggressive where the adult talks and does TO the child. Discipline tends to be assertive where the adult talks and does WITH the child.
This is the real distinction between the two:
discipline leads to self control while punishment actually undermines independence and reinforces dependence upon pleasing adults and supervisors.
Our goal is to use primarily preventative discipline where we will work proactively to encourage respectful behaviors by creating a positive classroom environment and planning engaging learning experiences. We will also use a lot of supportive discipline where we aim to encourage a continuation of positive social behaviors. When corrective discipline is needed, we will view these times as “teachable moments” where we will deliver consequences with empathy. Some of our interventions may require long range planning where we include parents in the problem solving.