Do You Discipline or Punish?

By Mary B. Hammock, MSN, CPNP

Do You Discipline or Punish?

Punishment controls behavior by using pain or unpleasantness to end a wrong behavior. Thousands of studies show that punishment teaches fear, aggression, and avoidance. Punishment is typically carried out in anger, frustration or in an attempt to establish dominance and immediate obedience. If your goal is to change a negative behavior, punishment should be the last tactic you choose.

What is Obedience Worth?

A high value is placed on obedience. Discipline helps teach children a value system and the benefit of doing what is right. It builds self-esteem, teaches responsibility and helps to develop self-control.

When to Disciplin

While it is very important to be swift and consistent in disciplining, try not to correct your child in front of others, including grandparents. This will embarrass your child and likely cause resentment, just as you wouldn’t want your boss to correct you in front of your peers.

You are The Example

As always, set a positive example. If it is not appropriate for your child to scream at his brother or call him names, don’t lead by bad example. If you find it appalling that your four year old slapped her friend because she took her red crayon, be sure she is not being slapped or spanked as a discipline method in your home.

A Great Tool For Obedience

Another tool to obedience is to teach and to practice. Children are not mind readers and were not born knowing how to clean their room, pick up their toys or clean off the table – especially to our particular liking. Tell your child why it is not acceptable, demonstrate the correct way to do the job and practice until they get it right. And of course, the power of praise will reinforce the great job that was done. Sometimes it is necessary to practice on your schedule and not theirs. Waking them at seven on a Saturday morning to practice cleaning their room can have more of an impact than 4 o’clock on a Thursday.

Children Want To Be Important Contributors

Children are more likely to choose positive behaviors and choices when they see themselves as capable individuals and responsible community members. Parents using positive language can help children build that self-perception. Name concrete, specific behaviors your child is displaying. “I was really proud when you gently took your sister’s hand and walked with her through the parking lot” is more effective than “Good work.” It is equally important to use a warm tone and avoid being over sentimental. “Thank you for inviting your brother to play the game with you” is more appropriate than “You are mommy’s good girl.” As a bonus, your language helps those within earshot form a positive perception of your child, which further enhances your child’s self-perception and promotes positive behavior.

Being a good parent is a full-time job. Rewards can come slowly in the trenches of daily life. It is easy to get overwhelmed and exhaustion can lead to poor choices resulting in punishment, instead of discipline. No change comes quickly but even small changes in your disciplining methods will result in big changes in your child’s obedience and self-worth. Healthy Steps Pediatrics is helping to grow healthy children one step at a time. Call 678-384-3480 for your appointment today.