Child Discipline: To Punish or Not
Posted by Dr. Jane Nelsen on 9/1/2011
What do you think of when you hear the word “discipline”? Most people
think of punishment. I invite you to think a little deeper starting with
the exploration of the long-term results of punishment.
When children are punished they do not learn
self-discipline. Punishment provides “external” motivation.
Self-discipline requires “inner” motivation. When children are punished
they either comply to avoid the punishment (and may become approval
junkies), or they may get sneaky and do all they can to avoid getting
caught. They may they blatantly rebel—resulting in endless power-struggles
with their parents. Then parents complain about the behavior of their
children without taking responsibility for their part—how they invited
the power struggles by using ineffective discipline methods
Positive Discipline does not advocate any form of punishment—no punitive time-out
or grounding, no withdrawal of privileges, no yelling, no lectures, no threatening, no spanking, no rewards, no praise.
At this point you may be wondering two things,
“What else is there?”, and, “Wait a minute; praise and rewards aren’t
punishment.” Praise and rewards are not punishment but they are external
motivators, which do not teach self-discipline, self-control, and the
desire to make a contribution based on inner motivation.
In answer to what else is there; that is what
Positive Discipline is all about—providing many non-punitive parenting
tools that follow two basic guidelines: 1) Create a connection before
correction, 2) Correction usually involves children in focusing on
There are many specific parenting tools that meet these basic guidelines. A deck of cards called Positive Discipline Parenting Tools
includes 52 of them. All are designed to help children learn
self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation, problem-solving skills,
and other valuable social and life skills for good character. I’ll
mention a few:
children learn to give and receive compliments and to brainstorm for
solutions to family challenges that have been put on the agenda.
where parents invite children to think instead of telling them what to think.
to help children feel supported without needing to be rescued or fixed. They learn they can survive the ups and downs of life.
help children learn self-soothing by creating a place that helps them
feel better (so they can access their rational brains).
created by children so they feel motivated to follow the routines they have created (or at least helped create.)
Most parents would prefer to give up punishment if
they knew what else to do that would help their children develop into
capable and caring adults. That is what Positive Discipline is all
Totally different way to do things. Perhaps positive discipline might work for us.