Difference between Discipline and punishment

One of the pecks of childhood is the tendency to make mistakes. Young children are naturally given to making mistakes, and learning from their mistakes is what makes them better. But the way you correct them (help them learn from their mistakes) determines how well they will turnout in the future. This is where punishment and discipline come in, as they are used interchangeably for correction. However, many people — parents/guardians and teachers inclusive — do not understand the difference between discipline and punishment.

This article will explain the difference between discipline and punishment and the negative effects of punishment on children. 

What is Punishment?

Punishment means making a child pay for his or her mistakes. Sometimes, the desire to inflict punishment springs from a place of frustration, which often leads to physical child abuse. It is about controlling a child instead of teaching him or her how to control themselves. And this is often melted with hostility that changes how a student thinks. A child who receives punishments for every single mistake may begin to think, “I am bad.” Instead of thinking he or she made a bad choice, he may end up growing into a less empathetic adult in the future.

Problems With Punishments

  • Punishments do not teach children how to behave; it only makes them pay for their mistakes.
  • A child who receives abusive words, torture, etc., for hitting his brother will not learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. Instead, he will feel confused about why it is OK to hit him when you think he is wrong, but it is not OK for him to hit his brother when they disagree.
  • Punishment also teaches kids that they are not able to be in control of themselves. They learn that their parents must manage their behavior because they cannot do it on their own. And this prolongs dependency.
  • Being hostile in the name of punishment can cause kids to become bitter towards their peers. 
  • Punishment destroys the self-esteem of children.
  • They end up thinking of revenge instead of ways to get better.
  • Some forms of punishment are detrimental to their health, such as starving a child for hours, spanking a child with hard objects, making a child sit under the sun, and many more. 
  • A child who constantly receives punishment is prone to seclusion and depression.

Also read: Parenting: The Importance of Parents’ involvement in a child’s development.

What Is Discipline?

Discipline teaches children how to manage their behavior, solve problems, deal with uncomfortable emotions, and self-reflect to identify loopholes during character formation. Discipline helps kids learn from their mistakes and teaches them socially appropriate ways to live. The goal is to give kids a clear negative consequence that will help them make better decisions in the future. 

Discipline takes an authoritative approach. It involves giving kids clear rules and consistent negative consequences when they break the rules. The consequences could also be time-sensitive. So while punishment may involve a parent removing all electronics indefinitely, discipline might be taking away the TV for 24 hours or more when a child refuses to turn it off at the appropriate time. 

The Benefits of Discipline

  • Discipline is proactive; rather than reactive. It ensures kids are actively learning from their mistakes.
  • Many discipline techniques involve positive approaches, such as praise and reward systems. 
  • Positive reinforcement encourages good behavior to continue and provides kids with clear incentives to obey the stipulated rules.
  • Discipline also fosters positive teacher-student relationships, parent-child relationships, and student-student relationships. A child who is corrected in love and not by form of physical abuse tends to be closer to her/his teacher or parents, and learns how to relate well with peers/friends. 
  • While discipline permits appropriate amounts of guilt, it is not about shaming kids. And that is crucial. A child who feels good about himself is less likely to make poor choices. Instead, he or she will have confidence in his ability to manage his behavior. 
  • While punishment focuses on what is wrong with a child, discipline focuses on what a child needs to do to correct bad behavior. 
  • Discipline builds the self-esteem of a child.
  • It teaches children the importance of dialogue and open conversations.
  • Discipline minimizes dependency and teaches a child how to be responsible for his or her bad behavior.
  • It also helps children learn from their mistakes and develop acceptable behavior in the future.


The difference between punishment and discipline might be a new concept for some teachers and parents, because of how they were raised. These adults may have experienced different forms of punishment and naturally feel drawn to this type of training because it is what they are familiar with. However, we urge both adults (teachers and parents) who had this experience and who did not, to adopt a completely different approach —Discipline— for correcting children to aid positive development.


The Difference between Discipline and  Punishment 

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