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Discipline Or Punishment

This may be only a semantic argument to most people but I tend to believe that there is an important distinction between discipline and punishment, especially when kids are involved.  Dictionary.com has several definitions of discipline, one of which actually includes the word punishment.  Certainly they are used interchangeably in common language.

The difference is the way they are enacted.   I want my children to grow up with discipline.  They should know right from wrong and even have many types of discipline.  Self discipline is an all encompassing term that I’ll use here to serve as what would benefit my kids, and really all people.  It is better to be able to realize that just because you want something doesn’t mean you should buy it.  Or just because there is only one piece of cake left and someone else might get to it unless you eat it now, even though you aren’t that hungry, that you should eat it.  You shouldn’t.  That’s self discipline.

When I discipline my children I am trying to establish self discipline in them so that I won’t have to discipline them their entire lives.  It’s unreasonable to think that I will be able to do that and I have no desire to do that.

I try not to punish my kids ever.  What I mean by punishing them is to yell at them because I am annoyed even if they are doing something wrong.  If I’ve let it go long enough that I’m annoyed or angry then I have failed them in the discipline department.  When it gets to that point I am more likely to yell at them and belittle them.  I don’t want to belittle my kids because part of my job as a parent is to raise kids who are ready, at age 18, to become productive members of society.

Instead what I should do, if they are doing something wrong is to give a clear consequence for the offending action.  I need to tell them “if you don’t get down now, you will have to sit in the green chair.” (We use a green chair as our timeout chair and only call it the green chair, the girls know what that means.)  If the child does not do as told, she does not get told again.  I correct the problem by taking her to the green chair.

If I were to repeat myself and give her another chance I wouldn’t be disciplining her.  If I let it go until I blew up at her I would be punishing her, and that’s not what I want for my girls.  The world can be punishment enough, I want them to have a sense of safety, security and love.  I’m not in this to break their spirits.  In fact I’m hoping that I can regain some of my spirit through them.  What a coup that would be.

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