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Replacing Punishment with Discipline

Updated: Jun 19, 2020


Discipline is a Latin based word which means to instruct or teach. Punishment means to impose a penalty as retribution for an offense. Today I'm going to write about how you can use discipline to replace punishment with information and opportunities to learn from mistakes.

Many parents use punishment because it seems to be the path of least resistance, but hundreds of research projects have shown that punishment is not the most effective. If punishment is not the most effective method to use how can we break the habit of punishment? We can replace it with information and opportunities to learn from mistakes. It is easier to start something new than to stop something you are used to and replace it with nothing.

When teaching your children how to learn from their mistakes it is critical that you do so without anger or negative energy. When children think you are angry with them, they often behave worse. When teaching your children correct behavior teach while being kind and firm. You can tell your child that you are disappointed or even angry about a particular behavior but do so in a kind and firm way without engaging in angry outbursts.

You may be wondering how you can replace punishment with opportunities to learn. Here are some examples of ways you can replace punishment with discipline:

  1. When I brought my second son home from the hospital my two-year-old son hit him. Instead of punishing my two-year-old, I told him, “Show me soft,” and showed him how to softly touch his brother.

  2. Another example is sometimes my two-year-old gets overexcited and throws things he shouldn’t. When he does this instead of punishing him I tell him, “It looks like you need to calm down. It’s time to take a break,” and then I lead him to a spot where he can sit and calm down. I tell him that he can get up when he is ready to make good choices.

Replacing punishment with teaching opportunities allows you to create a stronger relationship with your children. By discussing inappropriate behavior and problem-solving on how to correct that behavior, you set the precedent that your children are capable of controlling their own behavior but you are there for them to come to as needed.


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