What is the difference between discipline and punishment?

Discipline is a positive method of teaching a child self-control, confidence, and responsibility. The key to positive discipline is teaching a child what behavior is okay and what behavior is not okay. The focus is on what children are expected and allowed to do. It includes catching kids being good and encouraging appropriate behavior. It also includes modeling appropriate behavior. Punishment is quite different from discipline. Punishment may be physical as in spanking, hitting, or causing pain. It may be psychological as in disapproval, isolation, or shaming. Punishment focuses on past misbehavior and offers little or nothing to help a child behave better in the future. When punishment is used, the person who punishes the child becomes responsible for the child’s behavior. Children who are raised in a way that stresses positive discipline will understand their own behavior better, show independence, and respect themselves and others. Positive discipline is a process, not a single act. It teaches children how to get along with other people. Children are held responsible for misbehavior, but the consequences are meaningful and related to the behavior. For more information and strategies to guide children’s behavior, visit the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care section on guidance and discipline.