Parenting – The Difference Between Discipline and Punishment (Part 2)
Many experts advise parents to give consequences to discipline a child, where, by consequences they mean good punishment. The goal of this punishment is to teach a child to avoid undesirable behavior by fearing the consequences of the behavior.
Relying on the consequences to teach lessons may work. Parents may achieve instant obedience. But is it really worth it? Be it parents, who give consequences, or life, they are all external sources of punishment. Fear from the external sources teaches a child to avoid unpleasant experiences, to become cunning. But it doesn’t enrich the child’s heart. It doesn’t develop the child’s moral intelligence. It doesn’t lead to long-term moral discipline.
The only source of punishment that leads to actual discipline is internal. It comes from the child’s conscientiousness. The voice inside the child tells him that mother became sad because he was late for dinner. She made the dinner with love for the family and expected everybody to be on time, but he forgot, or couldn’t stop his play, and now they are all late for the movie. Or, they are at the movie, and mom can’t enjoy it because she worries that he is hungry.
When will this happen? When will the child feel uncomfortable because he hurt someone by doing something wrong? When will the punishment of conscience teach the child to avoid hurting other people? When will this internal punishment become the child’s internal discipline?
No one knows. It may happen immediately, or in a few weeks, or in a few years. Only patient and faithful parents will see their children being driven not by fear of annoying consequences, but by the precious desire to improve behavior, the desire to become a better person.
Good parents don’t expect children to become internally disciplined over one incident, or even after a series of consistent incidents. They don’t train their children, they just live together with them. Good parents believe in their children’s intelligence and that is why they raise well-disciplined children, the ones who know internal freedom. Those parents don’t have to know the difference between discipline and punishment. They focus on knowing the difference between when they increase a child’s dignity and when they encroach upon it.