So when does discipline become punishment? Punishment is an intervention that uses a penalty for a child’s offense. Too often the punishment comes as a result from a parent’s feelings of frustration and desperation. It is often a desperate attempt for a parent to maintain control. It is trying to prove to the child that “I’m in charge." There can be several problems with punishments. One problem is that children are not taught how to behave. For example, if a child hits his brother and then receives a spanking, he is not taught what to do the next time he feels angry with his brother. Punishment also sends the message that parents must manage a child's behavior and feelings because the child is not able to do it on his or her own. Punishment may lead children to grow up with a lack of ability to make good decisions because all their decisions have been made for them. When children receive a punishment, they often focus on anger directed at their parents instead of thinking about how they can learn from their mistake.
Discipline focuses on teaching children skills to manage their behaviors and deal with their feelings. Discipline focuses on training so that children can potentially learn from their mistakes. The goal is to teach children better ways to solve their problems in the future. Discipline techniques include timeout to reflect on how to manage their frustration. When given the option of negative consequences, choices make sense. A child who does not eat all of his dinner, is not allowed to have desert. If he wants desert the next night, he will choose to eat all of his food. Discipline may may also use praise and reward to reinforce good choices. Discipline fosters a positive relationship between children and parents.