We often encounter families punishing children with time outs. Depending on the age, the time outs range from sit in the corner for five minutes to no TV for a week. However, the behaviors often seem to repeat despite these punishments. Still many so-called parenting experts continue to advise parents to use time out as their main disciplinary strategy.
In this and upcoming shows we will offer alternatives to time out that are based on understanding the difference between discipline and punishment. Although some view the two words as interchangeable they reflect a fundamental difference in what a parent wants to accomplish – stop a misbehavior once or teach responsibility so that it doesn’t happen again. We will role play a scenario of a typical punishment intervention and, after presenting an analysis of the differences between discipline and punishment, we role play an alternative disciplinary intervention for the same situation.
To get to the heart of the differences between discipline and punishment, we share a quiz form our Family Centered Parenting book. For example, punishment is grounded in terms of retribution or revenge where discipline emphasizes teaching ways to act that will result in successful behavior. Another example offered is that when punishing responsibility is assumed by the one in authority disciplining responsibility is assumed by individual who commits the infraction. We also offer parents suggestions on what to do if a child is not willing to engage in a disciplinary dialogue. In that instance we recommend a “shut down” and explain how that is different from a time out.
We conclude with a personal story of how discipline can work with a three and a half year old.