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Discipline or Punishment – Which Are You Doing?

Discipline or Punishment – Which Are You Doing?

disciplineLeaders are responsible for the culture they create.  Servant leaders are always looking to make an impact on the long-term strategy with short-term tactics.

As parents, we are servant leaders in our homes.  We set the standards for the culture in our homes with the everyday tactics we use to guide our families.  That’s why I choose discipline over punishment.

Discipline and punishment are used interchangeably by parents today but in reality, they are very different.  So what is the difference?

That’s what we are going to explore along with some practical tips to keep you in control of your outcomes when things go sideways.

Discipline vs. Punishment – What’s The Difference?

The difference between discipline and punishment is all about the outcome.  Specifically, the timing of the outcome.   Whether you are talking about behavior change with a six-year-old, an employee, or ourselves discipline is the clear choice over punishment because of the long-term effects.

Let’s look closer at punishment and discipline.


Punishment can be verbal, physical, or mental.  Yelling or withholding things are two common tactics. Punishment is rooted in fear and the problem with punishment is… it actually works.  Punishment gets kids to be quiet. It gets employees to produce. It works.

That’s why leaders like it.  They see results. What they don’t see are the long-term effects punishment has on the receivers.

Punishment is received as a personal strike.  Children are told, “You are bad.” or “You are clumsy.”  Children are at their developmental stages and these comments get embedded in their subconscious.  They can carry these messages into their adulthood.  Some may never discover what is actually blocking them from what they are trying to achieve.


Discipline, on the other hand, is targeted at the behavior and not the person.  Children understand sooner that the behavior that upset you is not good.  With discipline, children are encouraged to make good choices and therefore empowered to take responsibility for their actions.

Punishment actually lets them off the hook.  It puts all of the burden of good behavior on you.  If they don’t get caught, there is no punishment.  Discipline, however, requires them to make a choice and live with the consequences associated with that choice.

“When you choose to act that way, it keeps me from bringing you more cookies.” or “If you choose to continue screaming, you are also choosing to do it in your room alone.”

These are two examples of instilling discipline.  Discipline is about choice and long-term impact.  Discipline is also a transferable skill, meaning children begin to use this skill of discipline on themselves.

The Power of Choice

Before you get all, “not my kids… they need punishment.” on me, think about the power that giving them a choice has.  Asking for a snack becomes, “You know there are no snacks until 3pm.  Tell me why you chose to leave half of your lunch uneaten earlier.”

It requires the child to think through their choice while being in the uncomfortable world of not having what they want.  Children connect the choice and the consequence much faster.  This is an amazing teacher.  Oh… and no yelling.

Resources for Parents

On there are some fantastic resources for handling discipline.  Also check out Boundaries With My Kids by Cloud & Townsend.  Make sure to check them out.

Ryan McKinney

Ryan McKinney

Ryan is a leadership coach, sought after speaker, and transformational workshop facilitator. He works with highly successful business leaders to develop discipline, enhance leadership, and build confidence so they can enjoy the success they deserve without giving up what they want most.

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