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Discipline Versus Punishment

Hands are for holding. Words are for teaching.

The negative effects of physical punishment

It is estimated that 60% of physical child abuse begins with physical punishment.

Physical punishment can potentially cause:

  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse/dependence
  • Personality disorders

How physical punishment can affect a child's development

Handling stressful situations

Abusive situations can happen because we let our emotions get the best of us. Remember, it's OK to take a break from a situation to calm down.

We suggest that in a stressful situation, you:

  • Show your child how to behave.
  • Provide a distraction, like a toy.
  • Play a game.
  • Go for a walk.

When you talk to your child:

  • Lower your voice.
  • Sit/kneel so you are at your child's eye level.
  • Give simple instructions.
  • Praise/reinforce desired behaviors.

Punishment versus discipline

There is a difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment focuses directly on the problem behavior and does not teach the child how to change the behavior. Punishment can lead to embarrassment, anger, humiliation, fear and anxiety. Punishment may stop the behavior in the short term but over time, it is seen as less effective.

Oftentimes, parents or caregivers can become frustrated if they have unrealistic expectations for a child at a specific developmental stage. Instead of teaching the child how to behave, they may punish a child for their behavior. Effective discipline is safe, healthy and promotes childhood learning and skill building.

It's important to use discipline methods that are appropriate to what a child can understand. Children are not born knowing what behaviors to do or not do. It is up to parents and caregivers to teach them.

Discipline tips broken down by a child's age