Punishment vs Discipline

              Everyone makes mistakes and failures (please see fear of failure). I can confidently put this down because we are all human. The issue comes after the failure or mistake is committed. It is an issue because when we do things in life that we aren’t happy with then many feel that a corrective action must be done to keep the error from happening again. It is then that we have a choice on what steps we want to take in order to rectify the situation. Do we want to punish ourselves? Do we want to discipline ourselves?

The way that I look at punishment is that it is all emotion. Punishment is a reaction. Discipline on the other hand is an action (please see action vs. reaction). Here is an example of discipline: I have had contact throughout the years with many companies. The company always has disciplinary action, never punishment. A company’s disciplinary action would look something like this. There are rules that the company lays out in advance. Certain things must be done and certain things that shouldn’t be done. Various degrees of consequence will be given based on the action committed. Now some activities and behaviors can be grounds for immediate termination of employment and some follow a step by step approach, but the employee is always aware of this fact because the rules are in place before the employee starts work. The way the consequences usually work is that the offense is verbally talked about by management to the employee. If the behavior keeps up then a write up is usually done and placed temporarily in the employee’s file. If the behavior still continues then something more permanent is usually placed in the file. The final step to the behavior is termination of employment. The important thing to notice and the point that I want to make is this. When discipline is used it is more comparable to an action as opposed to a reaction. I call it an action because the steps that are taken occur in an escalating matter and illustrates perfectly the use of reason and emotion. To put it another way the consequences start out reasonably and progress as the unwanted behavior continues and the employee elects to do them.

Punishment on the other hand is usually full force the first time and it is usually always destructive. With punishment there is never an escalation and it almost never focuses on just the behavior, it usually always focuses on the individual and involves guilt, name calling, and other forms of manipulation. Punishment usually comes in two forms and even though they both happen one normally precedes the other. Harmful words are what will usually start it. The words are pure emotion and are meant to cut right into us. The words can be from us to hurt us or from others.  The second part is the steps taken (I don’t use action to keep from confusing my point). These are usually something taken away that is perceived as valuable. In this example it will be the threat of being removed from a loved ones will. The example that I have is an elder family member. Image that this family member is not happy with something that has been done that you are blamed for and punishment is then exacted. The punishment applied in this case is that love has been removed from you, without any lapse of time. The loss of love could have been in a warning before the incident happened, for example, “If you ever____ I will never speak to you again”. Instead of an advanced warning the person may do something to demonstrate a loss of love like not receive calls from you, or they  create an argument that is designed to tear you down (words). You are then removed from the family member’s will (this is the step taken). When punishment is applied the steps taken will involve something that the one who is administering punishment will perceive to be of value. The two things together are imagined to be a way to control someone. The one thing that I offer in regard to someone who threatens to remove love from us (something that is perceived to be of value) is this. How valuable can it be if it is removed so easily?

If reading this you can see that you might be engaged in destructive punishment type behavior is there a change you might want to make? Is there a time when perhaps you would want to come up with a plan to make the attempted correction in behavior be more productive and less destructive? How do you speak to yourself? Did you learn it from others? Do you pass it on to your children? Maybe a change is in order to help you get Just beyond the bend!