Punishment or Discipline: It’s Your Choice

Have you ever noticed how two words that seem to be very close in meaning can actually mean two totally separate things?  Two words where this is true is with punishment and discipline.  Too often people make the faulty assumption that these two terms mean the same things, when in reality they are very different.  Let’s take a look at these two words:





To inflict penalty for a specific offense by child.

To train child for correction and maturity.



Past mistakes and misdeeds.

Future correct actions.

Attitude of Parent:


Frustration and anger.

Love and concern for the child.

Resulting Emotion in Child:


Fear and guilt.

Security & Belief in self.


Hopefully in this chart, which was adapted from Chip Ingram, you will notice the grave differences between discipline and punishment.  Punishment is focused on penalizing your child for their mistakes, where discipline is more focused on helping to correct and train your child to be successful in the future with their choices and actions. 

God honoring discipline requires two key ingredients:

Ingredient # 1:  Appropriate Conversation.  Our kids want to know what it is that they did wrong.  How frustrating would it be for you at work if all your boss did was yell at you for mistakes and the things that you did wrong without ever sitting down with you and explaining what you did wrong, why it is wrong, and how you can make a better choice in the future?  I have never met a student or kid who did not want to know the why.  As a parent, we must commit the time to explain the why. 

The other key is to not spend too much time talking about the why…remember it’s appropriate conversation about what it is they did wrong, not an unending lecture.  I have a friend who jokes with me about being a teenager and making poor choices.  He always dreaded the four hour long lecture from his mom on why what he did was biblically wrong.  That’s way too long!  By that point your child already knows what they did wrong. 

Ingredient #2:  Appropriate Consequences.  Following our conversation with our kids explaining the why, we must be sure to implement appropriate consequence for the choice they made.  The consequences may change based on the situation.  You will have to use your judgment, but appropriate consequences meet several requirements:  First they match the crime.  The consequence is equivalent to the crime that was committed.  Second they must encourage your child to make more God honoring choices in the future, instead of frustrating your child for the mistake that they made.

I hope that they two key ingredients will help you to learn to discipline your child over punishing them for their mistakes.  God reminds us in Hebrews 12:6, that He disciplines His own children for the purpose of growing us and making us better.  As parents we too should discipline our kids, so they will learn to honor and obey the Lord in all they do.