What is the Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

The main difference between discipline and punishment is that discipline refers to a standard code of conduct while punishment is the physical or mental penalty or a strict lesson given for disobedience. 

Discipline and punishment are inter-related concepts that concern human behaviour. Punishment exists to ensure the persistence of discipline. Therefore, punishment can be harmful to the sufferer. However, the exertion of excessive negative punishment on someone will have a negative impact in the long run.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Discipline
    – Definition, Base, Aim
2. What is Punishment
    – Definition, Base, Aim, Types
3. What is the Relationship Between Discipline and Punishment
    – Outline of Association
4. What is the Difference Between Discipline and Punishment
    – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Behaviour, Discipline, Society, Positive and Negative Punishment, Rules

Difference Between Discipline and Punishment - Comparison Summary

What is Discipline

When defining what discipline means, its direct relationship with punishment becomes utterly obvious. Accordingly, Oxford dictionary defines discipline as “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Hence, punishment becomes the answer if someone disobeys this code of behaviour.

In brief, discipline means ‘to teach’. Likewise, discipline is constructed based on the standard social norms and moral values. Therefore, it is commonly accepted as such that can regulate behaviour in a proper and good manner. In other words, it is a set of expectations required by any governing entity as included in a particular group or society as a whole.

Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Figure 1: Shaping a good citizen through school discipline

Likewise, this code of conduct or discipline is modified according to the situation or the place. For instance, legal discipline, workplace discipline and school discipline for students and teachers have their unique depths and highlights. Some universal codes of conduct in discipline would include being polite, respecting elders, keeping the environment clean, etc.

Consequently, discipline is used to make a person a socially accepted and morally good person. Therefore, those who are experienced and stand as governing figures impose these discipline on those who are comparatively below them. Thereby they also gain control over the subordinates through the enforcement of obedience or order.

What is Punishment

Punishment goes hand in hand with discipline. Punishment is the action of infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence. Thereby, through inflicting punishment on someone, the expected result is to prohibit that particular individual from committing the same offence again.

Moreover, punishment is used to decrease or eliminate negative behaviour. For instance, consider a situation where a child steals something from his/her neighbour at school. This is immoral and not good social behaviour. Therefore the teacher or the parent can impose punishment on the child to prevent that behaviour from happening again in the future.

Main Difference - Discipline vs Punishment

Figure 2: Physical punishment – hitting students with a cane

Punishment Types and Results

Psychology identifies punishment in two categories as described by the well-known behaviourist B. F. Skinner.

Positive Punishment

Positive punishment refers to presenting an aversive stimulus after a negative behaviour has occurred. For example, when a student acts rude to other students, the teacher can scold the child for interrupting such bad behaviour by explaining the consequences he/she might suffer as well.

Negative Punishment

Negative punishment refers to taking away a desirable stimulus after a negative behaviour has occurred. For example, in the above example situation, the teacher tries to make other children not talk with the child in addition to the teacher treating and labelling him/her as a rude, and nasty child. This will eventually make that child get cornered and eventually develop more destructive and hateful feelings for others.

However, punishment cannot be considered as effective in all occurrences; for example, the recurrence of offences by offenders even after coming out from jail, etc. In these situations, governments should take alternative steps to answer the underlying causes rather than just punishing these offenders.

Moreover, exerting negative punishment on someone over and over again can have a negative impact on that person’s psychological development. For instance, too much physical and mental punishment can decrease the self-esteem of a child. Therefore, it is always healthy to use positive punishments instead of negative punishment for people, especially for children.

Relationship Between Discipline and Punishment

  • Punishment exists to ensure the persistence of discipline.

Difference Between Discipline and Punishment

Definition

Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour. Punishment is the infliction or imposition of a penalty as retribution for an offence. Hence, this is the fundamental difference between discipline and punishment.

Based upon

Another difference between discipline and punishment is that discipline is based upon socially and morally accepted behavioural codes while punishment is based upon inflicting mental or physical retribution, either in a positive or a negative manner.

Aim

A major difference between discipline and punishment is the aim of each. The accepted aim of discipline is to teach good morals and the accepted code of behaviour, creating an individual who has a good moral and socially accepted conduct of behaviour while the aim of punishment is to correct the individual by preventing him/her from committing the same offence again. 

Types

Moreover, discipline varies according to situation and place. However, they are under the universally accepted good conducts. Meanwhile, punishment has two types such as positive punishment and negative punishment.

Conclusion

Due to related nature in discipline and punishment, most people tend to misunderstand discipline and punishment as synonymous. However, the main difference between discipline and punishment is that discipline refers to a standard code of conduct while punishment is the physical or mental penalty or a strict lesson given for disobedience. Thus, punishment ensures that discipline is properly practised.

Reference:

1. Cherry, Kendra. “What Is Punishment, Exactly?” Very well Mind, 12 Oct. 2017, Available here.
2. “Discipline.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Oct. 2018, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “159858” (CC0) via Pexels
2. “StateLibQld 1 113036 Cartoon of students receiving the cane, 1888″ By Contributor(s): Queensland figaro – Copied and digitised from an image appearing in Queensland figaro, 28 July 1888, p. 140. (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Upen

Upen, BA (Honours) in Languages and Linguistics, has academic experiences and knowledge on international relations and politics. Her academic interests are English language, European and Oriental Languages, Internal Affairs and International Politics, and Psychology.

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