Discipline versus Punishment. | Bay Area Martial Arts
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I signed my kindergartener daughter in the six-week promotion to see if she would enjoy martial arts. I knew after her first class that this was going to be truly enriching for her, and she loves going to her classes.
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My 7 year old son started at Bay Area Martial Arts in January of this year. After nearly 6 months I have seen such a change in him both physically and emotionally. My son was always scared of trying new things - like riding a scooter or doing a handstand - because his balance has never been that great. Martial arts has really helped him build confidence and the physical strength to try new things. Respect for yourself, your family, and people in the wider world is something that he is learning and doing. Sensei Adrian, Nate, and Ceci have been so wonderful not just to our son, but to our whole family. They really care about these kids - not just to make them ninjas (because lets face it... what kid doesn't want to be a ninja?!?!), but about helping them be the best version of themselves that they can be. Thanks so much you guys!!!!

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Discipline versus Punishment.

So good behavior is a learning process for children, and we are their roadmap. Children usually behave per their own emotions and impulses, and at the same time, being a parent is also a learning process, and sometimes we rely on our own emotions and impulses to teach.

Usually, that means we divert directly to punishment when a child misbehaves, missing a crucial opportunity to teach them. With that said, I’m going to break down how to teach good behavior through punishment versus discipline. So what we want to do is compare the two words, and what they really mean. Punishment means to inflict pain or suffering on someone as a penalty. Discipline is the opposite; discipline means to teach. Sometimes parents, teachers, and coaches get those two words confused or think they mean the same thing.

So hopefully, these definitions clarify a couple of things. Now it’s understandable that we as parents can get very frustrated when a child misbehaves, specifically when they make the same poor choices over and over again. At the same time, if we have clear goals to teach good behavior skills, then we can respond better. The better we respond, the better the results. So the first thing you have to ask yourself is what are the goals for our children when they misbehave? Well, obviously, our first goal is to get them to cooperate, but this is primarily short-term.

You know, for example, they’re misbehaving in the restaurant; you want them to sit still and be quiet immediately. But you can remember our second goal is that we don’t always consider is more long-term, and that’s to make better choices without the threat of punishment or consequences. So to accomplish this, we need to consider both as often as possible. We need to consider both the short-term, which is getting them cooperating immediately, but also long-term, having them continue to cooperate over and over again without like I said, threatening them with punishments or consequences

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Now to accomplish this, we do need to consider both as I said, and that requires you as a parent to be patient, present, and intentional. So let’s look at how punishment discipline compare when accomplishing our goal is developing good behavior skills, so let’s talk about this. Punishment may shut down the behavior, but if you teach your child, then they would develop self-discipline skills such as managing emotions and impulses. When you discipline, you maintain a high relationship of trust and self-confidence, and that’s very important.

The problem is when you punish, you build this proverbial wall, and that decreases one’s trust and self-confidence. With that said, it makes sense to have a really good strategy for disciplining a child when they misbehave. So let’s talk about what I factored as the three steps of discipline. The first and foremost thing is to connect, connect with your child when you’re disciplining them. This doesn’t mean to be permissible or passive, but to ensure that as you begin to set clear expectations, your child calms down emotionally and feels your loving, caring approach.

Some examples of connection may be when your child is throwing a temper tantrum, to patiently wait for them to calm down. Give them a hug; obviously, if you’re in public and your child is doing this, you’re going to want to remove them from a public place that isn’t going to feel so uncomfortable. But again, your goal is to connect with them first because when a child is upset, they are less likely to hear what you’re saying. So you must be patient so that you remain as calm as possible during the process. Which is the hardest, but most stress-free way to discipline?

Now I know what you’re thinking, you have a child who’s very hyper active, they don’t listen, and they’re very impulsive. How can you constantly be patient with their misbehavior? Again, especially if they’re doing the same thing over and over again. Well, that’s the secret, and that’s the trick. The more patience you are, the more you’re going to build good connections with your child, and eventually, you’re going to notice that you can get results faster. The second thing is to redirect, so list out what the poor behavior choice was, as well as what the proper behavior choice is.

So again, for example, let’s say that your child does throw temper tantrum in the middle of the shopping mall. The first thing is get your child to calm down so that you can build a connection. And say your choice to scream and yell in public wasn’t the best choice; there are better ways to express your emotions. And I’ll give them a couple of examples you could ask; you can say mom what can I do to get this bracelet, simple things like that engage them in choices and get them to think about the right behaviors versus focusing on putting a penalty on them for that misbehavior.

I hope that makes sense. Now in order to do that, though, this requires you to be present so that you can clearly calculate the desired outcome. So if you’re on your phone, or you’re talking with your friend, or your mother on the phone while your child is throwing a temper tantrum, and you just turn around and immediately response, then you’re not being present in that moment. I hope that makes sense to you; now, the third step is to repair. So what you want to do is discuss the necessary steps on how to solve the current behavior problem, review the better choices, and then set ground rules should the poor behavior choices continue.

Now, this does require you to be intentional in your actions so that your long term goals start to take shape. This is another place where sometimes we as busy, frustrated parents, we lose sight of the importance of discipline. The importance of teaching them and the importance of repairing that sort of behavior. Of course, this strategy isn’t going to work all the time, so it’s also important to have a backup strategy. For starters, it’s better to say consequences instead of punishment, so that your intentions are more goal-oriented versus pain oriented.

So let’s talk about when consequences are okay, only after you have worked through the three steps of discipline and still your child intentionally disobeys the ground rules, okay. This is very important; if you’re patient, if you’re present and if you’re intentional when you connect redirect and repair, and still you feel like you’re not getting those types of results, then this is the time where you start to implement consequences so that they know how serious their misbehaviors are. So let’s talk about what types of consequences are okay, one that matches the behavior.

So, for example, if your child throws her iPad in an impulsive rage, then taking away her iPad for 48 hours is considered a reasonable consequence. Keep in mind, I know you may be really upset in that moment, and you want to take it away for a week, or you want to take it away for a month. But I think that is too long, a week is a long period, and it could potentially trigger more anger and rage. So the goal is the teach her, but also empower her to self-correct her behavior in the future. By giving her a smaller time frame that’s really attainable, and a teacher that throwing things is not acceptable.

But at the same time, you trust that she will re-correct this behavior within the next few days, I hope that makes really good sense to you. Now, this is very important; let’s talk about what types of consequences are not okay. The first type of consequence that is not okay is one that is retroactive. So, for example, I am in the martial arts industry, so I had this situation happened to me a lot. Taking away good things isn’t the best consequence, such as karate lessons, which is positively reinforced self-discipline. I see a time and time again where a parent calls me or sends an email and says listen.

I’m pulling Johnny out of karate because he’s just been misbehaving at home with his sister. He likes karate, so that’s the only thing I feel will help him understand that his behavior is wrong. Now, although parents may think this is a good move because it’s an activity they like a lot, and the pain of who’s in karate will teach him a very valuable lesson. It’s actually doing the opposite; pain infliction based on taking away something they like may cause more misbehavior, and instill long-term damage to their trust for you.

Also, strongly consider the fact that they lose all of the positive benefits that karate reinforces. Such as discipline, confidence, fitness, positive social interaction, and more. So again, taking away karate lessons to try to put a consequence on their misbehavior for something else unrelated to martial arts is extremely retroactive. So I strongly encourage you to highly reconsider this if you’ve utilized this as a form of consequence for your child. Now the second consequence that’s not okay is one that decreases morale.

For example, maybe you’re not going to pull Johnny out of karate, but you want to take away his belt, and you want him to come to karate for the next two months without a belt on. So that everybody sees that he misbehaves and that shaming will let him know how serious this misbehavior is, in an attempt to re-correct. Well, I think taking away a student’s belt to shame them is probably the worst thing that you can do for your child’s self-esteem. Public humiliation will leave a permanent footprint in the child’s brain.

Specifically, a negative one for every negative footprint left self-esteem and morale decreases, keep that in mind for every negative footprint left, their self-esteem, and their morale is going to decrease. And the more children lack self-confidence and morale, the lesser chance you have of them believing in themselves to make proper behavior choices. So let’s talk about this, what do you do if you have a child that’s misbehaving all the time. With mix of rage, back talking, and defying the rules.

Well, first thing is you map out a productive strategy that includes a method for building proper behavior habits along the predetermined consequences. So, for example, explain to your son, if you hit someone, then you must write a letter to that person. Of course, when they’re younger and they can’t write a letter, then they have to give it face-to-face.

But make sure that this is a specific pre-framed apology, what I mean by that is you’re not going to take Johnny to school and go to young Max that he hit and have Johnny just say I’m sorry, you’re going to pre-frame them and have a conversation that, you will play at home, and it has a more productive dialogue. For example, you and Johnny may roleplay back and forth, I’m sorry Max for hitting you, that was the wrong choice to hit you, and I hope that you accept my apology. Something like that, I’m just kind of thinking out in the open, I’m sure there are better pre-framed conversations you can have, but you get where I’m going with this.

Same thing if they’re writing a letter, just not writing dear Max I’m sorry, signed Johnny, right? Okay, so other things that you would do here’s another example. If you throw something, then you lose a personal item for 48 hours. If you show poor manners, then you must reenact a proper manner if you’re younger, or write a letter about having better manners. All of these should be pre-framed once again. So, for example, poor manners may be yelling at your mother back talking. And then coming back and saying that’s not how you talk to your mother, let’s discuss how you have a conversation with your mother. Make sure they roleplay back and forth.

And also if they’re a little bit older they may not like that role-playing strategy, having them write a letter, this is the behavior that I did, this is the behavior I should do, and this is my promise to you that I’m going to work on having the better behavior choices towards your mother. Something like that, again you get what I’m saying, it’s pre-framed. Because don’t expect them to know what the proper behavior choice, and of course children they’re not thinking about oh I need to be the best person I can be all the time, so you have to give them that road map, you have to give them that guidance, okay. So let’s talk about some other examples of rules that are consequences that would be appropriate. Let’s say your child wakes up from school late the next day because they were up all night.

Well, then they must go to bed an hour early for the next two days. So you see I’m not saying for next week, or next month because that’s just retroactive in my opinion. Now, at the same time, I want you to highly consider this. If you want consequences to work, then you also need rewards. Reward your child when she goes a week without misbehaving. This timeframe may be shorter or longer, depending on the child. Also, the best rewards are not material things but more relationship-building rewards.

For example, if she can pick to go to a family movie or a special place for a family dinner. Now one way to make this easy is my suggestion is to make just a rewards and consequences so that you are prepared. Only you know your child best, so think about the miss behaviors that you see over and over and over again and work on those miss behaviors. Then list out the proper behavior, or the proper manner, and how you want them to recurrent that behavior, the consequences right.

But then also list out now, if they do this for X period of time here’s the reward they’re going to get. So the more prepared you are, the better, this is as intentional parenting, and it’s the best way to help children become a better version of themselves. Now, I know what you’re thinking, what if you tried the strategy and it doesn’t work? Well, for starters, you got to give it time. If you’re struggling with your child, then how you must be reasonable on how long it’ll take to develop better behavior choices.

It’s not going to happen overnight, and at the same time, your child maybe gets better, but then fall off track again. So you need to keep that mind and be as patient as you possibly can. Patience is a great parenting skill. However, if you try these strategies for a solid month and I’m asking you try these strategies, really try everything I’ve listed up in this blog for a solid month, and still, you’re not getting any kind of results? Then this is the time that you may need to have an expert come in, okay.

Chances are there may be some type of neurological deficiencies that are interfering with her development. Doesn’t mean that she’s going to have long term deficiencies, doesn’t mean that she’s slower than other kids, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everybody’s brain grows and develops in different ways. And if there is some type of behavioral challenge that you’re struggling with after using these strategies for 30 days, it doesn’t hurt to have an expert come in and try to help up. Neuroplasticity means the brain is moldable, and it can be rewired.

So an expert may have the perfect strategies to help your son/daughter, we correct those misbehaviors that you’re struggling with. So bottom line, three biggest takeaways from this blog are number one, discipline is the better, more positively productive method for instilling long-term behavior skills, connect. We direct and repair is the three-step method for developing self-discipline skills, remember that you must be patient, you must be present, and you must be intentional.

And when necessary, consequences are more productive than punishments. Avoid consequences as a retroactive, or ones that decrease moral and also be sure to add rewards as well. So I hope this blog sheds some positive light on how to help your child make better behavior twists be sure to read more of our blogs , where we cover all kinds of great topics that are relevant to you as a parent, teacher or coach.

Make it a great day.