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Discipline: An Introduction by Janette Pepall

January 24, 2014

Children’s behavior and discipline is one of the most requested topics in my seminars and conferences.


If you find the subject of children’s behaviour interesting, make sure you read the February 2014 newsletter.  I discuss the smacking debate and the United Nation’s call for a ban on smacking in Australia.


You can register on www.janettepepall.com and on the National Training website to make sure that you receive the regular newsletters.


I have also published several blogs titled ‘Children At Risk: Understanding and Responding to Children’s Behaviour’ where I discussed Six Foundational Principles and Intervention Strategies.


These included:

  • Understanding why children misbehave

  • Establishing strong boundaries

  • Encouraging positive behaviour

  • Building strong and trusting relationships

  • Demonstrating encouragement and acceptance

  • Dealing with anger.


In this next series of 6 blogs I want to discuss discipline. This is an important topic on which people have strong views, although we would agree that children function better in environments where they feel safe, secure and loved. The blogs are:


  • Discipline: An Introduction

  • Discipline: How Do Children Change?

  • Discipline: Principles of Positive Discipline

  • Discipline: Effective Discipline Methods(1)

  • Discipline: Effective Discipline Methods(2)

  • Discipline: Effective Discipline Methods and Reflection (3)                                           


Positive discipline contributes to these feelings. Discipline is needed to teach children self control, and to help them learn to accept responsibility. Teaching good behaviour is preferable to punishing bad behaviour. Many child caregivers tell me that they often react (understandably) to poor behaviour, due to a lack of skill, lack of knowledge of other methods of behavior management, limited time, or tiredness. This is especially true if they are dealing with a large number of children. If we were honest, most of us as teachers, parents, grandparents etc. would have empathy with their dilemma.


Discipline and Punishment

It is interesting to look at discipline and punishment. At the beginning of the session, I ask my conference participants, is there a difference? Their answers vary greatly, with factors such as their current situation, past childhood, age, culture, religion, gender, profession and personal beliefs, all impacting their answer.


To stimulate their discussion, I ask them to answer the following questions.

  • Why do children need discipline?

  • Are discipline and punishment the same?

  • What is discipline? Give a definition and examples

  • What is punishment? Give a definition and examples

  • How does a child learn? Through discipline? Punishment?



A definition of discipline is ‘to bring a state of order and obedience through training’ i

Discipline is not reactive; it implies order, self control and responsibility.

Discipline is thoughtful training, correction, guidance and instruction. ii

Discipline teaches children self control and responsible behaviour.

Our aim in disciplining is for the responsible behaviour to be internalised by the child (i.e. it becomes part of them, or who they are).

Discipline is something we do FOR the child, NOT to the child. ii

What do you think of the last statement?



A definition of punishment is ‘to bring a penalty, pain or loss for some offence or fault’ iii

By using punishment, there is a loss of opportunities to interact positively with children.

Bad discipline could be called punishment, which may include physical abuse, verbal ridicule and disrespect to the child.

With punishment, the child may appear to be displaying positive behaviour, but the behaviour is not internalised. The child may be responding through fear, and may become deceptive to avoid the consequences.

In blog two in this series, I suggest that every child can learn and change. Each one is precious and unique, and we need to seek to find that ‘special key’ to unlock their potential. 

If you find the blogs useful, you can purchase our 8 module National Training: Understanding and Responding to God’s Vulnerable Children, or the National Training: Understanding and Responding to Children in Crisis training packages. You can also buy the modules separately.


The website for these valuable resources is www.nationaltrainingforchildrenatrisk.com.


i Macquarie Dictionary, 2010

ii Pg 124, Rushford, 1996

iii Macquarie Dictionary, 2010


Image: Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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