For parents and teachers, dealing with youth discipline causes a lot of stress. That’s why I created the Discipline Without Stress methodology. It promotes responsibility in youth while enabling adults to reduce stress.
One of the cornerstones of the Discipline Without Stress book and approach is to elicit consequences rather than impose punishments. Some people struggle at first to understand the difference between imposing a punishment and encouraging the youth to determine the consequence for his or her action, so here is a brief explanation.
A consequence is very different from a punishment. A punishment is something that is imposed by another party. It usually has no connection to the behavior and frequently belittles or shames the offender. It is coercive in nature and is designed to make the person feel bad or lose value in themselves. The idea behind punishment is to make the person “pay” for their mistakes, regret what they did, and change. Punishment usually does not help the person figure out how to change; it may make them want to but doesn’t give them any tools for making the change. Punishment has very little instructive value. It also fails to reduce stress on the part of the adult. Think about the last time you imposed a punishment on a child. You probably felt a lot of stress from the interaction.
On the other hand, when you elicit a consequence, you are asking the youth to take a critical stance and look at the behavior from another point of view. It also allows the child to weigh options. This gets to conformity. Conformity to social norms is what keeps our society going. Let’s face it; the thought of getting a speeding ticket keeps my eye on the speedometer in a local town known for its many speed traps.
The youth may select consequences that are harsher than you would select. This puts you in the position to build a relationship with the youngster and reduce stress around the situation. I find that positive relationships with children in behavior situations help them to be more open in academic situations. I’m not saying you have to be their friend; that would be inappropriate. You can, however, be a person they can trust, even if they make a mistake, whether it is academic or social.
This approach not only promotes responsibility in youth, but it also reduces stress for everyone involved.