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Workshop Discipline and punishment


  • To build the confidence and ability to parent positively.
  • To use a firm and fair approach to parenting.
  • To understand the difference between discipline and punishment.


Sometimes people can get the words ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ mixed up, and see them as having the same meaning. Find out from the group if they have any ideas about the difference between the two.

The dictionary tells us that discipline is about guiding and learning. Punishment, on the other hand, happens when someone is made to suffer for an offence.

Children explore and experiment to find out about the world and their place in it. They climb, taste, poke, touch, pull apart and ask a million questions to learn about the world around them, and to explore where the boundaries are.

Whānau help guide this exploration by making sure children are safe, and by giving them new things to learn about. This helps children to develop the qualities and skills they need as they grow into adults.

Guidance, or discipline, is most effective in a warm and loving relationship where the child feels supported and secure. Punishment occurs when adults believe that children need a bit of suffering to learn life’s lessons.

Discuss as a group, or in pairs:

  • What do you remember about growing up and how your behaviour was managed?
  • Did your whānau use discipline, punishment or both?
  • What effect did it have?
  • Did it help you behave better?

Give copies of the SKIP booklets Tips for under-fives and Thinking about parenting to the group, and in pairs look at pages 2 and 3 in each booklet. Invite each pair to share their thoughts with the bigger group.

Children might change their behaviour because of remembering pain, shame or suffering felt on a previous experience. However, this is more likely to be the result of fear than their growing understanding of what is expected of them, or a sense of responsibility.

  • Do you remember how your parents disciplined you?
  • Do you remember how your parents punished you?
  • From your childhood experiences, what have you learned about managing your own child’s behaviour?
  • Does baby’s other parent share similar views to you?
  • What have you noticed with other parents and children?

In pairs, discuss these questions:

  • When we have to deal with our kid’s misbehaviour, what are we trying to achieve?
  • See if you can identify — are they short-term or long-term goals?
  • How would you describe the differences?

Share the answers with the larger group.

How we repair our relationship with our kids after disciplining is an important part of the process. Reconnecting after there’s been conflict is sometimes called ‘rupture and repair’. Making it right between you is key to your ongoing relationship. Sometimes it might mean apologising.

Ask the group:

  • What are your thoughts about getting kids to say ‘sorry’?
  • Is it genuine? Does it matter?
  • How have you felt when you’ve been asked to say sorry to someone?
  • What do you think about apologising to your kids?
  • How do you think it makes them feel?

Use the resources listed below to guide your discussions. Keep reinforcing the six principles and the power of positive parenting.


SKIP resources

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