The recent decisions of the O.S. Supreme Court relating to corporal punishment in the schools have focused national attention on the issues of discipline and punishment and permissiveness and authoritarianism in child rearing and parenting. Pediatricians and other family counselors are frequently called on to advise parents about positive and appropriate discipline and punishment.
Keeping in mind that discipline and punishment are not synonymous, what advice should pediatricians give parents? We know that some parents who are strict disciplinarians seldom resort to punishment, while some punitive parents are poor disciplinarians.
The aim of discipline is to provide the child with outside control until he can develop the self-control necessary to function as a mature adult. Punishment is what adults resort to when discipline fails. Yet even under ideal conditions, punishment is sometimes necessary. As Drs. Thomas and Chess point out, children have different temperaments and respond differently to expectations, no matter how clear, and to limits, no matter how appropriate. Parents, like their offspring, have different temperaments and respond differently to their children's behavior.
In the following article, Dr. Chamberlin discusses the effects of parenting styles and disciplinary practices, especially positive contact, on child behavior.