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What is the Difference Between Punishment and Consequences?

The rate of prison recidivism is dauntingly high, leading many to believe that punishment-based discipline seems to prove ineffective with many adults.
A child made to do his homework might be a consequence of refusing to work on it.
The consequence of a child messing up their room might be having to clean it.
Many parents hope that helping their children understand consequences will lead to less necessity for discipline.
Using logical consequences rather than punishment is a gradual process.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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In parenting, and in many other aspects of life, there is a distinct difference between punishment and consequences. Logical consequences are the natural result of behavior. For example, if one decides to rob a store, there are several logical consequences. One consequence is that one breaks the law, another is that the store is robbed. Punishment is outside of consequences. The robber who gets caught faces punishment for his actions. They are not the natural consequences of his actions, but instead are additional things, like prison time, that he may face as a result.

In parenting, many child development experts now assert that helping to correct behavior through understanding consequences is quite different than punishing children in the hopes they will behave in future. A child, who refuses to do his homework, may be made to do his homework as a logical consequence. A child who loses privileges for not doing his homework is being punished. Forcing a kid to do the homework is not a punishment. Taking away TV privileges is not a consequence.

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Some parents, however, try to define some punishments to be consequences. For example, a house rule might be that homework must be done before watching TV. Thus the consequence of not doing homework might mean the child doesn’t get to watch TV. This quickly becomes punishment if other privileges are also taken away, or if the child is given time outs or put on restriction. In order to stay within the logical consequence model, a clear relationship must be established between the behavior and the consequences of the behavior.

Even more logical is asking children to clean up after themselves. Again the consequence of a child messing up his room is that he must clean it. This is not punishment. A punishment for a child messing up the room would have nothing to do with the actual act. A child who has toys taken away because he messed up his room is not witnessing the consequence of his behavior, but being punished for his behavior.

The theory behind using punishment rather than consequences is that punishment quickly ends an undesirable behavior. Those who argue for discipline using logical consequences suggest however, that using consequences instead of punishment helps a child understand the next logical step when making a good or a poor choice.

Theorists argue that when children realize naturally that the result of totally messing up their room is spending lots of time cleaning it up, they will gradually begin to think before they act. The child reluctant to do homework will realize he or she must do it even if there is a fight about it. Further, he or she doesn’t get to watch TV until it is completed.

Using logical consequences rather than punishment is a gradual process. Not all children may learn to look before they leap. In fact, some children may be motivated by negative attention to continue to behave badly. If each time the child gets a nice little chat with the teacher or parent, then this may actually reinforce behavior, because the chat is a consequence. Some logical consequences are clearly very dangerous, such as allowing a child to get too close to an oven, so he or she will learn it is hot.

However, it is also clear from the rate of overpopulated prisons, that punishment is not always effective at stopping people from committing more crimes. The rate of prison recidivism is dauntingly high, leading many to believe that punishment-based discipline seems to prove ineffective with many adults. Some programs in prisons help to address the consequence of behavior. For example, victims or relatives of victims may sit down with a person who hurt them and help them understand how the crime affected them. These programs have been shown to be thought provoking and sometimes life changing for people who have committed serious crimes, by simply showing them the consequences of their actions.

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cupcake15
Post 4

Bhutan-That was a really sad case. I felt bad for all of those people that trusted this man. This is also a consequence for trusting.

Sometimes people want to believe in others so much that they go against their better judgment and as a result they fall prey to people like this.

Sometimes a parent may lose custody of a child due to the parent breaking the law. The consequence here is that the child will grow up scarred because they did not have either the father or the mother at their side.

Parents are really like a table. The mother puts two legs and the father puts the other two legs so that the child has a stable foundation.

If any of these legs are missing then the child will suffer emotionally and may not only feel abandoned but may have trouble in adult relationships as well.

Some girls that grow up with an absentee father may seek love in various relationships that may result in risky promiscuous behavior. This is a consequence to a missing father figure.

Bhutan
Post 3

BrickBack-Another thing to remember is that a consequence has a lasting effect while a punishment is temporary.

For example, if you commit forgery and receive a forgery punishment, you may never be able to work in a financial services industry again. You will receive a prison term, but even after that prison term is up, most businesses will have difficulty hiring you in a supervisory capacity.

Another example of the difference between crime punishment and the consequences is in the Bernie Madoff case.

He was sentenced to over one hundred years in prison, but as a result of this case, his wife is alone and his son committed suicide because of the increased pressure that he was feeling.

This does not even consider the consequences on the victims many of whom lost their entire life savings. A consequence of these actions required many seniors to continue to work instead of enjoying their golden years in a comfortable retirement.

BrickBack
Post 2

SauteePan-Crime and punishment go hand in had. If a person receives a domestic violence punishment they will usually receive a felony punishment of domestic abuse and battery.

The consequences to these actions might result in a restraining order against the perpetrator which will not allow the suspect to see his family members.

This estrangement can also lead to divorce and an alienation of affection. These are all consequences to these actions.

SauteePan
Post 1

When you deal with children consequences and punishment may be different things. However, when you deal with adults it may not be too different.

For example, A DUI punishment might include incarceration and a suspension of one’s driving privileges along with paying restitution.

These are punishments that are also consequences of making the choice to drink and drive. Another consequence to drinking and driving could be getting in a car accident, hurting another person or even killing another person as a result of the reckless behavior.

This would be an upgrade to a felony punishment which is the most severe charge. Killing someone while driving drunk can result in a charge of vehicular manslaughter or aggravated felony DUI charges.

The consequence of driving drunk will include a costly trial until the guilt or innocence is proven. A misdemeanor punishment might result if this was the first time that the defendant was pulled over for DUI and no one was hurt as a result.

In this case a small fine and a temporary suspension of the license is the state punishment law.

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