Monday, February 20, 2012

The Difference Between Discipline & Punishment- What the Angry Dad Shooting the Laptop Has Confused

I had no idea the controversy that would get stirred up when I was asked to comment on a FOX 4 evening news story last week. You may have seen this coverage on TV or on my blog about an angry dad who shot holes (with a gun) in his daughter's laptop because of her Facebook comments. Watch the story and hear what I said about it (warning, it is disturbing to some people but no one gets hurt).

The angry dad in North Carolina actually saw the story and emailed direct responses to the station for each of my comments.

FOX 4 had so much response to the story that they invited me back the very next day to address the dad's comments.  In this interview, I discussed the difference between discipline and punishment.  This dad was more concerned with punishment than discipline.

Discipline comes from the word "disciple" which means "student/teacher." We can all agree that it's a parent's job to teach and view their child's misbehavior as an opportunity. Punishment, on the other hand, imposes power from the outside to make a child "pay" for his wrongdoing.

Punishment is about power. Discipline is about creating an environment for a child to learn how to make it right. This is a topic I discuss in detail in my first book, Parenting in the Smart Zone.

Here's a quick reference.

• Is adult-oriented
• Requires judgment
• Imposes power from the outside
• Invites more conflict
• Concentrates on the child "paying" for the mistake
• Focuses on restricting the child
• Focuses on external control
• Parents work harder than the child

• Shows child what they have done wrong
• Gives child ownership of the problem
• Leaves child's dignity intact
• Uses logical and realistic consequences
• Teaches the benefit of making good decisions
• Focuses on developing internal control
• Redirects child toward success
• Role-models good parenting skills
• Teaches a life lesson
• Child works harder than the parent

It's important that consequences fit the crime. In the case of the angry dad, I would have preferred that he make his daughter give the laptop away to a child who could use it instead of him destroying it. What we also know from the coverage is that he warned his daughter before, that if she misused Facebook again, "he would put a bullet through her laptop." Yes, if you threaten/promise that you are going to do something as a consequence, then you better do it or else your kids will think you are just blowing wind and the problems continue. But, I'm thinking there are other consequences he could have threatened/promised initially. Do you agree?

And yes, I bet his daughter NEVER questions him in the future because he followed through and put bullets through her computer. She knows he means business. But the bullet was too easy and a bit over the top and "tough love" can be accomplished by using discipline rather than shooting something with a 45mm. (By the way, I do shoot and the gun didn't scare me. It is his angry tone and how he used it at the end that made me question it.)

That said, I believe his daughter got the point and I was glad to hear that he and his daughter have discussed the issue as a family. As long as they are okay as a family and have moved on, then that is what matters. As you can see from his response to me, this dad is a likeable guy who wants his daughter to make better choices. They are closer as a family because of this and have enjoyed seeing all the comments. Yet they are admittedly a bit overwhelmed by it. Wouldn't you be?

What do you think about this? Feel free to comment on this blog or on my Facebook page. This is a good discussion as long as we are all respectful, even if we don't agree. That will keep us in the Smart Zone.


  1. My only comment was you made reference that he was upset because she aired their family dirty laundry and then he did it. It did not seem to me he was angry about their dirty laundry as he was about her complete disrespect for their family. Although this is something I would not do myself, as someone who works with students day in and day out, I'm happy to see a parent stand up for the blatant disrespect this generation seems to have for their elders.

  2. So you teach a child to respect by disrespecting them (destroying the laptop)?~ I'm not sure how shooting a laptop teaches his daughter anything except fear and lack of trust. If she aired dirty laundry the bigger question is why she would do that in the first place. What is going on that she would resort to that? Look, I don't know the specifics, but I do know that using a firearm to make a point to your child is way out of line.