I firmly believe you should never punish a child. I know many will be shocked by that statement. People will posit the objection that many of the problems we face today are a direct result of too little punishment being dispensed. They will contend if we punished our children they would turn out better; our society would be better. They are wrong.
The punishment of children is one of the many factors that is contributing to the degradation of our society. What children need is discipline. What our society needs is discipline. There is a world of difference between punishment and discipline.
Imagine you are driving down the street one day and pass a high school football stadium with the team in full practice. The coach is barking at the players as they run up and down the bleachers. They struggle beneath their gear in the intense heat. Monday's practice is going to be long.
You drive down the road and pass another high school football stadium only to see the same scene repeated with another team. Both teams participating--willingly or otherwise--in the same activity. However, one of the teams is being punished and the other is being disciplined. What is the difference? Focus.
The first team is being punished. We know this because of the words and body language from the coach. He is screaming about how poorly they performed on Friday night. He tells them they failed miserably, embarrassed the entire town and should be ashamed of themselves. The focus is entirely on the loss Friday night.
The second team is being disciplined. They too lost on Friday night, but the coach is not focused on the loss. He is focused on the next game. He is encouraging his players to understand if they want to win, they will have to be in better, stronger and tougher than the team they will face come Friday. The focus is entirely on the next game.
Focus is the difference between punishment and discipline. When we punish our children we compel them to focus on what we don't want them to be. When we discipline our children, we acknowledge the wrong done in the past, but there is a greater emphasis to focus them on the person they need to be in the future.
This is a trait that separates great leaders from the pack. Great leaders have the ability to address issues by focusing the team on being better in the future. Poor leadership is held captive by the failures of the past. This is what we see coming out of Washington today.
Washington politics are held captive by the past. The last election. The latest poll results. Digging up dirt on rivals from decades ago. You hear nothing out of Washington that constitutes a compelling vision for the future; be it fiscal issues, campaign finance reform, gun control, immigration reform, or any other issue on the table. I can think of no other venue where there is a greater need for discipline.
David Campbell, founder of Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “Discipline is remembering what you want.” Discipline is all about keeping the focus on the desired goal and it demands that we not be held captive by the past.
Want to see a change in your own life? Remember what you want. Remain focused on the goal. Dedicate yourself to being disciplined. If you want to see a dramatic change in the lives of children, develop and employ consistent discipline. If you want to be a great leader, regardless of circumstance, address failures but keep the focus on the goal.
Want to see a change in Washington? Stop voting for political parties or individuals who you think can beat the other candidate. That is all about punishment. Stop voting for individuals who go to Washington and forget what you want.
Start voting for individuals who are disciplined. They are the ones with a vision for the future and an uncanny ability to remain focused on what they believe is best for the nation.
Whether as a parent, manager or politician, leadership is always undermined when the leader implements punishment as a motivator. You might get the desired results in the short term, but you limit the potential for greatness by destroying loyalty, creativity and collaboration.
Discipline equally addresses the short term, but remains transfixed on the goal and fosters greatness.
Discipline is leadership.
About Warren Martin
WARREN MARTIN is a philosophy graduate of Texas Tech University. He is an author, teacher, minister, artist, quasi-philosopher and speaker known for his unique teaching style. His passion is to share the grace of Christ and to inspire & invest in the next generation of leaders. Learn more here...
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