The Idea of Punishment for Bad Behavior and the Three Forms of Discipline

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Punishment is but one of many means of ensuring discipline. Punishment can be defined on a fundamental level as a penalty imposed for a wrong doing – breaking of rules, regulations, laws or policies. A more focused definition would be a learning theory as s reduction in the likelihood of a response due to the presentation of an aversive stimulus or in the case of negative punishment – removal of reinforcing stimuli. (Liberman. 1993)

Discipline is necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of a team or unit.

Within a disciplined group, regular, predictable patterns will follow. Punishment and discipline are not the same thing, punishment is only one means of influencing the action of discipline.

There are three forms of discipline; Imposed Discipline, Self Discipline and Collective Discipline.

Imposed discipline can be defined as steps and procedures. This would be the introduction to a routine or system of doing something. For example a new recruit is told how to correctly wear a uniform, as time progresses he or she no longer needs to be told this, it becomes part of their Self- Discipline.

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Self-discipline is a persons set of built in or added routines or systems. They have known this for a long time and it had become a second nature. Self discipline for example would be manners, how to correctly speak to people, once this would have been instructed to them as imposed discipline, but now they just know how to speak.

Collective discipline ensures consistency in a team. Such discipline happened under the good leadership of their leader, through the establishment of goals and parameters.

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Morale and Esprit-de-Corps are two factors, which directly relate to discipline, all three are interlinked, and dependant on one-and-other.

Morale is a state of mind, an attitude of confidence and well being in the minds of individual’s whey they identify themselves as a team and accept the team’s goals. The leader must realise that many factors influence morale. The most important of these are: effective leadership, unity of purpose, discipline, sense of belonging, comradeship, mutual confidence, comfort and well-being.

Punishment has been used through out the entire history of man kind as the fundamental enforcement tool – from the earliest primate ostracism, to modern day wars and imprisonment. No matter how effective the means of punishment, no matter how much we create positive behavioural environments, mankind seems to have a primal urge to miss behave, act up, and break the rules. This is normally not acceptable, and as such leads to punishment of one way or another.

There are two types of recourse for bad behaviour – consequences and punishment. The primary difference between consequences and punishment is that consequences aim to develop the persons knowledge, skills and attitudes to understand that the previous action is not acceptable, consequences are there to ensure that the behaviour or attitude does not happen again. While on the other hand punishment is there to intimidate, shame, and somewhat ad-hock at times.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900) himself said, “Speaking generally, punishment hardens and numbs, it produces obstinacy, it sharpens the sense of alienation and strengthens the power of resistance.” The ideal that punishment is fruitless has been around for at least some one-hundred years, it is now in the twenty-first century that people are heading the statement of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Many State sanctioned incarceration bodies in theory like to adopt a consequences policy to their departments – a first step was the changing of the name to Department of Corrective Services; an organisation that promotes rehabilitation and correction. This means that the person is rehabilitated as a useful member of society, it is aimed that once their time is served that they will become a productive, law abiding citizen of the community. However, for several reasons in practice the penal system acts as a punishing authority.

Also, school and educational institutions are adopting more corrective measures, as apposed to punishment issues. Students that do not complete homework for example, would attend a subject homework/study period – albeit a compulsory attendance, but the motives are to get the student to complete the work – one-on-one with the teacher if necessary. Schools are also, for more serious offences, moving away from the out-of-school suspension, which was seen as a holiday for students, to an In-School-Suspension; which is a supervised lessons held away form students in an isolation area, making sure the pupil does not miss out on work.

For millennia mankind has had rules, regulations and laws; to accompany these laws there has been punishment for breaching the rules. However, people still continue to break rules and laws. Punishment does have a deterrence effect for the majority of society, however, there is always that remainder percentage that does not heed the deterrence, these are the people we should be worried about, these are the people that consequence / rehabilitation and alternative programmes should be aimed at.

Mankind began with rules and punishment, and will always have rules and punishment to some level. We cannot change our fundamental instinct, so lets make this punishment purpose filled.

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The Idea of Punishment for Bad Behavior and the Three Forms of Discipline. (2023, Jan 08). Retrieved from

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